Solid Waste Authority Waste of Palm Beach County, FL / Waste to Energy Renewable Facility Number 2

Solid Waste Authority Waste of Palm Beach County, FL / Waste to Energy Renewable Facility Number 2

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Solid Waste Authority Waste of Palm Beach County, FL / Waste to Energy Renewable Facility Number 2

Description of the SWA

The Solid Waste Authority Waste of Palm Beach County (SWA) functions as a governmental agency in charge of offering an environmentally conscious and economical management of solid waste for Palm Beach County in Florida. SWA employs 400 workers, and offers solid waste recycling and disposal programs and services to about 1.4 million people and businesses in the County (SWA, 2019). The SWA also offers solid waste and collection services to businesses and residents in areas in the county that are not incorporated via private operators based on particular terms and conditions. SWA’s mission is to manage the solid wastes discarded by the dwellers and firms in the County in a way that is in compliance with the legislations in place as well as applicable federal, state, and local ordinances and laws (SWA, 2019). Since its establishment in 1975 in accordance with the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Act, the SWA has made significant strides in handling the county’s solid wastes, and today the group boasts of a number of programs it runs. Most of the initiatives are developed to integrate waste transportation, disposal techniques, recycling, processing, and resources recovery (SWA, 2019). The group works very hard to attain the state’s level of 75% reduction as well as recycling of wastes, and is making significant strides in informing the public about how they could manage sold wastes. Maintaining the required features in all aspects will allow the group to achieve its mission and objectives, particularly with the functioning of the REF 2.

The group developed an award winning system that comprises of several facilities that carries out many functions encompassing recycling processes, landfilling, production of renewable sources of energy. Other systems SWA relies on to carry out its activities include several landfills, recycling plants, a couple of waste-to-energy facilities, several households harmful waste collection points, a network of transfer facilities, and a bio-solid processing plant (Henderson & Ritcher, 2010). The governmental agency largely generates revenue through the fees it collects from users, but also gets income from other sources including the sales of electricity, tipping charges, interests, as well as recycling fees.

Reasons for Building Renewable Facility Number 2

Planning for the REF 2 commenced in early 2004 when the Authority started a detailed update of the major plan. The update entailed an evaluation of the present and forecasted waste flows, and then analyzed the condition and capacity of the existing facility to make sure the system has the capacity to handle all the projected flow of waste effectively and efficiently. The main outcome of the major plan was the requirement for additional landfill capacities

As spending on consumables and urbanization gear up, more solid wastes are generated. The amount of solid waste has grown profoundly over the past century to surpass 3 million tons now produced every day all over the world, and the number is projected to go high or even double come 2025 (B&W, 2019). It also happens that the management of solid waste is often perceived as a financial burden to most municipal budgets. Such constraints facilitate the filling of solid waste landfills, which in turn cause more emission of green house gases (GHG), as well as air, water, and land pollution (Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, 2009). To contain the magnitude, cost, and environmental effects of landfills, SWA saw the urge to develop REF 2 with the hope that it would enable the organization shift from a linear economy where one disposes after use to a more circular-based economy framework, where raw materials are used several time until they reach their fullest capacity. SWA also finds it necessary to invest in REF 2 with the hope that it will lengthen the useful life of solid wastes, transforming them into heat and electricity for industrial processes, and heating systems within the district (SWA, 2019). More importantly, SWA hoped by erecting a new facility, it would materialize the view that waste-to-energy (WtE) is one of the most effective and robust options to generate power while managing wastes and lowering emissions as a substitute to fossil fuels.

