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FIRE IT UP: Air burner at Shafter-Wasco Landfill creating electricity, powering operations

Shafter-Wasco Landfill air burner
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jan 17, 2024
  • A piece of equipment at the Shafter-Wasco Landfill labeled the 'air burner' is operational at the facility. Chuck Magee, Public Works Manager for Kern County, tells 23ABC the air burner allows the landfill to take waste that was previously left to rot in the landfill, break it up, burn it, capture the heat from it, and turn it into electrical energy. Magee says that energy is then sent back to the grid to power other equipment on site, and in the future will be used to power the compost facility being built at the landfill.
  • The video shows the process that staff at the landfill goes through to operate the air burner and an explanation from Magee on how it works as well as how it benefits the county, and eventually the public.


I’ll apologize for the noise in advance but it's for good reason. Behind me is an air burner located at the Shafter-Wasco landfill. What it's doing is it's burning up material that they previously haven't been able to do anything with and creating electricity with it, that will see far-reaching benefits throughout the county.

Behind the charge, sits Chuck Magee, a Public Works Manager for Kern County who says this piece of equipment is just the start.

“That process will produce a top quality compost that people can utilize like I said, anyway they feel free,” said Magee.

But wait, what is all of this? I’m glad you asked. You might recall our previous reporting on the county approving the building of a compost facility at the Shafter-Wasco Landfill…

The air burner you see here is going to help power that new facility when it goes online to create that compost for the community.

Now, it may feel like you're watching a Tarantino movie with how much bouncing around we're doing, you’re probably wondering, 'how does the air burner work?' In short, the air burner is a super powerful fire that burns hard to grind waste that will take decades to decompose and burns it with little to no smoke. That heat is captured and turned into electric energy. Kind of like a solar panel.

“Now we can utilize that material as a resource to make electricity to power other equipment that's utilized throughout the whole facility to help produce more compostable materials," said Magee.

As the project continues to ignite processes have had to adjust in order to streamline it. For instance, when building a campfire, you start with smaller pieces and then once the fire is rolling, the larger the piece you add the longer the fire burns and the harder it is to put out.

Which is why the county has invested in tools like a log splitter to help break down the hard-to-grind waste and turn it into something.

And while some may look at this pile of lumber and think nothing of it. For Magee, it’s an opportunity for he and his team to make an impact on their community by turning something that people think nothing of into something they can use.

“Waste that was just getting buried, we found a way to get that out. Make a product that's necessary and utilize it in a way that's beneficial to everybody in the county. And now to be able to do it at a lower cost than what it was to just get rid of it. That gets me excited. When we can implement programs to take waste material and more economically handle them that bury that. To me, that's an exciting step forward,” said Magee.

Now, the air burner is just the first step in the process for Magee and the Shafter-Wasco landfill. We'll keep you updated on air and online as they move through those next steps.

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