Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County (SWA) is a governmental agency responsible for providing solid waste management system for Palm Beach County, Fla. SWA employs approximately 400 people, dedicated to providing economically and environmentally conscious solid waste disposal and recycling services and programs to the county’s approximately 1.3 million residents and businesses. Patrick Carroll, director of facilities development for the SWA, and its partners KBR, B&W and CDM Smith are involved in a unique new venture, procuring and commissioning a new renewable energy facility for the agency.
“We have an integrated system,” he explains. “One of the unique things is that all of our facilities are in one spot. This is very unusual especially in waste management with an area as large as ours. Palm Beach is the largest land county in Florida, so we have a lot of area to cover.”
The agency provides MSW disposal services and works with independent contractors to collect from unincorporated areas in the region. The organization has six transfer stations, where waste is collected for the disposal facilities in the central part of the county.
In one location, SWA has a landfill, an existing renewable energy facility, hazardous waste handling and a state-of-the-art recycling facility for residential and commercial waste, as well as a yard waste processing and composting area. The agency also operates a biosolids pelletization facility, taking wastewater sludge, drying it using landfill gas as fuel and making it into fertilizer pellets. The agency sells these fertilizer products to the agriculture industry.
“We have a world-renown campus here for solid waste,” Carroll notes. “We have visitors from all over the world.”
The unique county authority has already attracted the attention of agencies and companies internationally. With the existing waste energy plant operating beyond capacity, SWA is getting ready to debut another world-class waste management component. The new renewable energy facility is slated for completion in July 2015.
“The existing facility is more than 25-years-old,” Carroll explains. “When we decided to build the new one, our decision came down to whether we would build another landfill or new waste-to-energy capacity to manage our waste into the future. We chose waste-to-energy, because we believe it is the most environmentally sound way to manage municipal solid waste. In essence, by building this plant and using the existing landfill, we have on-site disposal capacity until at least 2045.”
The new renewable energy facility operates on simple principles. “This is about as simple as you can get,” says Carroll. “It’s called mass burn technology. Our existing plant in contrast uses a process, refuge derived fuel [RDF], which takes waste through a process to increase the BTU value of the fuel. The new one is much simpler. Waste comes in and is offloaded from the truck into the pit. From the pit, we use a grapple crane to load the waste directly into the boiler. The boiler burns the waste and ash spits out the bottom of the boiler. The heat from this combustion creates steam, which goes through a turbine and converted into energy. This system is capable of generating 100 megawatts and processing 3,000 tons per day.”
While the renewable energy system will operate without any bells and whistles, the new plant will utilize some highly evolved sustainable technology to decrease environmental impact. SWA has adopted a system for air pollution control known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to reduce the NOx emissions of the new facility. This is the first waste burner or renewable energy facility required to use that technology. The technology has been applied to coal-burning power plants in the past, a history that backs up the system’s effectiveness.
“Another neat aspect is that we have a significant water recycling and reuse effort involved,” Carroll notes. “We will be using no new water to operate this plant. People in the power industry can appreciate this as a very water-intensive industry. We have a rainwater collection system. There are around 14 acres of rooftop in the complex, and all of the runoff is collected, stored in a cistern and used for process water. We are also capturing wastewater from the existing facility.”
SWA will sell all energy produced by the new facility back to the grid. This effort reduces costs of operations, and in turn, reduces fees for residents who rely on the waste management agency. SWA has established a contract with local utility company Florida Power and Light. The energy produced from the plant can power as many as 50,000 average-sized homes.
The new facility is still under construction; however, it is already creating quite a buzz. Carroll and his team are excited to continue work on sustainable initiatives that will better serve customers in the years to come. The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County maintains a strong dedication to responsible waste processing, taking care of refuse while helping to power the region through renewable energy.
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