EPA finds potential for CHP in wastewater treatment plants

By Matt Soberg | October 17, 2011

A study conducted by the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, a voluntary program initiated by the U.S. EPA, found potential for increased combined heat and power (CHP) systems at U.S. wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs), said Charlie Goff at the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show on Oct. 12 in Pittsburgh.

Goff, a senior analyst for the Eastern Research Group Inc. who prepared the study, presented the findings of the EPA report, “Opportunities for Combined Heat and Power at Wastewater Treatment Facilities: Market Analysis and Lessons from the Field,” which was published in October. 

The report provided an overview of the how CHP systems benefit WWTFs, and included a description of existing capacity and potential markets, an analysis of technology and economic potential, and a demonstration of first-hand industry observations. The report is intended for CHP project developers, WWTF operators, policymakers, and others.

“While many WWTFs have implemented CHP, the potential still exists to use more CHP based on the technical and economic benefits,” the report said. “As of June 2011, CHP systems using biogas were in place at 104 WWTFs, representing 190 megawatts (MW) of capacity. CHP is technically feasible at 1,351 additional sites and economically attractive (i.e., payback of seven years or less) at between 257 and 662 of those sites.” 

Nationwide, WWTFs have the potential to provide more than 400 MW in generating capacity and 38,000 million Btu per day of thermal energy. If facilities utilized this potential, the report stated that 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions could be prevented annually, which is the equivalent of emissions from 596,000 vehicles.

The Combined Heat and Power Partnership is a voluntary program that promotes the use of CHP to reduce the environmental impact of power generation. “The partnership works closely with energy users, the CHP industry, state and local governments and other clean energy stakeholders to facilitate the development of new projects and to promote their environmental and economic benefits,” according to the organization. It was started in 2001 and has assisted in more than 520 CHP projects, representing 5,118 MW of new CHP capacity. 

The EPA study can be found on the Combined Heat and Power Partnership website at   http://epa.gov/chp/documents/wwtf_opportunities.pdf.