Tag Archives: renewable energy

Breaking Out of the Trash Cycle

For many of us, our lives are ruled by routine. We wake up, and have a routine for everything – from whether we brush our teeth or wash our faces first, to which route we travel, to our workout regimens at the gym. Some people prefer eggs in the morning, some prefer cereal. But in today’s world – there is one routine most people can agree on. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This trifecta of sustainability has been engrained in our minds for years. But sometimes, something more is needed. What if this isn’t enough? What if I want waffles one morning?

Okay, okay. The real question at hand here is this: What do we do when we’ve exhausted the “reduce, reuse, recycle” routine? What is the next step in sustainability? There are several sources of renewable energy, such as solar power and wind power, but not every day is sunny with a billow in your sail. The folks over at Covanta Energy are offering an additional solution to the ongoing effort of sustainability – Energy-from-Waste (EfW).

Trash being sent to an EfW facility is happy trash!

Trash being sent to an EfW facility is happy trash!

With 35 EfW facilities in the United States, Covanta offers trash producers a long-term alternative to filling landfills with waste. Annually, Covanta processes over 17 million tons of waste, and produces about 9 million megawatt hours of clean, renewable electricity. In addition, Covanta produces 10 billion pounds of steam that are sold back into the industry, and recycles 400,000 tons of metal per year – that’s enough to build over 275,000 hybrid vehicles! To break it down, each ton of waste processed at an EfW facility like Covanta produces approximately 550 kilowatt hours of electricity and about 50 pounds of recycled metal. Unlike other methods of creating renewable energy, our country’s constant stream of trash allows for a constant supply of clean energy. However, EfW does not compete with recycling efforts. Rather, Covanta and the like are an add-on to the aforementioned trifecta — so we can now think of it as: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover.

In addition to the energy produced, we should consider the the impact of EfW facilities in terms of climate change. Approximately 63% of global warming is attributable to carbon dioxide emissions, closely linked to the generation of energy. In conserving our energy use, we decrease the demand for fossil fuels, and in turn reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Recycling and reusing will prevent trash from ending up in landfills, which  are hot sites for the production of methane, which accounts of 18% of greenhouse gasses. But for the remaining waste – waste that arrives at EfW facilities – this trash actually has a negative impact on climate change.The EfW industry reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million tons each year! For each ton of trash that enters an EfW facility, one less ton of carbon dioxide is released as a combined result of avoided landfill methane emissions, fossil fuel power generation, and the transportation of waste and metals production.

Energy from Waste facility in Newhaven

Energy from Waste facility in Newhaven

So let’s review. EfW produces clean, renewable energy, creates industrial-friendly steam, recycles metal, and has a negative effect on climate change. So alongside the daily sustainability grind of reduce, reuse, recycle, we are now equipped to continue our efforts for a greener tomorrow, with the trash we can’t recycle as our weapon. I guess you could say Covanta and EfW facilities are really thinking outside the box… or outside the landfill.

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The Skins go solar

Solar panels are not a new innovation, yet they’re quickly becoming the hot new trend at football stadiums across the country.

In September of last year, the Washington Redskins led the league–not in wins or in passing yards (to the heartbreak of Redskins Nation)–but in renewable energy (to the excitement of Green Clean Nation) by unveiling newly installed solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations at FedEx Field.

NRG at FedExField

NRG and Solar Man at FedEx Field (Photo: Clara Pak)

The Redskins partnered with NRG Energy, an American energy company based in New Jersey, to bring renewable energy to FedEx Field, and this partnership marked the first professional sports sponsorship to carry the NRG name. With 8,285 solar panels and two megawatts of capacity, FedEx Field is the largest solar power installation in the metropolitan DC area.

The fact that the stadium only operates 10 to 11 days a year for game days gave the Redskins a perfect opportunity to repurpose the otherwise idle stadium for environmental and business gains. The solar power system at FedEx Field boasts in being able to sufficiently meet all of the stadium’s power needs on non-game days and to meet 25% of the power needs on game days. Based on the estimate energy production of 2.5 million kwh/year, by using solar power, the Redskins and NRG are keeping 1,780 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere, the equivalent of replacing 349 vehicles with gasoline engines with zero emission electric vehicles (based on the greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator).

Inside the empty stadium. Even the seats bleed burgundy and gold! (Photo: Clara Pak)

Inside the empty stadium. Even the seats bleed burgundy and gold! (Photo: Clara Pak)

Needless to say, the Redskins have pioneered the way for other NFL teams to bring renewable energy to their stadiums. Since partnering with the Washington Redskins, NRG has teamed up with the New York Giants and New York Jets at MetLife stadium by installing the Solar Ring–solar panels in the shape of an oval lining the top of the stadium. The New England Patriots have also asked NRG to build its solar installation at Patriot Place that will provide up to 60% of the power at the stadium.

The solar panels at FedExField not only generate power for the stadium but also provide covered parking spaces for fans. According to our interview with the Redskins’ VP of Marketing, the organization takes pride in bringing awareness and information about the benefits of solar energy to fans via their efforts to make the stadium more green.

Want to know another fun fact about the new and improved FedEx Field? The electricity produced by FedExField’s solar power system each year is enough to meet the power needs of about 300 homes in the metro DC area (calculations based on annual estimated annual output compared to 712 kwh/month). The future indeed looks bright for the Redskins and the DC metro area.

We traveled to Redskins Park in Ashburn for an interview. Got to see some players : ) (Photo: Clara Pak)

We also traveled to Redskins Park in Ashburn for an interview. Got to see some players! (Photo: Clara Pak)

Check out this timelapse video of NRG’s solar panel installation at FedEx Field.

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