Where’s the waste?

Michigan waste biomass energy inventory to support renewable energy development.

Animal manure, food processing wastes, municipal wastewater biosolids, pre and post-consumer food wastes, crop residuals and energy crops grown on nonproductive land can all serve as feedstocks for renewable energy production. The associated proven waste to resource technologies includes anaerobic digestion, gasification, direct combustion, ethanol synthesis and biodiesel production. These technologies are often a component of a comprehensive waste management system that provides environmental and nuisance protection. Extracting value from simple organic wastes containing the building blocks for life (carbon nutrients, and water) – is essential for sustainability.

Feedstocks derived from waste biomass are very diverse and widely distributed. To maximize the amount and reliability of energy production, significant waste sources must be identified. An effective inventory system is the first step in determining a waste’s potential to resource technology at a specific site. Such an inventory can also be mined to determine locations most suited for specific waste to resource technologies, especially when combined with simple, interactive algorithms to convert biomass to electricity or heat. With these locations identified, extension educators can target programming to communities and entrepreneurs to encourage studies on developing waste to resource facilities.

The new Michigan Waste Biomass Energy Inventory to Support Renewable Energy Development provides a waste biomass inventory for Michigan (Figure 1). This tool was developed by MSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and RS&GIS with primary funding from the State of Michigan Energy Office and MSU Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center.

To use the tool, a location and radius of interest is selected. The tool then returns the estimated quantity of waste biomass from the selected biomass waste databases. Other important information can be overlaid on the map including soil type, wetland locations, watershed boundaries and well head protection areas. Heat or electricity production at the site and within the radius selected can also be estimated for each of the waste to resource technologies previously listed. The basis for the estimates including the governing equations and assumptions are available in the Technical Appendix. A spreadsheet that allows complete manipulation of the equation and data input is also available. Further, the waste biomass databases have been mined to determine the best potential locations within the State for siting anaerobic digestions, gasification and direct combustion waste to energy technologies. These maps and the before mentioned technical appendix and spreadsheet are also available through the website.

The development of a waste to energy technology, estimating the amount and energy potential of the waste biomass at the selected location is only the first step. If good potential exists to meet the developer’s objective, the availability, amount and willingness of the waste biomass producer to provide the waste must be verified. Thereafter, the suitability of the waste for the specific technology must be determined. Included are analyses of pertinent characteristics, energy potential calculations and potential laboratory studies to determine if measured values match those calculated. To obtain design and cost data, bench and pilot-scale testing may be required.

Biomass layers on Michigan map 

Photo: Screen shot of biomass layers overlaid on Michigan map