Stinky Landfill Gases Could Be Source of Clean Energy
> WHILE THE DEBATE over climate change rages, we can all agree that methane gas
is stinky, and anyone who’s been to a landfill can confirm the presence of the gas. But
what if we could not only harness the gases from decomposition in landfills but also
convert it to something even more powerful and efficient?
Researchers from the National Institute of Technology in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are
reporting that they have developed a new technique that transforms methane into hydrogen, with which they can develop fuel cells to generate clean electricity.
As an alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen has received a lot of support lately. It is
abundant, and it only emits water vapor when burned.
According to the researchers, landfills produce a lot of methane, so they propose to
use the garbage deposits as sources.
Unfortunately, the project has seemingly broken down beyond the theoretical stages.
The researchers have experienced trouble converting the gas to hydrogen because of
chemical processes involving the catalyst, which is the keystone in any chemical reaction.
“The heart of the process for the production of hydrogen from landfill gas is the
catalyst, and this can be disrupted by the presence of carbon,” said Fabio B. Noronha,
Ph.D., in a press release from the American Chemical Society (ACS). “Because of carbon
deposition, the catalyst loses the capacity to convert the landfill gases into hydrogen.”
Researchers are working on some potential solutions. Their ultimate goal is com-
mercialization. If successful, not only
could it find a use for a resource we have
yet to harness, but also it could make less
expensive fuel cells a possibility.
The report was part of the 248th national meeting of the ACS. The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, featured
nearly 12,000 reports on new advances in
science and other topics.
—TIMOTHY JOHNSON A M
ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | SEP. 14 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
NO CLEAN UP
Foam Wire Pulling
> LESS THAN ONE YEAR after raising the
ire of solar-power advocates by imposing feed-in tariffs on homeowners with
rooftop installations, the Arizona Public
Service Co. has come up with a completely different proposal that is likely to
generate just as much opposition.
Instead of taxing solar, the utility now
wants to provide it. While that seems to
be a complete reversal for the utility, the
real problem lies in the way Arizona Public
proposes to go about it and, like the first
controversy, how it proposes to pay for it.
In July, Arizona Public filed a request
for regulatory approval with the Arizona
Corporation Commission (ACC) to install
panels on residences throughout its territory and pay homeowners a monthly
rental fee for using their roofs.
The homeowners would not directly
receive the power generated from the
panels. Instead, the power would flow
back into the grid. The utility argues
that this will benefit all of its custom-
ers by helping stabilize the grid and
Last November, Arizona Public levied
a charge of $0.70 per kilowatt on homes
with solar installations. It justified the
charge by asserting that it needed to make
up for the lost revenue from residential
generation, while its costs to maintain the
grid remain unchanged. It argued that
homeowners with solar were essentially
being subsidized by other ratepayers.
In this newest maneuver, the utility
wants to install 20 megawatts of panels
on 3,000 homes. It proposes to pay the
homeowners $30 per month for 20 years.
Additionally, it wants to recoup the cost of
installation—$57–$70 million—by passing
the cost onto all of its ratepayers.
Arizona Public wants the ACC to rule
on the proposal, so it can get started with
installations next year.
Arizona Utility Reverses Its Solar Opinions
Researchers could one day turn the smelly
gases from landfills, like this one in Niterói,
Brazil, into clean hydrogen fuel.