Processing Magazine

Biogas project to save Philadelphia water dept. $12 million in energy costs

February 22, 2012

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. and PHILADELPHIAAmeresco, Inc., an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, and the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) have announced an agreement to design, build and maintain an innovative wastewater biogas-to-energy facility.

The Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant (NEWPCP) Biogas Project will generate electricity and thermal energy for use on-site, fueled mainly by biogas from the NEWPCP digesters. The $47.5M construction project, designed to generate 5.6 MW of power, is expected to reduce PWD energy costs by over $12 million over the course of the 16 year contract.

A natural byproduct of sewage treatment, biogas can be refined and utilized as a fuel for generators or equipment. Currently, half of the biogas generated from the wastewater treatment process is used to heat processes at the NEWPCP, while the other half is being flared, consuming energy and increasing local emissions. The Biogas Project will now be used as a ready source of renewable energy. This will not only save money, but also provide a secure source of green energy for NEWPCP.

“This project is an example of PWD’s commitment to develop waste recovery programs at all of our facilities as part of our pledge to be a sustainable and cost-conscious utility,” remarked Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug. “Recovering the hidden fuel in our wastewater treatment processes helps to diversify our energy portfolio, while improving the environment through innovative, green technology. The Northeast Cogeneration facility demonstrates PWD''s national leadership in transforming the traditional wastewater plant into the resource recovery facility of the future.”

Through this public-private partnership between Ameresco and the City, the City of Philadelphia will be able to take one large step to achieving its goals as outlined in Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks Plan.

The partnership between the City and Ameresco qualifies the project to obtain a grant made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, through its Energy Services business unit, has agreed to provide the financing for this project.

“The Philadelphia Water Department is a progressive organization that recognizes the value and importance of environmental stewardship while cutting costs and improving infrastructure,” said Michael T. Bakas, Senior Vice President, Ameresco. “As a part of this contract, Ameresco developed an Economic Opportunity Plan that will bring green jobs to the local community. Ameresco is looking forward to making this project a reality for the Philadelphia Water Department and the residents of Philadelphia.”

Ameresco will manage engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance on the project over the course of the contract. The project is expected to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 22,000 tons per year, which equates to the removal of 4,833 cars off the road or the planting of 5,390 acres of pine forest.

Ameresco is a pioneer of this type of waste-to-energy solution, partnering with the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) to open the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center in September 2010, the first sewage facility in the United States to refine biogas for the grid. Ameresco also developed another waste-to-energy solution for the Dallas Water Authority where both electricity and heat are utilized on site. There is growing interest among wastewater treatment managers looking to increase energy savings. Ameresco has been able to help these managers by offering technical expertise and the ability to implement projects through customer-tailored financial strategies.