Earlier this week I got the chance to tour the “Covanta Hudson Valley Renewable Energy” facility
in Poughkeepsie and I was impressed.
Covanta takes everyday household trash and turns it into electrical power. They can take 450
tons of municipal waste and turn it into 9.3 megawatts of renewable power every day. That’s
enough electricity to power more than 7,000 homes. In addition, the facility also recovers nearly
6,000 tons of metal each year for recycling.
In a nutshell, they take the garbage and dump it down a shoot into a combustion chamber where
heat is released. The heat is transferred to the surface of a boiler tube. Water inside the tube is turned
to steam and that steam powers a turbine/generator. The electricity generated is then sent to the
This method of disposing of trash not only produces energy, it also cuts down on the amount
of garbage that goes into landfills. The United States sends more trash to landfills than many
countries, including Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. In fact, Germany
has essentially outlawed landfills. The Germans recycle their trash or use it to create energy.
While a landfill might be a more cost-effective method of ridding ourselves of garbage, the
amount of methane that a landfill produces has a big impact on the greenhouse gases that cause
As the chair of the New York Energy Committee, I have been charged with finding new, clean
and effective ways of producing energy from non-fossil fuel sources. I found this method very
interesting and plan to learn more.