Harnessing Landfill Gas for Energy

The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a wealth of resources for anyone looking to learn more about the process and methods of capturing landfill methane gas for converting it to energy. Their Landfill Methane Outreach Program is a great place to start. »

Landfill Gas to Energy Schematic

Landfill Gas to Energy Schematic

Click here to download an informative presentation on the EPA Landfill Gas Program:

The following is an excerpt from the EPA page:

Methane Emissions From Landfills

Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 18.2 percent of these emissions in 2012. At the same time, methane emissions from landfills represent a lost opportunity to capture and use a significant energy resource. LFG is created as solid waste decomposes in a landfill. This gas consists of about 50 percent methane (the primary component of natural gas), about 50 percent carbon dioxide (CO2), and a small amount of non–methane organic compounds. To learn more about methane emissions from landfills in the United States, visit EPA’s methane emissions page. For more information on methane emissions from landfills internationally, visit EPA’s International Analyses site. Additionally, EPA issued a rule (40 CFR Part 98) in October 2009 that requires the reporting of greenhouse gases. The rule requires reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from large sources and suppliers in the United States, and is intended to collect accurate and timely emissions data to inform future policy decisions. More information on the rule may be found on the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program page.

Converting Landfill Gas to Energy

Instead of escaping into the air, LFG can be captured, converted, and used as an energy source. Using LFG helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with LFG emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change.

LFG is extracted from landfills using a series of wells and a blower/flare (or vacuum) system. This system directs the collected gas to a central point where it can be processed and treated depending upon the ultimate use for the gas. From this point, the gas can be flared, used to generate electricity, replace fossil fuels in industrial and manufacturing operations, or upgraded to pipeline–quality gas where the gas may be used directly or processed into an alternative vehicle fuel.

Electricity Generation

The generation of electricity from LFG makes up about three–fourths of the currently operational projects in the United States. Electricity for on–site use or sale to the grid can be generated using a variety of different technologies, including internal combustion engines, turbines, microturbines, and fuel cells. The vast majority of projects use internal combustion (reciprocating) engines or turbines, with microturbine technology being used at smaller landfills and in niche applications. Technologies such as Stirling and organic Rankine cycle engines and fuel cells are still in development

» Learn more about Landfill Gas from the California Department of Energy page. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Advances in Renewable Biomass Energy

It may not be a glamorous topic, but creating energy from animal dung can be a sustainable source of energy for many around the world. There are issues to be addressed, but new, smarter approaches can mitigate many of the drawbacks.

Drying cow dung for fuel

Drying cow dung for fuel

Both dry and moist dung can be used as fuels but dry dung is more commonly used. Dry manure is typically defined as having a moisture content less than 30 percent.In 2011 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to promote safer, more effective ways to treat human waste. A key rationale for this program was that both animal and human waste contained significant energy capacity, that if harvested could be used to fuel an energy-neutral toilet and waste treatment system for urban poor. Multiple teams funded under this program are using biomass combustion to safely dry and convert feces into thermal energy. A team lead by RTI International has developed a system that converts feces into burnable pieces and then uses thermoelectric devices to convert the thermal energy into electrical energy while excess heat dries the newer feces as it enters the system.

Potential Benefits

Dry animal dung is:

  • Cheaper than most modern fuels
  • Efficient
  • Alleviates local pressure on wood resources
  • Readily available – short the walking time required to collect fuel
  • No cash outlays necessary for purchase (can be exchanged for other products)
  • Less environmental pollution
  • Safer disposal of animal dung
  • Sustainable and renewable energy source

Read more about the Maabjerg Bioenergy Plant in Denmark – fueled by biomass »

Posted in Uncategorized

Solar Desalination


Opportunity Summary

» Link to our Executive Summary on this topic (PDF)

Of the estimated 22 million cubic meters of freshwater being produced a day through desalination processes worldwide, less than 1% is made using solar energy. Because of inexpensive methods of freshwater delivery and abundant low cost energy resources, solar distillation has, up to this point, been viewed as cost prohibitive and impractical.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), desalination with renewable energy can already compete cost-wise with conventional systems in remote regions where the cost of energy transmission is high. Elsewhere, it is still generally more expensive than desalination plants using fossil fuels, but IRENA states that it is ‘expected to become economically attractive as the costs of renewable technologies continue to decline and the prices of fossil fuels continue to increase.’

Solar water disinfection is a type of portable water purification that uses solar energy to make biologically-contaminated (e.g. bacteria, viruses, protozoa and worms) water safe to drink. Water contaminated with non-biological agents such as toxic chemicals or heavy metals require additional steps to make the water safe to drink.


In the Galapagos a company is looking to take reject water of a desalination plant and refine that water into fresh water and its by product would be a small voguish salt business. The result is of course no reject water back into the Galapagos.


Saudi Arabia meets much of its drinking water needs by removing salt and other minerals from seawater. Now the country plans to use one of its most abundant resources to counter its fresh-water shortage: sunshine. Saudi Arabia’s national research agency, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), is building what will be the world’s largest solar-powered desalination plant in the city of Al-Khafji.

The plant will use a new kind of concentrated solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and new water-filtration technology, which KACST developed with IBM. When completed at the end of 2012, the plant will produce 30,000 cubic meters of desalinated water per day to meet the needs of 100,000 people.


A Visit with the Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders


Tuesday evening at the Mann Student Center at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, the Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders held their weekly meeting, and they took this opportunity to invite Mr. Leonardo Stoute, President and CEO or the LSI Group, as a special guest speaker.

Over the past 7 years, EWB-Yale has maintained a strong presence in Kikoo and nearby Roh, Cameroon, where they have built water storage tanks and a standpipe distribution system to enable thousands of people to have access to clean water on a daily basis.  In close collaboration with the local communities, members of EWB-Yale have not only established and operated of the system, but also educated the people in the community as to proper maintenance and the importance of sanitation and its impact on health.


