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Municipal Solid Waste
Some cities, primarily in the eastern U.S., burn part of their municipal solid waste. Hemmed in by major population centers, landfill space there is limited, so burning waste to reduce its volume and weight is practical. Combustion reduces the volume of material by about 90 percent and its weight by 75 percent.222 But the heat generated by burning wastes has other uses, such as being used directly for heating, to produce steam or to generate electricity.
Texas had one permitted waste-to-energy facility in 2006.223 This facility, in Carthage, does not produce electricity. At this time, the Sharps Environmental Service Solid Waste Incineration Facility has the capability of producing steam for sale, but it is currently operating the facility only as an incinerator. In another part of the state, Dyess Air Force base has an agreement with two energy contractors to build a waste-to-energy facility that will turn waste from Abilene into energy for the base.224
The primary advantage of waste-to-energy plants is that they consume wastes from highly populated urban areas that otherwise would be put in landfills. The electricity the plants generate, however, is more costly than energy produced by coal, nuclear or hydropower plants.225 Furthermore, burning solid waste can release harmful emissions into the air.226
|Per Million Btu (2005)
||$0.82 for electricity (wood and waste biomass).227
|Direct Subsidy Share of Total Consumer Spending
||Federal: 0.4 percent (wood and waste biomass); State and Local: none.228
||The transportation of solid waste by truck, rail or water entails additional expense; electricity generation from solid waste entails transmission costs.
Economic Impact and Viability
|Wages and Jobs
||Economic data on the municipal solid waste combustion industry in Texas are not available.
||Municipal solid waste facilities must obtain air and wastewater permits from TCEQ, a process that usually takes about one year.229
|Texas Competitive Advantage
||Texas has an abundance of raw material available, but the construction costs of waste-to-energy plants are high.
||The cost of waste-to-energy facilities is much greater than the cost of landfills – if the latter are available.230
Availability and Current Infrastructure
|Estimated Resources in Texas
||Texas has just one waste-to-energy plant. Yet Texans threw away 30.5 million tons of garbage in 2006, and most of this waste was deposited in one of the state’s 187 operating landfills.231
|Current Fuel Production
||Texans threw away 30.5 million tons of garbage in fiscal 2006.
|Consumption in Texas
||No data available.
||Texas has one plant that is capable of producing steam for sale.
Environment, Health and Safety
|Greenhouse Gas Emissions
||Burning solid waste produces an average of 876 pounds of CO2 per million Btu of heat energy produced.232
|Air Pollution (Non-Greenhouse Gas)
||Burning solid waste produces 1.6 pounds of NOX and 0.23 pounds of SO2 per million Btu of heat energy produced, as well as dioxins, furans and trace amounts of mercury.233
||Burning municipal solid waste reduces its volume, but may produce a hazardous ash byproduct that must be disposed of safely.234
||Power plants that burn municipal solid waste require land for their sites. Any hazardous ash byproduct requires land for disposal.235
||Depending upon the plant type, electricity generation from municipal solid waste requires withdrawals of between zero and 14,658 gallons per million Btu of heat produced.236
||Electricity production from the combustion of municipal solid waste requires between zero and 150 gallons of water per million Btu of heat energy produced.237
||Water is required for boilers and for plant cooling. When discharged, this water is heated and contains some pollutants, potentially harming aquatic life and reducing water quality. TCEQ regulates and permits these discharges.238
||Variable, depending on the waste contents and moisture content.
||Municipal solid waste is considered to be a renewable resource.
|Dependence on Foreign Suppliers
||No significant issues.
|Price and Supply Risks
||Generation of electricity or steam is dependent on having a steady, reliable supply of waste to burn. Down-time either from the lack of waste or mechanical issues would interrupt the supply of energy.