The construction of SWA’s REF 2 (Renewable Energy Facility 2) is estimated to be about 672 million USD state-of-the-art waste to energy plant. The project is deemed to be the first of its type in more than one and a half decade, as well as the most sophisticated and cleanest of the waste-to-energy plants in North America (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The production of more solid wastes prompted SWA to develop the facility that is estimated to lower the amount of wastes being moved to landfills by about 90%, thus ensuring the landfills last until 2044-2045 (SWA, 2019). Other than lowering the amount of solid wastes, REF2 generates up to 100 megawatts of electric power to the residents of Palm Beach County, which is adequate to supply power for nearly 44,000 businesses and homes, or nearly all households in Boca Raton (Henderson & Ritcher, 2010). The developers of the project estimate that at its full capacity, the plant would be able to process at least 1 million tons of post-recycled wastes every year, and about 3000 tons everyday, which is about 661 trucks worth of waste every day.

Section of the REF 2 (SWA, 2019)

Once the selection of the design and technology was complete, the Authority shifted to the next phase, which was to create a design framework, which was utilized to procure the project utilizing much sophisticated approach. After agreeing on the suitable criteria, the bidding of the project took place, and a selection committee was put up to look into the proposals that were evaluated differently based on its price of construction, technical approach, as well as on the capability of the facility to serve for long-term (SWA, 2019). A panel comprising of CDM Smith, KBR Inc., and B&W (Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc.) was formulated to offer the best value and guide for the Authority overseeing the project (SWA, 2019). B&W, however, was in charge of the entire designing, building, and operation of the project, whereas KBR in partnership with B&W acted as the construction company and design engineer in the course of the development of REF 2, although the two got support from CDM Smith. The table below provides a summary of the team that was in charge of developing REF 2.

The proposerB&W
The project’s guarantorB&W
The supplier of mass burn technologyB&W via B&W Volund
The engineer of the designKBR with aid from CDM and B&W
The construction firmKBR with assistance from CDM
The operatorB&W via its Power Systems subsidiary

It is significant to mention that Arcadis US, Inc. acted as the Consulting Engineer and Design Criteria Professional for the authority, aiding and facilitating the planning, procurement, design and building review and oversight, public outreach and intervention, and financing. The efforts to develop the design commenced in April 2011 and the construction started in April 2012 whereas the station attained commercial operation status in July 2015 (SWA, 2019). In addition, a team of experts currently seats on the Authority Governing Board with the Chair being Vice Mayor Mack Bernard who is assisted by Vice Chair Dave Kerner. The Secretary is Hal Valeche, while individuals such as Paulette Burdick, Mary Berger, Melissa McKinlay, and Steven Abrams serve as Members.

How the Plant Functions

Contrary to Renewable Energy Facility 1, where post-recycled solid wastes from the municipality is turned into refuse-generated fuels, REF2 acts as a mass burn plant, such that post-recycled waste is in put directly into a pit, which has a capacity to hold 21,000 tons (4200 trucks of garbage) for up to seven days. From the pit, the waste is pumped by grapples resembling large claws into a boiler. The grapples are so much effective that they can hold about 9 tons of garbage, or nearly twice the trash a truck can accommodate at once, thus showing the level of technology invested in the plant (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The waste is burned inside the boiler to emit steam. It is crucial to know about the three boilers in the plant that all serve the purpose of turning the waste into steam. All of the boilers that were acquired from the Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W), which has more than 150 years experience in the production and supplying of the world’s most effective environmental and energy systems (B&W), can process up to 907,000 kg of waste every day. This is because it employs the technologically advanced mechanism of Volund wave grade scheme, which permits for more rapid burning and much reduction in the volume of waste. Each boiler is equipped with the capability to produce nearly 284,400 pounds every hour of steam, which rotates a turbine generator to produce electric power.

The performance guarantees of REF 2 are what amaze many, especially with regard to the production of renewable energy. The current rate of gross electric production stands at 681 kWh/ton, while the present guaranteed electric generation stands at 575 kWh per ton (SWA, 2019). Such high levels of electric production suggest that the plant is a suitable investment for the households and businesses in the region, now that they are not going to have the problem of dealing with high cost of power. The production of renewable energy in the region is also advantageous because the locals are not going to experience blackouts that sometimes inconvenience many people and businesses (SWA, 2019). The group sells the surplus energy to local households and businesses, as well as supplies power to governmental institutions, which increases the revenue it generates. Hopefully, the group shall acquire more customers for the power it produces, something which will push the investors to pump more funds into the project. The group is also optimistic it will continue to produce energy that will not have adverse effects on the environment.

