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The municipal water and wastewater treatment sector provides critical services vital to public health and economic development. The sector is energy-intensive, consuming somewhere in the range of 3-4 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year in New York State. Recognizing the energy-intensive nature of this sector, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) began funding energy-related municipal wastewater treatment projects in the 1980s. The program was expanded to include drinking water treatment projects in the mid-1990s. NYSERDA has worked with municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities in all of New York's sixty-two counties, providing a variety of services to the sector including support for the installation of energy efficient equipment, engineering/feasibility studies, research and demonstration projects, and product development projects.

The primary goal of the municipal treatment sector is meeting mandated treatment standards. Additionally, many municipal facilities within New York State are also faced with the challenges of capacity constraints, increasingly stringent treatment standards, outdated equipment, and heightened security concerns. In the more than 20 years that NYSERDA has funded energy-related municipal treatment plant projects, we've observed that the benefits accrued by treatment plants upon implementing energy efficiency measures are often not exclusively energy related (i.e., reduced energy and power consumption). Very often, in fact, we've seen these facilities realize additional benefits upon implementing these measures (i.e., increased treatment capacity, improved effluent quality, improved process control/efficiency of operation). So clearly, some of the key issues facing the municipal treatment sector could be addressed through the implementation of energy projects, and this is the message NYSERDA hopes to convey. But it hasn't been easy!

In large part the barrier is the risk-adverse nature of the municipal treatment sector. As such, the sector tends to use conventional criteria to identify the technologies that will be utilized within their treatment plants (i.e., simple payback, brick-and-mortar footprint expansion, conservative design standards). Subsequently, if technologies are perceived as unconventional, they are avoided. Our motive in writing this paper is to convey that several of the technologies/modes of operation associated with the implementation of energy efficiency measures, while potentially non-conventional, address some of the key operational issues facing municipal treatment facilities. And as such provide a good rationale for the implementation of energy projects at these facilities. We present a series of case studies describing recently completed projects at New York State municipal treatment facilities to make this point.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-01-01

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