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Sustainable Energy Management: Achieving Energy Independence at Wastewater Utilities

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This paper focuses on ideas and examples of wastewater facilities attaining energy independence through conservation, efficient systems, and development of renewable energy. Although viable renewable energy alternatives are available, there does not appear to be one renewable energy source that is a panacea for the global energy demand. Instead, it is generally accepted that a global sustainable energy system will be a combination of many different renewable resources. With this vision, no one nation or society would be dependent on another for energy, thus creating universal energy independence. Ultimately, energy independence would be achieved by (1) energy conservation, most importantly, (2) creating more efficient systems, and (3) renewable energy provided by a combination of sources, such as solar power, wind power, hydropower, geothermal power, and bioenergy. Hence, a movement toward maximizing utilization of biologically derived energy coupled with other renewable energy sources has recently become of more interest to wastewater facility management as part of the global renewable energy portfolio.

While the challenges faced by engineers are imposing, the industry has responded strongly in recent decades with novel and valuable research efforts and innovative engineering approaches to applying these concepts to advanced performance in the field. These technological advances can be utilized for generation of renewable energy. However, additional research and implementation of many of the technologies discussed in this paper will be necessary before the change from nonrenewable to renewable sources of energy is streamlined. With a new emphasis on renewable energy in the United States and globally, the change will likely be rapid in the first half of this century. Hence, the goal of wastewater facilities achieving energy independence is a worthy one and consistent with the current progression to sustainable systems.
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Keywords: Advanced Anaerobic Digestion; Anaerobic Digestion Pre-treatment; Biogas; Co-digestion; Combined Heat and Power; Greenhouse Gases; Renewable Energy; Sustainability; Sustainable Energy Management; Waste Solids Reduction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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