The project entailed many other structures, which together are referred to as the Renewable Energy Campus. The striking feature about the Campus is its creation in accordance with LEED Platinum standards showing the cutting edge technology and design in conservation and sustainability (SWA, 2019). Other than the advanced technology used in the designing of the campus, the SWA felt that it is essential for the facility to have a separate architectural model that would blend with the community (SWA, 2019). The objective was to design and construct something that would sway away from the common monotone metal buildings usually associated with structure of such kind. With such vision, the Authority commissioned the construction of an Education Center that is LEED Platinum rated to offer education and reach out to the community and the sector on the virtues and desires of WtE and how it relates with sustainability.

The Renewable Energy Campus (SWA, 2019)

More importantly, the operators hope to acquire an assortment of metals from the incineration process, an opportunity that could increase SWA’s avenues of income. REF 2 convalesces nearly 85% and 90% of nonferrous and ferrous metals respectively (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The facility is projected to recover more metals such as copper, aluminum, steel, and other metals yearly after the burning process, each estimated to be 27,000 tons.

Environmental Sustainability

The team managing the plant employs advanced technology to regulate pollution, thus ensuring very minimum emissions into the air. The record states REF 2 achieves the emission permit requirements that are the lowest of any facility presently generating renewable energy through the combustion of solid wastes from the municipality in the U.S (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The team managing the plant takes a number of measures to regulate pollution, which is becoming a major concern for manufacturers in the contemporary times. The group, for example, uses carbon powder to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and mercury from ash after the incineration, and utilizes lime slurry to regulate acidic fumes in the SDA (Spray Dryer Absorbers) (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The facility is fitted with systems that allow the use of ammonia to transform nitrogen oxide (NOx) into harmless water and nitrogen vapor in the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction System) component, thus making it the initial waste-to-energy firm in the U.S to lower the emissions of NOx utilizing SCR (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The group managing the facility is keen on the functioning of baghouses that filter lime, carbon powder, and flying ashes thereby cutting release of such harmful particles. REF 2 proves to be dedicated in its call for environmental sustainability through its unique rooftop that facilitates the collection of rainwater to a reservoir that has a capacity to accommodate 2 million gallons (SWA, 2019). The roofing system offers a significant portion of the water required to run the facility, therefore, lowering the plant’s use of treated and drinkable water.

The REF 2 also conducts its operations in accordance with the provisions of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that was created following the enactment of the Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA) (SWA, 2019). The FDEP watches over the processes of WtE firms in the region, and ensures that everything the REF 2 does comply with required standards at the local, state, and federal levels, encompassing the management of ash and storm-water.

The SWA through the attention it pays on environmental sustainability shows how the firm is committed to the provisions of the ISO 14001:2015 and its affiliated regulations such as ISO 14006:2011, which offer practical structures for organizations of all forms aspiring to handle their environmental responsibilities in the desired manner. The ISO 14001 regulations that are formulated by the ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC 207 and its connected subdivisions provide clear insight on how to carry out communications, life cycle evaluation and audits geared towards improving environment management, as well as on how to deal with the climate change-related issues (ISO, 2019). ISO 14001:2015, which outlines the design for an environmental management approach can offer assurance to the firm’s management and workers as well as the stakeholders that the organization’s environmental impact is measured and improved appropriately (ISO, 2019). REF 2, therefore, is not likely to generate any environmental legal problems for SWA for its commitment to abide by the provisions of the ISO 14000 family.

