Connect with us

Comm Voice

Renewable natural gas offers Floridians a clean energy boon

Brandon Shuler

Published

on

In the United States, over 1,200 wastewater treatment facilities have anaerobic digesters that treat wastewater solids to produce biogas. Converting natural human wastes into biogas can be used as an energy resource for producing electricity or usable heat, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Photo provided.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Over the decades, I have worked on water, energy and wildlife management issues I have realized that Americans have an unhelpful habit of labeling valuable resources as “waste.” For example, “wastewater” is one such misnomer. Clean water is the world’s most precious, finite resource, and water from sewage and stormwater treatment plants can be purified and recycled for purposes as varied as ecosystem rehydration, irrigation, and even potable reuse.

Also, food, animal, and other organic “wastes” can create home-grown soil-improving products and energy-harvesting opportunities in the form of renewable natural gas (RNG), which is emerging in Florida as an affordable, environmentally responsible and readily available alternative to traditional fuels. Thanks to legislation introduced by our own Senator Nick DeCeglie (R-St. Petersburg), Floridians throughout the state may experience reduced carbon emissions, cleaner energy, and a hedge against rising natural gas prices.

Waste streams from various sources including food production, farming, wastewater treatment and landfills serve as abundant reservoirs of organic matter. As this matter decomposes, it releases methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Rather than allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere, RNG facilities capture and clean this gas to pipeline standards. Through filtration processes, contaminants and carbon dioxide are removed, leaving behind a clean, renewable energy source ready for injection into the existing pipeline network.

In fact, one of the most compelling aspects of RNG is its compatibility with existing infrastructure. Unlike other renewable energy sources that require substantial infrastructural overhaul, RNG seamlessly integrates with current natural gas pipeline networks. This means that the infrastructure already in place can be repurposed to transport RNG, eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming modifications.

RNG can be used for many energy-supply purposes including and beyond fuel for the grid. For example, our organization has long advocated for powering energy-intensive wastewater treatment plants with the methane they produce. Remarkably, RNG has also already demonstrated its efficacy in powering vehicles, with 69% of on-road natural gas vehicle (NGV) fuel use in 2022

These NGVs operate quietly, with near or below-zero carbon emissions, offering a tangible solution to reduce transportation-related noise and air pollution. Florida residents in cities as far flung as Pensacola, Stuart and Miami now enjoy cleaner air, quieter neighborhoods and lower carbon footprints thanks to waste management vehicles that rely on natural gas from local landfills. The public transportation sector is also embracing RNG, especially for buses.

Over the past five legislative sessions, Florida lawmakers have advanced policies that encourage treatment and recycling of proverbial “wastes,” especially in water treatments. This session could bring incentives to capture a dangerous air pollutant and turn it into homegrown clean fuel. Florida ranks 13th in the United States for biogas potential and stands poised to harness the benefits of RNG. The state boasts over 2,000 wastewater treatment plants, as well as numerous dairy farms and landfills ripe for RNG development. 

By leveraging these untapped resources, Florida can diversify its energy portfolio, reduce emissions and fortify its energy resilience against external shocks. These are reasons why we must urge the legislature to pass House Bill 683 and Senate Bill 480, as well as support other policies that incentivize the deployment of RNG facilities across Florida, such as those found in Senate Bill 1624. These bills incentivize the construction of the infrastructure necessary for Floridians to live in cleaner environments and enjoy a more stable energy economy.

Dr. Brandon Shuler is the Executive Director of the American Water Security Project. He is based in St. Petersburg, and his career has included effective advocacy in sustainable fisheries management, water management, and energy policy.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Kit sapt

    February 17, 2024at11:48 am

    And what about the co-product of RNG, digestate?

    Speaking of waste, how about explanations that don’t explain the entirety and challenges of the anaerobic digestion process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.