Joburg Waste to Energy Project

As South Africa grapples with an electricity crisis, this Joburg Waste to Energy project strives to keep the lights on while cleaning up the municipal sites around Johannesburg.

The Challenge

Municipal landfill sites are not only an eyesore on our landscapes, they also pose serious environmental and health hazards by generating huge quantities of methane gas. Methane gas is produced through decomposition, which happens when organic waste is broken down by bacteria that are naturally present in the waste as well as in the soil used to cover the landfill. Organic waste includes food, garden waste, street sweepings, textiles, wood and paper products. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Methane gas can also migrate underground in the right conditions, and become highly explosive. However, if managed correctly the methane gas can be captured and destroyed by flaring it. The Joburg Energy to Waste project goes further, by using methane gas to generate electricity, solving two serious issues that South Africa currently face.

The Solution

Five municipal landfill sites around Johannesburg have been developed using the latest technology by the energy management company Ener-G Systems.

The solution involves retrieving the methane gas and converting it into electricity. This is done by installing pipes into various places in the landfill. The gas is pumped through the pipes into a chimney where it is combusted into harmless emissions, as is currently happening at the five landfill sites across Johannesburg.

The next phase of this project will be to install generators through which the gas will be channeled as fuel for electricity generation. The renewable electricity will be “exported” by connecting the generators to the municipal distribution grid, owned by either Eskom or City Power.

It is anticipated that 19 megawatts of electricity will be produced from these five landfill sites – enough to power 16 500 medium-sized houses. When completed, this will be the biggest landfill gas-to-energy project in South Africa.

Carbon Credits

This project is registered under the Clean Development Mechanism, thereby allowing companies to credibly offset their carbon footprint in order to make a sustainable environmental impacts in South Africa. The Joburg Waste to Energy Project is measured and monitored by internal and external researchers and audited by independent auditors as required by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) guidelines.

Key SDGs impacted

Benefits
  • The project contributes towards solving South Africa’s electricity crisis by eventually providing power for up to 16,000 homes
  • Five major landfill sites around Joburg are covered making them cleaner, safer and reducing the risk of methane explosions
  • Increase in employment opportunities as local contractors and labourers were required for construction, as well as long-term staff contracted to operate and maintain the system.

Did you know?

The Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) generated by the Joburg Waste to Energy Project are eligible for use under the South African carbon tax, providing companies the opportunity to reduce their carbon tax bill.