Other than showing its commitment in managing the environment, developing mechanisms that could prevent adverse emissions help the agency gain competitive advantage. Escoubes (2016) carries out a study to examine the effects of effective environmental management on the company’s performance in relation to other operators, and discovers how firms that pay considerable attention to environmental management perform relatively better. Escoubes (2016) investigates the role appropriate environmental management as a possible strategic and economic leverage based on the operations of 30 medium-sized and multinational corporations stationed in France and learns that companies with vast experience in handling environmental management have higher chances of strengthening customer loyalty as well as witness insignificant stress in entering new markets. Escoubes (2016) believes companies are embracing the changes because of the change in perception among executive managers with more practitioners becoming more aware of market values linked to environmental management. All that the management of REF 2 needs to do now is to apply more innovative mechanisms like using measurement tools such as non-financial indications and green management control charts, which tend to assess the connection amid the gaining of competitive advantage utilizing market mechanisms and environmental management.

Other Options of Waste Management Considered by the Authority

The Authority while trying to contemplate how to deal with the increasing solid waste was faced with the option of widening the landfills for REF 1. The team started by reviewing the capacity of the available infrastructure and its condition (SWA, 2019). After weighing and evaluating all the available options, the Authority settled on the creation of a new facility that would be more competent to handle the increasing wastes, and which would last for many years to come.

Employee Health and Safety

From the creation of the design through the whole process of implementing the framework, safety and health matters have taken center stage of the Authority’s discussions. The leading contractors adopted a strict safety policy about safety matters during the construction process, as well as posted committed H&S officials to monitor the work and its progress. The developers of the policy in a bid to incorporate safety into the design of REF 2, the development structure recognized minimum clearances for both outlet and maintenance, and needed many standards and codes more strict than regulations in the sector. Because of the intricacy of the matter, a 3D model was formulated and utilized to recognize and resolve conflicts during the formation of the design. Arcadis also carried out an intense review process on the design the contractors wish to apply to ensure it abides by the provision of OSHA and NFPA, as well as suitable egress needs.

Pros and Cons of the Facility

The development of the facility at Florida has several merits that members of the society and the nation at large are likely to enjoy. REF 2 will more probably lower GHG emissions by nearly a ton every day, and the facility shall provide a safer approach of disposing wastes that complements recycling practices, now that the rates of recycling have expanded in municipalities having WtE firms. Developing REF 2 as it already comes out in the report shall significantly lower volumes of solid wastes send to landfills by almost 90%, and will supply power to at least 40,000 homes (W&B, 2019). The information on SWA’s (2019) website informs that REF 2 has emerged as the new focus of the whole solid waste management structure as it largely lowered organic components being moved to the landfills thereby lowering unpleasant smell. Other than the facts that REF 2 is ranked the cleanest and most effective plant of its type in the entire globe, and being the initial WtE site to be built in the U.S. in 20 years, the facility added more than 1100 manufacturing, design, and construction works to the local community.

Another great merit of developing the plant is it shall set the trend for achieving environmental sustainability for other organizations to emulate. The management’s dedication to achieve environmental friendly practices does not end with the installation of advanced air pollution control (APC) infrastructure because it is projected the development and the functioning of the REF 2 will handle almost all the municipal solid wastes emitted in the Palm Beach County for the future (Kitto et al., 2016). Certainly, the more than 90% reduction in volume gained through the combustion process will lengthen the life of the landfills by nearly 25 years, and this is a good example for other operators in the same sector wishing to attain environmental sustainability (Kitto et al., 2016). REF 2 is in a good position to guide other firms operating in the same sector because as the initial Greenfield WtW plant built in the United States in almost two decades, the infrastructure has gained interest from the sector all over the world. The management also believes the facility represents a new revolution in the formation and construction of WtE plant in the U.S (Kitto et al., 2016). The management believes REF 2 is offering a continuing conversation utilized to encourage and enlighten people about WtE as a vital and prolonged resource for handling solid wastes in communities across America and the whole world.

