New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and home to almost 20 million people — however as a result of its size, the city produces an enormous amount of sewage, which is often blamed for contaminating waterways. However New York’s Department of Environmental Protection believes the city’s waste could become its saviour, and it has unveiled a plan to utilise the vast amounts of sludge, methane gas and other byproducts of sewage as potential sources of renewable energy.
According to the New York Times, the city is looking to reduce its sewage treatment costs and the amount of greenhouse gases that it produces by transforming waste into energy for the city’s large population. If sewage is simply heated up then butanol and methane can be extracted from it. Butanol can be used as an alternative to gasoline, while methane can be used for multiple purposes including heating homes.
If a sustainable method can be found to generate power from the city’s waste, then it would save the city $400 million per year. According to the city’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection Caswell F. Holloway, it is quite possible: “There’s nothing in here that’s pie in the sky”. “While we’re early in the process, it’s real.”
New Yorkers generate some 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater daily, and it is estimated that almost 1,200 tons of sludge could be harvested from that waste to generate methane and butanol. The city is already a big user of methane — the city’s 14 sewage plants currently meet about 20% of their energy demands by harvesting the fuel source.
Other plans devised by the city’s agency includes the installation of solar and wind projects on Staten Island, including one that would place solar panels on the 200,000-square-foot roof of the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant. Meanwhile, a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine is planned for the Oakwood Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Waste to power plants could transform an environmental problem into a source of energy for the big apple.
Lead photo © Christopher Isherwood