How’s this for greening the desert: Officials in the California community of Victor Valley on Friday unveiled the United States’ first carbon-neutral wastewater treatment plant. Biogas produced from food waste and sewage powers the plant while keeping tons of garbage out of landfills.
Officials at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority expect the system to operate independent of the power grid by 2015, diverting more than 1,400 tons of waste from the trash heap.
“Why would we not want to recover the inherent energy in our waste to power this facility so that we’re out of that Edison cycle of ‘Well, here’s your rate increase, here’s your rate increase’ every year?” Logan Olds, general manager of the high desert city, told the Daily Press. “It’s a demonstration project and has not been done anywhere else. There are currently no other installations of this technology in the U.S.”
Called the Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project, the system uses co-digestion technology provided by Ontario, Canada–based energy group Anaergia, which was able to retrofit three older digesters already on the plant.
The new system mixes high solids (such as solid food) with sludge (sewage) and uses anaerobic digestion technology to convert the waste into biogas. That biogas, which used to be burned and released into the atmosphere, is harnessed and turned into low-carbon fuel.
It cost $2.6 million to construct the system, which was funded by a California Energy Commission grant and $600,000 invested by Anaergia.
For Victor Valley taxpayers, the new plant is a double dose of good news, helping reduce the area’s food waste and potentially nixing the plant’s $1 million annual electric bill.
“We’re very fortunate to have the ability to turn that waste into energy and reduce the costs to our ratepayers long into the future,” Scott Nassif, a commissioner with the wastewater reclamation authority, said in a statement.