BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County wants to find out if it can turn trash into a reusable energy source and make money while protecting the environment.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said he plans to make it a priority for 2014.
"Right now we're burying all of our garbage (at the landfill) and we want to turn it into cash," Sossamon said. "We want to develop a request for proposals and solicit from different folks who are in the business of alternative energy systems."
Assistant County Administrator for General Services Russ Wetherington said Friday those proposals should be going out this month. Right now, the project is in its infancy and the idea is to find out what is available, Wetherington said.
"There are so many different methods out there," he said.
Wetherington said Hernando might partner with Citrus County, which also is considering alternative fuel sources for its garbage.
"The end result is environmental protection, reduced costs at the landfill and reduced usage of land at the landfill itself," he said.
Hernando also might be eligible for federal tax credits if it implements an energy-saving system.
Wetherington said recyclables, which include glass, plastics and metals, would be separated from the garbage flow and everything else could be converted into energy.
There are various ways of doing that; the most common being to burn the garbage until it reaches a high enough temperature to create a thermal energy source.
That energy is used to create steam that can be sold to industrial customers, or used to drive turbines for electricity production, according to the Energy Recovery Council, a trade organization representing the waste-to-energy industry.
"Waste-to-energy meets the two basic criteria for establishing what a renewable energy resource is - its fuel source (trash) is sustainable and indigenous," according to the ERC website. "(The facilities) recover valuable energy from trash after efforts to 'reduce, reuse, and recycle' have been implemented by households and local governments."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said there are 86 facilities in the country that use the waste-to-energy system. The 86 facilities have the capacity to produce 2,720 megawatts of power per year by processing more than 28 million tons of waste, according to EPA data.
"Converting nonrecyclable waste materials into electricity and heat generates a renewable energy source and reduces carbon emissions by offsetting the need for energy from fossil sources and reduces methane generation from landfills," the EPA stated.