In the 21st century, energy is a fundamental and universal need. It literally provides life and life-saving functions in healthcare and hygiene. It is a fundamental stepping stone to accessing information and advancing our civilization. Access to energy, like access to information should be a right, not a privilege awarded to a relative few. We can, today, provide this Open Source energy in a variety of ways and according to the principles of supply and demand, as more energy from new sources is harnessed, and supply is increased, the price of energy will decline and become more affordable to even the poorest people on Earth.
Looking ahead a decade or two, most energy produced will be “home-made”, whether it is the energy that moves your car, powers your lights and appliances or heats your house. It will be generated in panels on rooftops, collected from the heat of the sun and from the turning of wind turbines.
Another renewable source still yet to be tapped is energy created from the processing and destruction of regular household waste; kitchen scraps, yard waste, paper, plastic and even septic waste. Energy from these never ending “fuel” streams will be made literally at your home or at your neighborhood power station (see Benefits of Distributed vs. Centralized Power Generation).
Why generate energy from waste? Because it makes sense! It is environmentally friendly, cost-effective and already economically feasible with today’s technology. It makes no sense to bury these valuable resources in expensive landfills that are reaching their maximum capacities. When something does not make sense, it is going to eventually change.
Waste that can be converted into energy falls into 2 basic categories; “Soft and Wet Stuff” (“SWS” includes food scraps, grass clippings, fats and oils, septic waste, etc.) and “Hard and Dry Stuff” (“HDS” includes wood, paper, cardboard, plastic, etc.). Using naturally occurring bacteria in anaerobic digesters that eat the SWS to create biogas and using gasification to convert the HDS to syngas, provides a source of heat and fuel to generate electricity.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) has been used for centuries to make gas for heating and cooking. Gasification has been around for over a century. Obviously, the processes have been improved, but the science is basically the same. Technological advancements have increased the efficiencies and lowered the cost. Scaling these systems down to home size units is doable (in fact, our company is doing it).
Imagine throwing your trash into a modular unit that sits in your basement or backyard. In some cases, you might have to carry it down the street to the neighborhood system. The trash is sorted, ground up, and moved into the appropriate equipment. Not only does the trash go away, but the gas can be routed directly back into the home or to a generator to run your lights, or both. Excess heat from the generator is also captured and used.
The financial and environmental expense of collecting, transporting, sorting and burying the trash practically goes away. Your gas and power bills will plummet. Your home eventually might even disconnect from the grid entirely. You will no longer be at the mercy of the utility company’s billing cycle and potential power outages during storms. Decentralizing power production simultaneously reduces the threat to is production from criminals and terrorists. Open source energy is not a pipe dream. It is coming and it will change the world.