Nothing lasts forever, including beer. But, that hasn’t stopped Australian from putting stale alcohol to good use instead of dumping it down the drain. Enter the prospect of biogas!
Of course, biogas is really nothing new in many parts of the world. But at the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant in Australia, stale beer helped the facility reach a new record high of producing 654 megawatt-hours in a month.
In June 2020 alone, the facility produced enough biogas to power more than 1,200 homes.
What is Biogas, Really?
Biogas is a form of biofuel produced by the decomposition of organic materials. Heated in an oxygen-free environment (or anaerobic environment), the bio compounds break down and create a methane-rich gas.
The methane is then “cleaned” and compressed to be used at various plants. In this case, the treatment plant to generate most of its own power.
Another bi-product of anaerobic “digestion” is the creation of compost and organic fertilizers. These are remnants of the decomposition process.
It’s similar to how you can create compost at home, just with the added step of harnessing the methane.
Usually, Australia’s facility focuses on bio-sludge, sewage, and other organic materials. However, COVID-19 prevents consumers from going out as much. This leads to a greater amount of organic trash in the form of food and drink.
But stale beer has a new home in biogas production. And it’s one, effective use of the brew.
This is mostly because of the high temperatures alcohol releases during the anaerobic process.
Is it Really “Renewable” Energy?
Many tout biogas as a source of renewable energy. And given the amount of organics that are thrown into the trash every day, it may very well help the aspect of reducing landfills needs.
In fact, there are all kinds of videos on YouTube showing how you can create your own anaerobic “digester” to create fuel for yourself.
What makes biogas a great renewable source of energy is the fact that organic materials are a bi-product of everyday life. Even if you don’t drink beer and focus totally on a vegan lifestyle, there are still organic materials being discarded.
That is unless you eat banana peels, onion skins, and apple cores.
This is especially true when you take into consideration why the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant creates its own energy to begin with. What do you think a wastewater treatment plant processes on its own?
There’s electricity in them thar sewers…
An Answer to Some Waste Products
Many landfills already implement methods for channeling methane created by trash. But it’s sometimes done in layers using discarded rubber and tires.
While the process is similar in mechanics, it’s different from using containment for the purpose of creating biogas.
The only reason why we don’t hear more about biogas is because it does take an awful lot to process for any realistic and economic advantage.
In comparison, solar and wind are far superior in terms of production and maintenance. And neither require materials from humans to operate.
Without the sun, we’d be in far more trouble than just needing electricity. And wind will always be a product of what makes Earth habitable.
However, biogas can easily contribute to reducing how much we throw away as a species while putting more energy into the grid.
Not only that, but the anaerobic process itself requires far less of a monetary investment than other forms of energy, for example, coal.
Even though a lot of us will compost at home, there are many more who roll out the trash on a weekly basis full of rotten and un-eaten food-stuffs. We can use those elements to generate electricity, provide heat, use for cooking, and fertilize crops en mass.
So, the aspect of biogas at home has two distinct benefits: 1) reduces the amount of organic trash you send to the landfill, and 2) helps you save money by giving you access to gas for various purposes.
I’m even thinking about building my own to power my backyard fire pit and barbecue.
Biogas Has Potential as a Stop-Gap
There’s no doubt that biogas has a lot of potential for putting power into the grid or for use at home. In rural and under-developed areas, something like this could be a great boon to the locale.
It just goes to show how science helps solves problems with viable solutions.
So the next time you have a party, remember how each half-drank cup the next morning has potential as a biofuel.
Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.