Wastewater Plants Turn Focus To Energy Savings

In one example of a broader trend, a New Mexico utility is making a shift to energy-efficient wastewater treatment plant by installing a solar farm.

Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) will use 50 solar panels to clean up to 1 MGD of wastewater at its East Mesa Water Reclamation Facility, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. The investment will cost $1.7 million.

“Today the facilities clean 700,000 gallons daily, producing high quality treated wastewater used to irrigate green space at several large public locations on the east side of town,” the Sun-News reported. “As the population grows, the amount of wastewater flowing to the facility will increase. LCU has the option of installing additional panels at the facility to keep up with the population increase.”

While all power produced at the solar farm is expected to be used by the facility, any excess energy will flow into the electric grid.

“LCU plans a second alternative green energy project within a year at the city’s largest wastewater facility,” per the Sun-News. “The end goal in clean energy is expected to save millions in future power expenses.”

The increasingly tenuous nature of the water-energy nexus — the relationship between water needed for energy production and the energy necessary to access and utilize water — has made the need for alternative power for wastewater treatment all the more necessary.

As utilities look to operate more efficiently, wastewater energy innovation has taken many forms.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority (SCMA) has joined the American Water Works Association’s Partnership for Clean Water.

“It’s a new program that assists utilities with optimizing on the wastewater side versus the drinking water side,” Amy Batdorf, assistant director of SCMA, told The Republican Herald.

Through the partnership, SCMA will be able to evaluate its Deer Lake wastewater treatment plant and identify areas where efficiency can be enhanced.

In Idaho, the city of Jerome’s wastewater treatment plant received state recognition for its energy saving efforts.

“Idaho Power gave us a rebate check of $124,000 this year,” said Gilbert Sanchez, Jerome’s wastewater superintendent and public services director, per MagicValley.com.

The wastewater plant created an “energy-saving team” in 2012 and replaced motors with energy-efficient units. The facility “soft starts” the motors to bring them online gradually and installed timers on the motors in its aeration basin.

“Instead of running motors 24-7, we began running them intermittently,” Sanchez told MagicValley.com. “We put light switches with motion sensors to turn the lights on and off.”

“The city continues to daily monitor its electrical usage for wastewater treatment,” reported MagicValley.com. “In 2015, it had operational savings of $25,000, and saved enough energy to power 42 homes for a year, Sanchez said.”

Retrieved from: Water Online