Every second there are three bags of rubbish burning in the Westenergy incineration grate. The energy produced by burning one rubbish bag powers a vacuum cleaner for an hour, an oven for half an hour or heats a sauna for 15 minutes.
The waste-to-energy company Westenergy is a young business whose targets are efficiency and stable operations. It has already managed to reach its stable operations goal in the few years since it started its waste incineration activities in August 2012. The amount of waste it burns is larger than expected, but Westenergy has no time to stand still. Over the next few years, Westenergy intends to improve its energy efficiency further in order to become one of the most efficient plants in Europe.
Westenergy’s Managing Director Olli Alhoniemi knows that the whole waste sector is developing very fast. You only have to look at its history to see just how fast.
“Just 30 years ago, the focus in Finland was only on landfill sites. Now our target nationwide is to utilise most of the waste generated.”
Right from the start, Westenergy has invested in openness. Its facilities receive thousands of visitors every year. Various educational establishments, companies, organisations and groups want to see what happens at an incineration plant. Once a year the company also organises open days, which are so popular that the plant gets filled to the brim with visitors. The purpose of this principle of openness is to fight prejudices and teach people to sort their waste.
“A waste incineration plant may evoke images of a small, dirty and smelly place. But instead our visitors discover a clean, spacious and odourless plant,” says Alhoniemi.
Westenergy is owned by five municipal waste management companies and is a non-profit company that owns and operates a waste-to-energy plant with an operating range of about 50 municipalities in Western Finland, serving about 400,000 inhabitants. Westenergy’s region of operation generates annually about 185,000 tonnes of municipal waste that can be burned to make energy. This energy is used to produce electricity and district heating.
Westenergy’s target is to also utilise the residue from waste incineration as far as possible, as well as municipal waste. The bottom slag resulting from the burning is shipped on to the waste management centre of Lakeuden Etappi, where it is recycled.
Business sector: Energy production from source-separated combustible waste
Electricity production: 80 GWh a year
Heat production: 280 GWh a year