Waste-to-Energy (WTE): Feedstock Evaluation and Biofuels Production Potential - NREL

Research output: NRELPresentation


The goal of this project is to provide foundational data, strategic analyses, and modeling critical to the economic and environmental viability of the emerging WTE industry. It began in the last quarter of FY15 to support BETO's objectives in accelerating development of WTE technologies. These technologies offer alternative and sustainable solutions to waste disposal, a growing concern across the nation as population grows, and could present a niche opportunity for the bioeconomy of the future. Our approach is rigorous economic and geospatial modeling with input from key stakeholders. Accomplishments to date include: (1) Comprehensive estimate of wet WTE resource prices at county level and national/state supply curves, (2) Preliminary results of the wet WTE resources 'hot spot' analysis, and (3) Baseline, anaerobic digestion and composting pathway models for CBA of food waste (preliminary results provided to BETO). Our estimate of wet WTE resource prices indicate that some portion of the feedstock exists at a negative price. If a resource has been commoditized (e.g. FOG), its price is determined by market demand. If a resource is regarded as waste, its price is driven by the cost of its disposal. This analysis provides the first estimate of wet WTE resource prices. Our resource opportunity or 'hot spot' analysis indicates that high and very high potential is present in many states and follows population dynamics where fuel consumption is also high. Preliminary results for the cost-benefit analysis of food waste indicate that for a pathway to break even, it requires: (1) tipping fee, (2) a facility of particular scale (larger facilities are able to offset their costs easier) and to a lesser extent depends on the value of products. Geographic variances in pathways stem from differences in tipping fees, fuel/energy prices, and local wages. Project challenges include data availability and quality which were mitigated by ongoing industry input.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2019 Project Peer Review, 3-8 March 2019, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-73274


  • FOG
  • food waste
  • manure
  • organic waste
  • sludge
  • Waste-to-Energy
  • WTE


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