In the last few months, Atlantic and Cape May counties have seen both a proposed offshore wind farm and a natural-gas pipeline through the Pine Barrens to the B.L. England Generating Station rejected.
I didn't support the natural-gas choice, mostly because I am still unsure of the effects of fracking, but at least it would have been cleaner than coal.
However, as an environmental science graduate, I propose a closer look at a very attractive alternative for generating energy - the plasma gasification of trash.
The Atlantic County Utilities Authority was poised to introduce this concept years back, but because the process was not well understood (nor received) by the general public, it was tabled.
The gasification process is not incineration, as it uses temperatures in the 8,000-degree Fahrenheit range using "plasma arc technology," which is an oxygen starved environment. Approximately 99 percent of the waste (solid, liquid or gas) is converted into "syngas," which then can be used to create energy (electricity); the remaining 1 percent becomes an inert, vitrified glass or recyclable metal.
Facilities can process approximately 1,500 tons of garbage a day and have a net power capacity of 60 megawatts. The cost of producing electricity at such a facility would be equivalent to using natural gas.
Plasma gasification eliminates the need to expand landfills and the risk of contaminated groundwater and other pollution. It also creates full-time jobs and a source of revenue and decreases dependence on fossil fuels.
Furthermore, this technology can be retrofitted into a pre-existing facility, and the presence of trash will not be evident as the area within the facility will be kept at a "negative" pressure, pulling the odors into the gasifier.
I hope our engineers and community leaders will investigate the possibility of plasma gasification in southern New Jersey.