Electrical-grid powered aeration is used in most pond-based systems and equalization basins at activated sludge wastewater treatment plants to provide the mixing and oxygenation that enables bacteria to digest organic-matter. Oxygen also is needed in the near-surface water of all ponds
and basins to provide an “odor cap” by oxidizing malodorous sulfur compounds, preventing their release to air. Much more aeration typically is needed to mix than oxygenate the wastewater. This imbalance causes an operational inefficiency in that grid-power is used to supply more
oxygen than needed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the use of solar-powered circulation (SPC) technology reduces the need to aerate, operational costs, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with electrical power generation. However, the Agency did not quantify electrical,
water quality, or other parameters. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services directed a 3-site study to quantify the ability of SPC to replace some or all aeration while maintaining good effluent water quality. Water quantity and quality, odor event, and kilowatt-hour consumption
and expenditure data were collected 1 year prior to, and 2 years during, SPC treatment at pond-based treatment plants in Pittsfield and Exeter, and at the activated sludge treatment plant in Rochester. Final effluent water quality was maintained, no effluent violations or odor events occurred,
and sludge buildup was minimal during the SPC study period. Electricity usage and costs declined by about 38% in Pittsfield and Exeter, and by about 87% in Rochester. Payback periods ranged from 1.9-3.7 years. SPC improved operational efficiency at the plants by reducing grid-power consumption
while processing objectives were met. The 25-year expected lifetime of SPC units with minimal maintenance requirements indicated long-term reductions in operational expenses and greenhouse gas emissions.
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