Biodegradable waste of all types produces methane as it decomposes. Methane as a climate change suspect is rated 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The bad news is that methane comes from most of our waste in its many shapes and forms, whether sewage, garbage, agriculture or food process waste. The good news is that most of the waste can be used to create biogas (50-75%) methane that can be used to fuel generators to produce electricity and heat. This process of extracting energy from anaerobic digestion is far more efficient than simply burning the material as fuel. Polands offers hundreds of opportunities for this to contribute to our energy future. Biogas will be one of the major forms of renewable electricity in th years to ahead.
As Poland struggles to come up with a strategy for meeting the 2020 European Union goals for renewable energy, biogas is becoming a major player and likely to be the fastest growing of the green energy technologies. Poland uses a very small part of its potential biogas energy. Estimates varies but Polish landfills right now could produce about 100 MW more electricity and the equivalent amount of heat in Poland. Even larger amounts of biogas could be recovered from municipal wastewater treatment plants where electricity could be generated and heat used for local purposes. Similarly, industrial wastes from the food and beverage industry can be readily recovered into biogas and provide for grid electricity and local heat. For example, there is a potatoes chip plant in the United States that is energy-independent, supplying all of its own electricity and heat from its own wastes. The potential for agricultural wastes to produce biogas energy in Poland is even more massive: poultry, hog, dairy and cattle farms that produce animal wastes can be harnessed as biogas energy. The Polish Government announced an ambitious program in March 2008 at the Washington Renewable Energy Conference for construction of 2,500 biogas plants in communities throughout Poland by 2020. Many of these will be “community-based” with wastes from multiple local sources contributing to the digester for biogas production. About 50-100 such “communal biogas” plants now exist in Poland, although few are state-of-the-art facilities, with about 30 WWT plants and 30 landfills recovering biogas energy as well.