Other strong features about Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 make it advantageous to members of the society and the stakeholders at large. The plant’s first 30-day acceptance tests and verification in 2015 showed that it achieved its guaranteed volume of 3000 tons every day of post-recycled solid wastes from the municipality without disruption (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The REF 2 was also assured to produce almost 625 kWh per ton of solid waste, the highest ever in a WtE firm utilizing an air cooler condenser thereby surpassing the expected target by about 6% to 8% (Kitto & Hiner, 2017). The Authority believes maintaining the strong areas will allow the group to earn the millions of dollars it receives annually by selling some electric equipment to a local power firm, as well as from its other activities.  

The merits associated with REF 2 suggest that the organization is operating based on its expectations. Already, the group is doing enough in lowering the amount of solid wastes in the environment, which is one of its primary objectives and hopefully, the group shall handle more solid wastes in the coming years, thanks to the development of the REF 2, which has the capacity to accommodate and transform solid wastes into more useful items (SAW, 2019). More essentially, the group seems to live up to its expectations because of the great work it does to lower emissions of GHG into the atmosphere. Such steps show the group is dedicated to achieve its aspirations.

Even though running REF 2 presents several benefits to the stakeholders, it is vital to look into the possible demerits of running the project. One of the evident constraints is SWA is likely to encounter much financial constraints in its attempts to manage and run the facility. The group while preparing the budget must set aside adequate funds to cater for operations, debts, compulsory collection and recycling practices, long-term planning, renewals and replacements, as well as for general reserve (SWA, 2019). Other than developing a budget to cater for the entire facility, the group handling the project may have to deal with the financial burden emanating from the budgets of specific departments such as Operations, Finance, Office of the Executive Director, Engineering, as well as from the department’s summary and matrix (SWA, 2019). Apart from the high financial burden the group is likely to experience, the project will have some impact on the environment regardless of the effort put minimize any adversities. During the initial conceptual phases of the plant’s development, the Authority conducted many meetings in the town hall with stakeholders and members of the community to offer the conceptual plans for the infrastructure, and clarify how the facility would be more effective than the existing plant (SWA, 2019). In general, the reaction from those attending the meeting was affirmative, but a group, particularly from the northern side of the facility expressed fears of increased odor, noise, dust, and traffic (SWA, 2019). Even though an independent study showed the parameters of threat were far much below permissible measures as governed by city and state ordinances, and that they do not have adverse effects on the community, it is paramount to always ensure such effects do not cause any disturbance or harm.


The study illustrates how the development of REF 2 is an added advantage to SWA because it becomes more efficient in its handling of solid wastes. The plant is set to handle more solid wastes on daily basis while having a minimum impact on the environment. Other than being acknowledged as the most superior WtE plant globally, the Authority in charge of the project continues to ensure all practices run in accordance with the set rules and regulations, locally and federally. It is because of the commitment the project leaders and partners have in developing an environmental sustainable program that convince many that the initiative will have a long-lasting positive impact on the community and the American society as well.


B&W. (2019). Babcock & Wilcox. Retrieved from

Escoubes, F. (2016). Gaining competitive advantage through environmental management. Eco-Management and Auditing, 3(2), 21-22.

Gershman, Brickner & Bratton. (2009). Meeting the future: Evaluating the potential of waste processing technologies to contribute to the solid waste authority’s system. Fairfax: RCT Engineering.

Henderson, T., & Ritcher, L. (2010). Palm Beach County WTE expansion model. Proceedings of the 18th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference, May 11-13, 2010, Orlando, Florida, USA.

ISO. (2019). ISO 140000 family – environmental management. Retrieved from

Kitto, J., et al. (2016). World-class technology for the newest waste-to-energy plant in the United States — Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility No. 2. Presented to: Renewable Energy World International, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., December 13-15, 2016.

Kitto, J., & Hiner, L. (2017). Clean power from burning trash. Mechanical Engineering Magazine, 139(2), 1-7.

SWA. Solid Waste Authority. Retrieved from
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