Washington D.C. became the first city in the U.S. to install a thermal hydrolysis bioenergy system, turning waste water into clean, renewable electricity.
Washington D.C. has an interesting solution to two seemingly unrelated problems. According to a report from Inhabitat, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority has just installed a brand new $470 million facility that converts human waste into clean, sustainable energy for the city.
D.C. Water is the country’s first utility to use a Norwegian-built hydrolysis system in an urban water treatment plant. Officials stated that this new waste-to-power system is the world’s largest in operation.
Norwegian firm Cambi AS constructed the thermal hydrolysis system, using steam explosion technology. Human waste is cooked at extremely high heat and pressure at the end of the water treatment process, squeezing out impurities and making it easier for the organic solids to biodegrade, and improving their ability to digest in one of four 80-foot concrete anaerobic digesters.
These massive tanks capture methane that is produced by the waste as bacteria munch away on it, and feed it into turbines the size of jet engines that generate electricity.
According to D.C. Water CEO and General Manager George S. Hawkins, “This project embodies a shift from treating used water as waste to leveraging it as a resource. We are proud to be the first to bring this innovation to North America for the benefit of our ratepayers, the industry and the environment.”
The system went into operation this September, and produces a net 10 megawatts of power from the process. The system is expected to save up to $10 million each year on power bills, and slash carbon emissions from the power plant by 33 percent.