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New technology unlocks renewable energy potential of wastewater

ClearCove, a renewable energy company, has completed their New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)-supported project titled ClearCove Organics Harvester Demonstration at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF).

The project’s final results have been collected in a report documenting the energy potential of the Harvester technology.

A pilot system operated at the IAWWTF resulted in data indicating a potential for a 300 to 500% in­crease in energy production, versus conventional technologies, and a 52% reduction in energy consumption.

NYSERDA is supporting a number of strategies for promoting the transition of New York State’s larger Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRF) toward Utilities of the Future.

One of these strategies is support for demon­strations of innovative technologies such as ClearCove’s Harvester, which could both reduce facility energy consumption and increase the production of on-site energy.

The Harvester technology is a complete headworks primary treatment solu­tion that enhances the capture of organics at the head of the wastewater treat­ment plant.

By capturing the high-energy value organics at the primary stage, the technology increases the biogas production potential and reduces the en­ergy consumption typically associated with the secondary treatment phase.

Dan Ramer, chief operator of the IAWWTF, says most big wastewater plants use gravity settling as their primary method.

‘What ClearCove looked at was a way to basically double the primary treatment system’s capacity for the removal of organics. Our facility could achieve net-zero energy, even net positive energy, with this solution,’ Ramer says

‘This demonstration has provided validation that the Harvester technology drives significant process efficiency improvements at wastewater facilities and furthers the renewable energy opportunity for the industry including the realisation of energy neutral, or even energy positive operations,’ says Dr. Mark Greene, co-author of the report and anaerobic digestion subject mat­ter expert at O’Brien and Gere Engineers.

Wastewater treatment plants consume 1-2% of the total US energy consump­tion and are often one of the largest energy consumers in a community.

However, the energy found in wastewater contains nearly 10 times that re­quired for treatment, meaning that there is a significant renewable energy source that is typically not being fully used.

‘By capturing the organics in the primary treatment process our technology can provide more carbon-rich fuel for the anaerobic digesters, thereby having the potential to create con­siderably more energy than traditional solutions,’ says Gary Miller, president and chief operating officer of ClearCove.

‘The project’s focus was demonstrating the renew­able energy opportunity provided by the Harvester technology, which could change the economics for this common community asset by becoming a sus­tainable, renewable energy hub.’

A copy of the final project report can be downloaded through ClearCove’s website at www.clearcovesystems.com.