Eesti Energia's waste-to-energy unit at Iru may in two years slash prices in waste management and heat and more than halve the amount of garbage destined for landfills.
According to ETV, which covered the cornerstone laying on June 15, the unit costs 100 million euros, and the national power company expects to break even in less than ten years.
With a capacity of 50 megawatts in heat mode and 17 in electricity, the plant will mainly provide heat to Tallinn and Maardu, and will use refuse from throughout Estonia, with agreements already in place.
Combined heat and power installations are efficient in populated areas, such as the communities around the capital. Iru will be able to incinerate the majority of the household waste generated in Estonia each year - 220,000 of 300,000 tons.
"Waste has just as much potential energy as oil shale, or even more," said Eesti Energia CEO Sandor Liive. "So on one hand we are intensely mining oil shale and on the other hand the refuse that we have in homes and companies that we currently pack down into the ground." Liive said the use of waste for energy would make the waste sector more environmentally friendly.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts said he was "amazed" why WTE plants were not considered earlier, back when European-standard landfills began to be developed. Parts called the event a fundamental shift in Estonia's waste handling systems.
While dumps will have to re-orient, the Ministry of the Environment noted that this does not mean that landfills will dry up. The ash left after the waste is incinerated is as much as one-quarter of the original volume. And construction waste and hazardous waste cannot be burned.