News Feature | November 16, 2015

WWTPs Answer Obama's Call For Energy Efficiency

By Laura Martin

President Obama has asked America’s commercial and industrial buildings to become more energy efficient, and water and wastewater treatment plants are stepping up to the challenge.

So far, twelve water and wastewater treatment agencies have joined Obama’s “Better Buildings, Better Plants,” initiative, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program which challenges organizations to reduce energy usage by 25 percent over the next 10 years. In total, 250 organizations have taken this leadership challenge since it was launched in December 2011.

“Manufacturers participating in the Better Plants program, including our new partners in the water and wastewater treatment sector, are leading the way in showing how energy efficiency is a smart business strategy, as well as a smart conservation strategy that will help to protect our environment for future generations,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, according to an article reported in Victorville Daily Press.

The Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA) is one of the WWTPs that has joined the “Better Buildings, Better Plants” initiative. According to VVWRA spokesman David Wylie, the utility joined the program in December 2014 and was the first wastewater treatment facility in the nation to do so. Others soon followed suit.

To improve energy efficiency, the VVWRA is utilizing biogas created in a retrofitted digester to produce electricity for power plant operations. They are also utilizing UV disinfection to reduce energy consumption.

“We are saving $40,000 a month in natural gas costs by using biogas or methane to fire our two 800-kilowatt-hour generators as part of our Waste to Energy program,” Wylie said, according to the Victorville Daily Press. “Those generators, when working at full capacity, are able to provide up to 90 percent of our plant's electrical power needs.”

Other utility participants in the program include the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA), which has pledged to improve the energy intensity at four pumping stations and four treatment plants by 25% over a 10 year period. According to its “Better Buildings, Better Plants” DOE profile, energy efficient projects initiated at the BSWSA include the installation of a 100,000 kW solar array, motor system upgrades, and HVAC focused optimizations. The utility also constructed 17 miles of water supply line that reduces the pumping energy required to deliver water to each customer.

The Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF) is also one of the utilities that has committed to the DOE program. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of electricity used at the plant is generated from biogas, produced via anaerobic digesters or collected through the utility’s Trucked Residuals Receiving Center, according to its DOE profile. IAWWTF has been operating the Trucked Residuals Receiving Center, which accepts local carbon waste that is turned into bioenergy, for nearly 30 years. Recent upgrades to the center have made it even more energy efficient. The facility has also been upgrading systems involved in its anaerobic digesters, installing replacement cogeneration equipment, and upgrading aeration equipment.

Recently the DOE released a report outlining some of the successes of the “Better Buildings, Better Plants” program. According to their report, manufacturers involved in the program have maintained an average annual energy intensity improvement rate of more than 2 percent over the last five years, reports the Victorville Daily Press.

This has resulted in cumulative energy savings of more than 450 trillion BTUs, $2.4 billion in cost savings, and a reduction in 27 million metric tons of carbon emissions.