So far in this series, we have mentioned some major positives that come with anaerobic digesters and the biogas industry. Having a system that can process organic waste and turn it into two valuable resources; being renewable natural gas and fertilizer from the leftover biomass, seems to be a perfect solution. What better way to address the demand for energy while reducing waste going to landfill?
Although it sets the stage for a bright future, in which society is powered off its waste and farms are fertilized by organic byproducts, there are risks associated with such a model that have kept the industry from becoming a major market disruptor. One of the most common risk factors is feedstock risk.
Waste-to-Energy systems utilizing anaerobic digestion rely on specific sources of food waste, food processing waste and livestock manure or wastewater sludge, called feedstock. A digester depends on the right amount of these feedstocks to create a balanced digestion process, yielding optimum gas production while also generating tip fee revenue from the incoming disposal. Due to the high start-up costs associated with such a system, you cannot simply rely on “if you build it, they will come.”
Waste streams from appropriate feedstocks must be set in place so that the system can be running at its maximum from the day it opens to receive feedstock. This can be easier said than done. Redirecting specific types of waste for digestion feedstock can be challenging, as most are incorporated into the grander solid waste stream.