Tuesday, August 03, 2010

SMARTER STRATEGIES

SMARTER STRATEGIES

    Treated Sewage Could Unlock a Wealth of Power
  • Scientists at the University of Nevada are pioneering a technology that turns sewage waste into clean, renewable energy. They hope to first power sewage treatment facilities, and eventually entire cities, with the waste.
  • Scientists at the University of Nevada are pioneering a technology that turns sewage waste into clean, renewable energy. They hope to first power sewage treatment facilities, and eventually entire cities, with the waste.

    Metropolises like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago may soon be powered by what you flushed down the toilet the night before. Scientists at the University of Nevada are about to go public with technology that turns ugly sewage-waste sludge into clean, renewable energy.

    Sewage treatment plants, like the one pictured, consume large amounts of energy by cleaning and trucking away sludge (source: Sydney Water).

    The process is simple. Take sludge, dry it, compact it and then use it to power the power-sucking treatment facility. The benefits to this common-sense approach are twofold. Not only does the treatment center get off the grid for good, but it also lowers its carbon footprint by not having to truck away metric tons of sludge every year. However, powering your local treatment facility is only the first step.

    The minds behind this green (and brown) approach have their sights set on powering entire cities with sewage sludge. It is estimated that the state of California alone donates enough sludge to treatment facilities all over the Golden State to create 10 million kilowatt hours each and every day. Researchers believe that combining this kind of abundant energy resource with other clean energies, such as solar and wind, could be the recipe for weaning people off of the other gooey black stuff once and for all. Who knew we had the power to break our addiction to oil inside of us all along?

    Best of all, the infrastructure to do all of this is already in place. We don't have to build massive collection and channeling facilities because they already exist. Hardly any new building at all would need to be done. The biggest problem, according to industry experts, is getting over the "ick factor" of powering our lives with sewage. Once this, well, passes, we can get on with getting over oil for good.

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