I am certainly no fortune teller or business forecaster, but if the start of the year is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to unfold, then 2013 is going to be a busy year for the waste conversion industry. The number of facilities in development or under construction continues to grow each day, and projects continue to make progress.
Plasco received the go-ahead in mid-December 2012 to build a 150,000-tons-per-year waste-conversion facility in Ottawa, Ontario, that is expected to produce some 15 megawatts of electricity. Also in Canada, progress continues on Enerkem’s biofuels facility in Edmonton, Alberta, which is designed to produce renewable fuels and chemicals using the city of Edmonton’s nonrecyclable and noncompostable waste.
Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the north, in the United States, the INEOS Bio Indian River Bio Energy Center in Vero Beach, Fla., is expected to be fully operational soon, producing 8 million gallons of biofuels per year from renewable biomass, including yard, wood and vegetative waste. Also in Florida, a $600 million waste-to-energy (WTE) plant is under construction in West Palm Beach County. This is reportedly the first time in 20 years a new WTE facility has been constructed in the U.S. You can watch a live webcam of the construction on the Solid Waste Authority of West Palm Beach County’s website, www.swa.org/vm95webcam. When complete in 2015, it will have the capacity to process 1 million tons of waste per year and generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 40,000 homes.
Other companies also are moving forward with their planned facilities. Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., based in Pleasanton, Calif., announced in December 2012 it was close to closing on financing totaling $175 million to fund construction of its first municipal- solid-waste-to-low-carbon-fuels facility, the Sierra BioFuels Plant in McCarran, Nev. The company says it expects to begin production by the end of 2013.
Maui County, Hawaii, released a request for proposal (RFP) in November 2012 for a waste-to-energy project. According to a report in the Pacific Business News, the parameters include diverting nearly 500 tons of waste from the Central Maui Landfill and having the capacity to power more than 10,000 homes.
Those are a lot of projects to keep tabs on in 2013, and there are many more not mentioned here. At the recently concluded Waste to Energy Development & Finance Summit in Chicago, some in the industry were speculating whether an adjustment to the language in the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act, which now allows renewable energy facilities to qualify for a production tax credit (PTC) based on the date they begin construction, would spark yet more activity. The previous language stated the facility had to have a “placed in service” date of Dec. 31, 2013, to qualify for the credit, but the language change requiring only construction to have begun by the end of the year could mean more companies pushing their projects through to the construction phase.
It is an exciting time to be covering this industry as projects move further into implementation. It will be difficult to wait to see where the industry is a year from now as more facilities come online.