Weekly meetings often include regular updates from project leads within EWB, whose members are sub-divided into teams dealing with design, finance, and education and outreach.  This week, regular business was followed by a brief introduction to the challenges and possibilities for sustainable engineering and energy technologies in Indonesia.  A selected group of EWB members continued the conversation with Leonardo Stoute, President & CEO of the LSI Group, afterward over dinner at the nearby Timothy Dwight College dining hall.


The dinner setting was intimate, and the students had quality one-on-one time with Mr. Stoute. They asked about how his interest in Indonesia developed and inquired as to the mission and goals of the LSI Group. Mr. Stoute explained that his consulting work stemmed from a deep appreciation and gratitude toward the generous people of Indonesia, and how the arts and culture of that county first attracted him to it. He explained that the group’s mission is to assist people, through humanitarian, non-profit, and even business projects to improve their environment, health, education and commerce. At the end, the students thanked Mr. Stoute extensively for his time, and agreed to stay in touch to develop further connections.


Indonesian farmers provide expertise to farmers in Tanzania

What follow is a compilation of two articles that were posted by the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York (KJRI); Click here for the original articles ONE and TWO.

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Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Finance, Adam Kighoma Ali Malima, praised the development of agriculture in Indonesia. He said Tanzanian farmers should learn about agriculture to Indonesian farmers in improving the quality of crops.  “Tanzaniana should learn about irrigation from Indonesia to improve the quality of their crops” said Halima in his visit to the Nane Nane Festival at Morogoro, Wednesday (6/8).

Tanzanian farmers get many benefits from the Farmers Agriculture Rural Training Centre (FARTC), established in Mkindo by Indonesian farmers through Yayasan Amal Masyarakat Petani Indonesia (YAMPI) in 1996. Through FARTC, Indonesian agriculture experts provide training for Tanzanian farmers. 

The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, Zakaria Anshar, was invited as the guest of Honour to the Nane Nane Festival due to Indonesia’s contribution in developing Tanzanian agriculture.  He encouraged Tanzania’s governmental efforts in improving its agriculture.  “The Tanzanian government has done many things to improve its agriculture. I can see the effort in this festival. As an agricultural country, Indonesia will support Tanzania, as Tanzanian economy depends heavily on agriculture, which accounts for more than 25 percent of the GDP, provides 85 percent of all exports, and employs 80 percent of the work force,” he said.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Christopher Chiza, said Indonesia plays an important role in Tanzanian agriculture. “Indonesia has an important role in developing agriculture in Tanzania by providing knowledge and training for our farmers,” said the minister.

Nane Nane, an agricultural festival, is a public holiday in Tanzania, held on August 8th.  The Nane Nane exhibition is a national event celebrated to recognize farmers’ contribution to the Tanzanian economy. It provides farmers and stake holders an opportunity to exchange knowledge and business.  Nane Nane is celebrated in 7 zones: Northern Arusha, Eastern Morogoro, Lake Mwanza, Highland Mbeya, Southern Lindi and Songea, Western Tabora, and Central Dodoma, from August 1st to 8th, annually. 

Agriculture plays an important role in Tanzanian economy.  Agriculture provides 85 percent of exports, with cash crops such as coffee, tea, cotton, cashews, sisal, and pyrethrum accounting for the majority of export earnings. ​(Source: The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Dar Es Salam)

Waste Banks Provide Innovative Solutions to Waste Management

JSEC News June 2013As countries like Indonesia develop and are introduced to commercialism on a large scale, farmers and villagers now use consumer products to which they were previously unaccustomed.  But, along with the conveniences of commercial food, drink, and personal care products comes the cumbersome plastics and packaging not associated with organic, agricultural products.  Whereas banana leaves can be easily left on the side of the road to naturally compost and feed and nourish the soil, plastic bags and bottles create lasting eyesores and ultimately harm the environment.

To counter the influx of these new and less biodegradable types of trash waste, many cities in the developing world are encouraging residents, communities, and even students to pre-sort their recyclable waste and deposit it at ‘waste banks,’ in which depositors are awarded with savings accounts in return for their deposits of recyclable waste.  In this way, the total amount of trash brought to landfills and waste dumps can be reduced over time, and more beneficial uses can be found for this otherwise unsightly trash.  In a city like Jakarta, waste managers are hopeful that as much as 70% of waste delivered to landfills can be diverted through the efficient use of waste banks.  As reported by the Jakarta Globe, 6500 tons of waste are generated daily in Greater Jakarta, most of which ends up at the Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, on the eastern side of the city.

Many of the waste banks in and around Jakarta are supported by the Unilever Indonesia Foundation and its “Unilever Green and Clean” initiative established in 2001.  One innovative idea to emerge from this program is called “Trashion,” which encourages a unique fusion of trash and fashion for the development of new product designs.  The 2010 Trashion Design Contest generated a wide variety of ideas, including a guitar bag, a tent for camping, and a chair.  Women especially take advantage of the opportunities to become “waste entrepreneurs”.




The Japan Environmental Sanitation Center has covered the topic of waste banks in and around Padang, West Sumatra.  JESC’s interest in Sumatran waste banks results from the participation of both Indonesian and Japanese cities in the 3R Conference for Asian Local Governments supported by the UN Centers for Regional Development.  The principles of the 3R’s “Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle” also guide the Environmental Management Agency of Padang in promoting waste banks not only in the community but also through the school systems.  When children learn the environmental and economic benefits of the best practices of waste management, they can also learn to become leaders of future community-based efforts.  Current waste reduction rates of 3% per day in Padang alone are expected to increase to 14% by 2018.