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Understanding synergies and trade-offs between water and energy production at landfill sites

Yuan, Mei-Hua, Chiueh, Pei-Te, Lo, Shang-Lien
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.687 pp. 152-160
biogas, decision making, energy, governance, health hazards, issues and policy, landfills, leachates, methane, methane production, public health, risk reduction, simulation models, surface water, waste disposal, wastes, Taiwan
Landfills provide the most commonly used waste disposal solution. They are designed to reduce the risk of environmental or public health hazards due to waste disposal, and are used for waste management purposes in many places around the world. Depending on the design of the site and recovery methods, landfill sites can work as a potential reserve of energy and water for society. Landfill biogas is a source of renewable energy, and surface water can be collected in a retention pond. Although researchers broadly agree on the importance of incorporating the concept of the energy and water nexus into policy strategies and decision-making, the lack of studies focused on how governance methods that incorporate energy-water linkages at landfill sites can improve the provision of these two essential services has hindered progress in this direction. This study analyzes the links between water-energy nexus at a restored landfill site in Taipei City, Taiwan. The study tracks leachate and methane production at the site over the time periods when the landfill was actively receiving waste and after its closure and since its restoration. The results of model simulation of leachate yield and methane collection under different conditions show that energy and water production changed considerably during the time span under consideration. We identified an increasing trend of water and energy production in the landfill operation phase and a decreasing trend of water and energy production in the landfill restoration phase. In addition, we also identify a synergy between energy generation and water volume during the operation phase, and show that no trade-offs between energy generation and water volume were observed during any of the phases studied. These observations imply that greater water volumes will always lead to greater energy production, which can help inform future landfill design and governance practices.