Virginia shipbuilder's trash powers NASA

NNStrashAUGUST 11, 2013—One man's trash is another man's treasure or, in this case, power. Navy shipbuilder Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), Newport News, VA, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, recently partnered with the City of Hampton, VA, to convert its shipyard trash into steam power. Under the partnership, the shipyard's solid waste is incinerated at Hampton's steam plant facility and converted to steam through a process known as "waste-to-energy." The energy is then used to power NASA Langley Research Center (NASA LaRC) facilities, Hampton, VA.

NNS hopes to significantly reduce the amount of trash it sends to the local landfill. "Just last year NNS sent more than 10,000 tons of non-recyclable waste to the local landfill," said Frank "Hogie" Thorn, NNS' environmental engineering manager.

The steam plant has been converting local trash into energy for 33 years. With partnerships with the cities of Hampton and Poquoson, all local federal agencies, and commercial groups like NNS, Hampton's steam plant burns up to 240 tons of trash per day. 

"Back in the 1970s NASA needed a more efficient and practical way to get power for its buildings and wind tunnels, and during this time 'waste-to-burn' energy was coming into its own," said Hampton/NASA Steam Plant Manager John MacDonald. "So NASA LaRC, as a forerunner in science, got involved and has been doing it ever since. The energy produced by steam helps with heating and air conditioning of NASA buildings and cooking in NASA's commissary. The biggest use of the energy is for the air ejectors in NASA's wind tunnels to continue the agency's research."

The partnership between the city of Hampton, NASA LaRC and NNS is just one project led by GreeNN, NNS' program dedicated to pursing environmental improvements throughout the shipyard. The project is the latest in the group's Go Green Challenge, a long-term plan for environmental responsibility at NNS.

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