DC Water Turning Sewage Into Electricity, Building Decentralized Power

I have talked a lot about how the electric power industry has begun a major campaign against decentralized solar power.  Well, here is a really scary story for power companies.

DC Water, which processes all the sewage for the District of Columbia, is going to be producing 1/3 of the electricity it is now buying from PEPCo, DC’s only electric utility, from a new methane digester system.  Here is the story from the Washington Post.  DC Water will now have the capacity to produce 13 megawatts of power from this system, 1/3 of the sewage plant’s current load.

The other wonderful part of this system is that because parts of the new system operate at over 350 degrees, the resulting sludge at the end of the process, will now become a class A fertilizer that can be used directly on food crops, instead of the sludge’s past class B rating.  This new rating will generate even more income for DC Water which will be passed on to its rate payers.  And the new fertilizer will allow nutrients and organic matter to be returned to US soils to close an important soil/health loop in our agricultural system as advocated by Sir Albert Howard 80 years ago.  Here is a link to Howard’s thinking of the connections between large scale sewage systems and maintaining soil fertility.

Needless to say, this development is very unusual in the US, but is common in Europe.  Naturally, DC Water had to buy this technology from a Norwegian company because the US no longer leads the world in energy technologies.

Decentralized power comes in all shapes and forms.  PEPCo just lost 1/3 of the load of its biggest single customer.  Ruh roh.

2 thoughts on “DC Water Turning Sewage Into Electricity, Building Decentralized Power

  1. There is a negative in this scenario: heating the sewage to 350 may kill pathogens but won’t help with the heavy metals and drugs that contaminate sewage sludge, which are the reasons it isn’t allowed in organic farming. It surely is best to close the loop, but perhaps the resultant fertilizer should be used in forests, nurseries or golf courses rather than food crops.

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