Waste-to-energy saves water utility thousands

Posted 7 September 2016

Waste water energy One of East Gippsland Water's wastewater treatment plants will soon be generating up to 130% of its onsite energy needs, saving more than $50,000 a year in electricity bills alone. 

Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant has achieved this feat, at a bargain price, by re-purposing an old anaerobic digester and managing the combined heat and power project in-house.

“About four years ago we took an old [1984] anaerobic digester offline… and then a couple of years ago we decided to clean it out and inspect it,” said East Gippsland Water (EGW) Executive Manager Operations Frank McShane.

“Surprisingly, we found that it was in very, very good condition, so we decided to reinstate it and add a combined heat and power unit.

“We saved a significant amount of money by reusing the digester and this is something that other water businesses could look at doing.”

Rather than put the project out to tender, EGW decided to manage it in-house – some thing McShane would recommend.

“We went to the individual suppliers of the equipment and we integrated everything ourselves in-house using local contractors to connect up pipework and install all the electrical work,” McShane said.

“You can save a significant amount of money doing the work in-house. Water businesses do have very skilled and knowledgeable staff so you don't always have to outsource.”

The new 40-kilowatt generator is fed with sewage sludge and local food waste.

Combined with an existing 10-kilowatt solar unit, the plant can generate enough power for its onsite needs on a dry day, and about 130% of needs on a dry night.

The system is operating at 75% until EGW gets approval to export energy to the grid.