The first renewable energy facility of its kind in the United States, Martinsburg’s own Entsorga, finishes final preparations as the facility prepares to begin taking its first loads of waste at the end of March. The renewable energy facility has been an eight-year process for BioHiTech Global, Inc., a technology and services company that provides cost-effective and sustainable waste management solutions, and will be the first facility of its kind in the United States, mirroring a facility that has already had success in Europe.
“There are not many places where you can have that kind of closed story, but that’s what’s so cool about Martinsburg. West Virginia has had this bad reputation of throwing trash on the ground or burning and for a long time West Virginia took everyone else’s waste, but now West Virginia is the first to take the step to use their waste as a commodity. West Virginia is the first to take this step in the country,” Emily Dyson, director of science research and development for HiBioTech and project manager for Entsorga, said. “Before we can start the process, though, we have to be able to fill the bio oxidation hall so we’ll start taking waste by the end of the month and hope to be in full operation by the end of the spring. I’m very excited to see this completed.”
Dyson said that she began working on the project through the environmental permitting and land use permitting stage with the county, which she said then evolved into looking into design plans and moved into her managing the project. “We are currently commissioning and making sure that all of the equipment is working,” Dyson said. “Any time that you have this much manufacturing equipment you’ve got to make sure that everything is built well. We had some very good contractors who did very well.”
Dyson explained that the beginning of the process starts in two large pits where the trucks hauling waste will back up to and dump in their load after having weighed the intake load on a large scale in front of the facility. “Fast rolling doors, in a matter of three to five seconds, ensure that the whole building stays under negative pressure,” Dyson said. “All of the odor will stay in the building meaning when you’re standing near this you won’t smell trash. Meanwhile, under the grates at bottom of the dumping pits, are fans that start the biological process of breaking the waste down, or composting. There’s never a time that waste is just sitting, not being broken down.”
A large overhead crane and grapple will then reach into the pits and drop the waste into the first large hopper, which Dyson explained begins the first mechanical step of the mechanical biological process. Dyson said that the biology starts in the pits when air is moving through the waste. “The facility is all automated so there is never human intervention with the waste,” Dyson said. “People won’t be in the bio oxidation area. We have two cranes and everything is done through sensors. At peak operation, 18 to 20 employees will work over two shifts; an electrician, mechanic, supervisors, control room operators and laborers.”