Monday, October 17, 2005

Leftovers from Landfill to Generation

Californians are desperately trying to find new sources of energy--and biomass may be the next wave.

Scrape your dinner plate into an airtight container of bacteria and what do you get?
In the wrong hands, a stinky mess. But with some engineering finesse, food scraps can be transformed into fuel for electricity.

That's the thinking behind a $100,000 pilot project at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, given the catchy name "Leftovers to Lights."

SMUD has contracted with Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis, to study the feasibility of collecting food waste from restaurants and institutions in the Sacramento area and feeding the waste to bacteria that make methane gas.

Basically, it's a new twist on the old saw about turning trash to treasure.

"We can't call it 'waste' anymore," said Zhang. "It's a resource."

The food waste SMUD is eyeing is organic stuff that's otherwise buried as garbage.