Starting with James Watt’s perfection of the coal powered-steam engine in 1765, oil, gas, and coal forever altered how we interacted with our environment. Cheap and abundant, these energy sources literally fueled the exponential growth of industrialized civilization.
Over the past several decades, however, global events have forced us to reexamine our growing dependence on fossil fuels. Oil spills, massive deforestation, and clouds of choking smog over the world’s largest cities are just a few of the more common symptoms that are becoming harder to ignore.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a climate change skeptic or an ultra-green tree-hugger.
We live in a finite system whose resources are being released much faster than they were created. It took millions of years for plant sediments and organic matter to compact into coal, gas, and oil. And in the past 150 years or so, we’ve released an alarming percentage of these fossil fuels into the environment.
Even if you don’t believe that this pollution is changing the environment, surely you can admit that it is bad for our lungs, bad for our children’s lungs, and bad for any life forms (plants, animals, etc.) that must breathe as well.
And this is to say nothing of the huge tracts of wildlife and forests that must be cleared constantly as we search for new coal deposits and oil wells. Forests that took millennia to grow are felled in a few days to preserve our fossil fuel-driven way of life.
Unless we develop a way to replenish the oil we burn, the clean air we ruin, and the wildlife we destroy, we need to dramatically change how we create and consume the energy that fuels our planet.
Renewable Energy – Fueling the Planet Sustainably
- Lessen our dependence on fossil fuels
- Offer greater energy security by reducing oil imports
- Create more green jobs and sustainable economic growth
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
Solar and wind offer countless benefits, but there’s an even greater opportunity to generate green energy.
We already create 33 million tons of food waste in the United States – organic materials that can easily be converted into clean power. When you factor in yard trimmings, wood, and other recyclable organic materials, the potential is staggering.
How to Make Clean Energy from Organic Waste
There are a few ways to generate renewable energy from organic waste. The method we prefer is anaerobic digestion – a multi-step, odorless process that safely decomposes organic waste into fertilizer, heat, water, and energy.
Step 1: During the Hydrolysis stage, microorganisms convert complex organic material into simpler compounds (i.e. sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids).
Step 2: In the Acidogenesis stage, these simple compounds ferment, breaking down any remaining bacteria.
Step 3: During Acetogenesis, the compounds from the first two stages break down even more into hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and acetic acid.
Step 4: In the Methanogenesis stage, the components from the previous step convert into methane, carbon dioxide, heat, and water.
Step 5: Finally, the resulting methane and carbon dioxide are repurposed into clean, all-natural biogas – a renewable form of energy. The heat created can also be used for clean energy. Any remaining, non-digestible material becomes digestate, which can be used for organic fertilizers.
Safe, odorless, and cost-effective, anaerobic digestion is a sustainable way of transforming discarded organic waste into environmentally friendly power. And unlike fossil fuels, organic waste can be converted into renewable energy locally.
This means that the communities creating organic waste are the same communities that benefit from the clean energy that comes out.
To learn more about Re-Nuble’s clean energy approach, click here.