People power? Watt a load of rubbish

Kwikpower, the company that invented a method for making petrol from household rubbish, has now developed an emission-free way to convert industrial waste and sewage into electricity.

Kwikpower, the company that invented a method for making petrol from household rubbish, has now developed an emission-free way to convert industrial waste and sewage into electricity.

The company is in talks with at least 10 local authorities throughout the UK which are considering the process as a solution to the tough demands of the recent Landfill Reduction Act.

On the Continent, Kwikpower has set up converters to convert waste at olive oil and tyre factories, in preference to incineration. Several UK water companies are understood to be in talks to install the device at sewage facilities.

The problem of how to deal with rubbish is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing Britain and the wider world. At present, up to 90 per cent of UK rubbish ends up in landfill sites, creating problems that include long-term pollution of the water tables.

But for local authorities, one major headache is the cost: transporting and burying rubbish costs about £30 per ton, and the authorities each create an average of two million tons of rubbish a year.

The Kwikpower conversion plant presents a unique alternative. The company has created a unit small enough to fit in the back of a lorry that can be set up quickly at dumps, sewage treatment centres or near industrial facilities.

Unlike other power conversion units, the Kwikpower process does not directly burn the waste, so does not produce carbon- or dioxin-based emissions.

Instead, the converter exploits a process called "gasification", degrading solids rapidly to a gas, which is passed immediately into the turbine. Anything with carbon in it, which covers most industrial and household waste, can be used.

The only by-product of the process is an inert, dioxin-free ash that can be used in surfacing roads and pathways. The machine can process 125 kilos of waste per hour, and each kilo produces one kilowatt of electricity.

Kwikpower's business model is particularly attractive to local authorities. The company offers to install the converter on-site free, and charges councils a 40 per cent discount on the price they would pay to put rubbish into landfill sites.

For its part, Kwikpower, which is strongly considering plans to float on the London Stock Exchange, gets that income as well as revenues from selling electricity wholesale, while also receiving tradable emissions credits.

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