Expanding Energy, Contracting Waste

The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, Fla., plans to build a $670 million waste-to-energy facility.
By Matt Soberg | September 20, 2011

The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, a governmental solid waste management agency in Florida, plans to begin construction in April on a $670 million waste-to-energy (WtE) facility intended to produce bioenergy and reduce landfill capacity.

The plant is designed to be visually impressive, energy efficient and environmentally friendly, according to the SWA. The facility will be built north of the SWA’s existing renewable energy facility in West Palm Beach. 

The existing WtE plant is operating at capacity, and with the availability of excess municipal solid waste filling landfills, there was a need to build an additional facility to reduce the amount of waste being landfilled, according to Marc Bruner SWA’s chief administrative officer.  “The most important aspect of the new plant is that it extends the life of existing landfills until 2045 and beyond,” he says.
The new plant will reduce the amount of waste currently being landfilled by up to 85 percent, according to the SWA. The agency intends to increase capacity from 2,500 tons per day with the existing facility to more than 5,500 tons per day once the new plant is operational in 2015, which results in total processing of well over 1 million tons per year.

The SWA’s combined WtE operation will produce enough energy to power approximately 80,000 homes. Bruner notes that total energy output will be 90 to 110 megawatts, with 70 megawatts contracted to utility companies. 

In addition to landfill reduction and power generation, the plant will include advanced control technology to reduce emissions, which are intended to be the lowest of any renewable energy facility combusting municipal waste in the U.S., according to the SWA. The agency selected SCS Engineers to develop a greenhouse gas reduction plan, as well as carbon credit and Renewable Energy Credit management systems.

The project is in the design phase and operating under three different intended notices to proceed, according to Bruner. The first notice was the selection in April of Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc., a subsidiary of The Babcock & Wilcox Co., and its consortium partner BE&K Construction Co., a subsidiary of KBR Inc., to design the plant. 

The second notice to proceed to procure equipment and technology will occur in October, according to Bruner. The third notice to proceed to construction is planned for April with plant operations estimated to start in 2015. 

The SWA is a governmental agency responsible for providing an economical and environmentally conscious integrated solid waste management system for Palm Beach County. The agency has approximately 400 employees and provides waste disposal services to 1.4 million county residents.

—Matt Soberg