Recently St. Lucie County in Florida announced that it has teamed up with Geoplasma to develop the United States’ first plasma gasification plant. The plant will use super-hot 10,000 degree fahrenheit plasma to effectively vaporize 1,500 tons of trash each day, which in turn spins turbines to generate 60MW of electricity – enough to power 50,000 homes! Cutting down on landfill waste while generating energy is a pretty win-win proposition, and the plant will also be able to melt down inorganic materials to be reused for other applications, such as in roadbed and heavy construction.
Plasma gasification was invented by NASA 40 years ago to recreate re-entry temperatures for spacecraft. The process uses an electrical arc to heat up gas to form Plasma, which in turn breaks down waste. The intense heat of the plasma gasifies municipal waste, converting it into “syngas”, which is then cleaned to remove volatile elements. Next, the vapor is sent through a turbine to generate electricity.
Plasma Gasification plants generate much less emissions than standard waste incineration plants, and also cuts down on landfills, which are the US’s largest human caused producer of methane gas. No word yet on the cost-effectiveness of maintaining such plants (all that plasma gas and filtration must be expensive), but if Geoplasma is able to make the process more efficient they could simultaneously solve our landfill problems while generating a significant amount of energy.