The lifespan of a Waste-to-Energy (WtE) power plant is a critical factor in determining its overall economic viability. As such, it is important to consider how best to extend a WtE power plant’s lifespan in order to maximize its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. With the right measures taken, WtE power plants can be extended beyond their original lifespans, providing a long-term, reliable source of renewable baseload energy.
Waste-to-energy (WtE) power plants are becoming increasingly popular as a means of electricity generation and are quickly becoming a major contributor to the global energy mix. While WtE power plants have many advantages, such as increased energy security, reduced environmental impact, and the ability to utilize a variety of waste sources, one of the most important factors to consider when investigating the economic feasibility of a WtE power plant is its lifespan. The design lifespan of most WtE plant, wasteWOIMA® included, is 25 or 30 years, but this does not tell the whole story.
The lifespan of a WtE power plant is largely determined by its technology and design. WtE power plants can be built using a variety of technologies, such as gasification, pyrolysis, or direct-fired combustion. Each of these technologies has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the selection of the appropriate technology for a particular site is essential for ensuring long-term reliability and performance. Similarly, the design of the plant should be considered carefully as well, as this will determine the complexity of the plant, which can have a significant impact on its lifecycle costs. A grate-fired boiler plant has proven to be the optimal choice for most waste-to-energy projects and over 80% of all WtE plant across the globe employ the grate to combust the heterogenous waste streams. It is also the preferred solution according the ‘Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Document for Waste Incineration 2019’ publication.
One of the main factors affecting the lifespan of a WtE power plant is the quality and quantity of feedstock available. WtE power plants are typically fueled by a variety of waste sources, such as municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, industrial waste, and construction waste. The quality and quantity of these materials can have a significant impact on the efficiency of the plant, as well as on its overall lifespan. For example, if a power plant is fueled by low-quality waste, it may have to operate at a non-optimal efficiency, which leads to additional wear and tear, thus reducing its lifespan. Additionally, if the quantity of waste available is insufficient to meet the plant’s energy demand, then the plant may have to be shut down or operated at a lower capacity, further reducing its lifespan.
The maintenance and operational practices of the WtE power plant are the key factors in determining its lifespan. Proper and consistent maintenance is essential for ensuring the long-term reliability and performance of the plant, and regular inspections should be conducted to identify and address any potential issues before they become major problems. A balanced mix of predictive, preventive, and corrective maintenance is required to ensure high availability and long lifespan. Additionally, the operational practices of the plant should be optimized to ensure that it is operating at its maximum efficiency and producing the most power with the least amount of waste. Finally, the environmental and economic conditions at the plant’s location can also have an impact on its lifespan. Environmental regulations and restrictions can limit the amount of waste that can be processed by the plant, while economic conditions can affect the cost of the feedstock or the price of the electricity generated. These should be fixed at the start of the project development with long-term agreements to ensure that the operations are dictated by outside factors.
Today, the average age of European WtE plants is 22 years, the oldest being already close to 50 years old and still operating strong. According to studies, the average annual availability, and annual unplanned outages of WtE plants in different phases of their lifespan only differ by less than one per cent. These suggest that with correct proactive maintenance and proper upgrades the WtE plant, including wasteWOIMA®, economic lifetime can be over 50 years.
In summary, the lifespan of a WtE power plant is determined by a variety of factors, including its technology and design, the quality and quantity of feedstock available, the maintenance and operational practices of the plant, and the environmental and economic conditions at the plant’s location. By managing these factors effectively, it is possible to extend the lifespan of a WtE power plant well beyond its original design lifespan, thus ensuring its long-term reliability and performance.
Our offering to the small-to-medium-scale WtE market, the pre-engineered, prefabricated, and modular wasteWOIMA® WtE plant, is a robust grate-fired solution for combusting different waste streams to energy. A single boiler island (WOIMAline) wasteWOIMA® plant uses roughly 40,000 to 50,000 tons of waste fuel per annum. Several WOIMAlines can be integrated to create a larger power plant. The state-of-the-art flue gas treatment renders the combustions gases inert and safe enabling the construction of the plant also in populated areas.
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WOIMA Corporation is a Finnish supplier of best-in-class waste-to-value products, projects and services worldwide. We have developed solutions that enable us, and the customer, to transform and recycle virtually any waste stream into raw materials and energy. At WOIMA we combine Finnish engineering know-how in waste management with power generation design expertise. These solutions are used in Finland every day. They support the circular economy ideology and ensure that less than 1% of Finland’s waste ends up in landfills.
Our mission is to improve quality of life both locally and globally, as well as empower people to utilize waste as a commodity. Our decades of international project management experience ensure an on-time, in-budget and high-quality WOIMA solution delivery across the globe.