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Fuel From Garbage Lights up Entire City

Posted June. 24, 2008 03:12,   


▽ First biomass fuel generator in Japan

On the way to the venue of the 2008 G8 Toyako summit from the Shin-Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, Japan, is a small village named Shiroi District with a population of 14,000. This small town spearheads the new energy chapter in Japanese history.

The town houses a facility that burns combustible garbage at 235°C under 30 atmospheric pressures, and churns it out as coal-like fuel. The facility has been in pilot operation since January.

Due to the high pressures and temperatures, a garbage bag turns into dark powder right upon being thrown into the furnace. The powder is molded with wood chips or PET bottles into stick fuel rods. The facility is reportedly free of dioxin, a chemical that bedevils most incinerators.

The energy-regenerating plant will be put to use to full capacity next April. Then, 92 percent of the trash from the town will turn into the alternative energy source, and be sold to a nearby paper mill.

The district, thereby, will catch three birds with one stone: reduction of carbon dioxide emission, saving of the costs for burning trash and proceeds from the sale of the alternative fuel.

Hokkaido University developed the technology and the facility, along with a private corporation, and Japan`s central government matched half of the 1.4-billion-yen fund for the R&D.

▽ Heat pump run by geothermal energy in the spa town

Some 57 spa motels spot the mountainous Toyako area. But the hot spring water comes from one source. Active volcanic activities run hot water under the area, and the geographic features fluctuate water temperatures constantly. Thus, the water is channeled to a single boiler for heating.

The community launched a new heat pump system this February for the first time in Japan. The system recycles heat energy from the water from the spa motels and uses it to power the boiler. The town no longer uses the old heavy-oil boiler. Nearly 300 kiloliters of fuel is saved every year thanks to the change.

When the project was first conceived three years ago, it was tough to persuade local business owners to understand the system. One of the local leaders who initiated the innovation recalled, “We did not expect the oil prices to rise so much. Anyway, we feel relieved now, looking at the skyrocketing prices.”

The initial investment in the equipment has not relieved motel owners financially yet. But the owners have not carried heavier burdens, either. The lump sum investment is offset by saving energy as much as 29.7 percent, along with reduced emission of carbon dioxide by half.

▽ Japan Steel Works preparing for nuclear power era

Japan Steel Works is a steel manufacturer founded in Muranro, Hokkaido, in 1907. It manufactures more than 80 percent of the major parts used for building nuclear reactors around the world.

In the early 20th century, Japan Steel Works was the biggest defense contractor. After World War II, the company used its cumulated technology to build the first Japanese aircraft engine. Now, it stands out in the world thanks to its technology of manufacturing steel from 600-ton ingots under high pressure.

Anticipating higher demands for nuclear power, the company has been expanding its investment continuously. The company plans to increase its production capacity by 30-50 percent within two years. To cope with the ever-increasing sizes and weights of the parts, it will size up its molds to 650-ton capacity.

At the same time, the company is investing in alternative energy areas such as windmills and hydrogen fuel cells.

▽ Environment-friendly International Media Center

A 30-minute drive from the Windsor Toya Resort and Spa, or the main venue of the summit meeting, is the International Media Center, which is under construction to open in early July for the international meeting. It will accommodate 4,000 people.

The center itself is a reincarnation of environment-friendliness. The base of the structure stores 7,000 tons of snow to make the best use of the snowy Hokkaido weather. The snow will cool off the inside air. When it melts down, it will flush the toilets.

To maximize the natural energy sources, its roof is mounted with solar panels, and the entire structure maximizes natural ventilation and lighting. Its walls will be covered with plants.