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In China, renewable energy project tackles growing waste problem

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In China, renewable energy project tackles growing waste problem

Adventist humanitarians in China are studying the feasibility of building biomass power plants in Chengdu, where a growing waste problem has local officials scrambling for answers. From right: Marcel Wagner, project manager; Linda Zhu, ADRA China country director; Arthur Wellinger, president of the European Biogas Association; with representatives from Beijing University and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. [photo courtesy ADRA Switzerland]

Biomass power plants in Chengdu to generate electricity

May 07, 2013 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | APD/ANN staff

The humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is moving forward with plans to construct biomass power plants in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China.

A source of renewable energy, biomass power plants convert organic waste into biogas and electricity.

Representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Switzerland and China say a recent feasibility tour with local officials and Arthur Wellinger, president of the European Biogas Association, was productive. The study group was able to assess the local waste chain and take samples for further analysis, said project manager Marcel Wagner.

“The project is still at the very beginning, but the doors are open,” Wagner said, adding that the next steps involve drawing up a detailed business plan, project proposal and contract for potential investors and partners.

Reports indicate that some 5,000 tons of waste is collected every day in Chengdu. To reduce the contamination of soil and water, and avoid using valuable agricultural land for landfills, officials are increasingly turning to new recycling methods. 

Already, China operates biomass power plants in several provinces. So far, the plants operate by burning only dry organic waste, such as woodchips, branches and leaves. Wet organic waste—from kitchens, slaughterhouses and restaurants—makes up an estimated 60 percent of all organic waste and often remains untreated. ADRA China representatives say this yet unused waste has potential to generate biogas and organic fertilizer.

“This is ADRA’s first foray into renewable energy,” said Crister DelaCruz, director of Marketing and Communication for ADRA International. “We hope this project represents a new trajectory for ADRA. Of course we will continue to address the traditional social concerns of hunger, health and disaster-relief, but preserving the environment is a huge concern for the current generation, and we want to speak to that.”

Perhaps most significantly, DelaCruz said, care for the environment represents “the ultimate expression of stewardship,” especially during a year when the Adventist Church is celebrating God’s creative power.

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