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Co gen is for ever changing with newer applications hitting the market

What is Co-Generation and how does it fit into renewable energy you may ask? Well, not always a simple answer, but simply put, it is using by-products of industry / society to produce energy. There are numerous applications with new ones arriving on the market every year. Below you will find several ” Co- Gen ” applications, some success stories to go with them and a few other emerging “Co-Gen” applications that could make a huge impact on your business.

Ahead of their time…

Back in the mid 1980’s a Pig Farmer in Goshen New York started mixing Whey waste from a local cheese producer with pig manure from his farm in a silage pit making a gas called methane. Farmers are great innovators. This one covered his silage pit with a large rubber sheet with a small hole in the middle where a pipe was placed to collect the gas to be used in a generator. This generator, running on the methane helped power both his farm and home with the excess running back to the grid where the local utility was required to purchase it at a set price. This utility was not thrilled about the arrangement so they worked behind the scenes to get the county health department to shut down his methane production under the guise of a ” Biological Hazard” . Today this farmer would be applauded, 30 years ago he was headed to jail. My, how times have changed.

Power From Manure?

Yes, you can get power from Manure as it produces a gas called Methane. Dairy, Pig, Chicken and Horse farms have been capturing methane for years and producing electricity running it in generators or micro turbines for their farms and in several cases sending their excess electricity back out to the grid, participating in “Net Metering” programs from their local Utility. Large or small these farms are producing their own electricity, hot water for washing the stalls out and one of the hidden benefits is they are using less pesticides as the reduced methane gas released means less flies. The two articles below are great success stories where small farmers have embraced and reaped the benefits of “Co-Gen”.

Power from Municipal Waste Treatment Facilities

Counties, Cities and Towns throughout North America are watching their operating costs skyrocket. Their wastewater treatment plants could be the hidden gem in reducing those costs for years to come. These facilities use vast amounts of electricity while venting large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Capturing that methane and using it to power a Micro Turbine or Generator to produce electricity will bring operating costs down and reduce greenhouse gases. While there are State and Federal grants to help offset the costs of these programs the payback on these projects are still reasonably short when they stand on their own. The article below from the Union Tribune details one west coast Municipalities success in 2007 that is now spreading across North America

OCEANSIDE — Methane gas created by Oceanside’s sewage treatment plant will soon be used to produce electricity, saving the city $335,000 a year in utility bills. Lonnie Thibodeaux, city water-utilities director, called it a “green project to provide clean energy from wastewater.” It would be the city’s first venture into the field, he said, although there is another such project just south at the Encina sewage treatment plant in Carlsbad. Oceanside’s new plant can be up and running in six to 10 months, Thibodeaux said. The city has agreed to an arrangement for California Power Partners Inc. of San Diego to build a $1.8 million “cogeneration facility” at the city’s San Luis Rey Wastewater Treatment Plant, 3950 North River Road. The private firm will use a $600,000 state rebate to help cover the construction cost. Four huge 60-foot diameter digesters at the treatment plant process 80 percent of the city’s sewage (a smaller, coastal-area plant takes care of the rest). The digesters produce methane gas, which now is just burned off. Once the cogeneration plant is operating, it will use the methane to create electricity and heat the digesters. California Power will sell the electricity to the city for use at the treatment plant for 7 cents a kilowatt hour, compared with the 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour San Diego Gas & Electric Co. charges. The city will save $185,000 a year on electricity and $150,000 a year on natural gas, Thibodeaux estimated. A contract for construction of the cogeneration plant was awarded unanimously by the City Council on Wednesday night. It includes an agreement for California Power to run the operation for 10 years with an option for 10 additional years. “It shows that public-private partnerships can really work,” Councilman Jack Feller said. But Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said she would be interested in having the city take over the plant after the first decade, if it did not require too much additional staffing to operate.

New for Municipal Wastewater treatment plants and Solar Power

One of the challenges Wastewater treatment plants  have when incorporating Solar power is where are they going to put it? These facilities are usually cramped and have heavy traffic on site everyday with large trucks picking up sludge or delivering chemicals. An overlooked and out of the way location is the reservoir. Floating (yes I said floating) solar arrays are well priced, reduce evaporation from the reservoir, reduce the need for chemicals to manage algae bloom during warm months and most importantly, produce electricity everyday. This short article from Solar Industry in October 2011 shows how one New Jersey treatment plant is having success with this method.

New Jersey American Water has energized a 135 kW solar array that floats atop a reservoir at the company’s Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant in Millburn, N.J.”The support structure of the anchored array features a unique mooring system that allows it to rise and fall with the water level of the reservoir,” says Bob Biehler, senior project manager at New Jersey American Water.

“The solar panels are fixed at a 14-degree angle and were specially made to endure the severe weather conditions – such as heavy wind, rain, snow and ice – that are not uncommon during northern New Jersey winters,” he adds.

Power From Landfills

Landfills must monitor their methane production or collect it and burn ( Flare it off ) to reduce pollution. Why not use this gas to produce electricity, fire boilers or substitute for other energy sources that can turn a potential liability into a benefit. Using this gas to power Micro Turbines or Generators for electricity production just makes sense and cash strapped Counties and Cities are reaping the rewards of years of trash, even after the facility has been closed. ASAE can work with Municipalities to help them start producing electricity and reducing their operating costs from their landfill gases. This excerpt from USA today discusses the opportunities that exist with landfills.

  • Projects across USA turn landfill gas into energy: Wendy Koch, USA TODAY

More communities are turning trash into power.

Nationwide, the number of landfill gas projects, which convert methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage into power, jumped from 399 in 2005 to 519 last year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.”There’s certainly an increasing interest in doing these projects,” says Rachel Goldstein, leader of EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, which provides technical help to develop them. She says they are popular because they control energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.As garbage decomposes, it creates gas that is half methane, which has 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA. Instead of letting the gas escape into the air, these projects collect the gas and treat it so it can be used for electricity or upgraded to pipeline-grade gas. The projects power homes, buildings and vehicles.

 Examples of  “Co-Generation ” Solutions

  • Waste Heat Recovery. Many manufacturing processes produce heat and in many cases it is vacated to the outside air. Waste Heat Generators, starting at 50KW in size and up use this waste heat to produce electricity, cleanly, efficiently and economically.
  • Waste Wind from Manufacturing and Mining operations. Many companies move huge volumes of air during their production cycles, whether it is to purify air quality in the plant or from large filtering devices used directly in the production process that then vacate that air / wind outside.  Closed mining operations must constantly introduce clean air into their mines while removing the dirty air. While every application varies ASAE can design Waste Wind solutions to help you recapture some of the energy used to produce and move that air.
  • Gas Letdown Generator, simply put it converts Gas Pressure into Green Energy. We can produce base load power from pressure currently being wasted in gas let down stations or anywhere a pressure reduction takes place. The current use of JT Valves, (pressure reduction valves) where the pressure is mechanically reduced can now be supplemented with the Gas Letdown Generator to make power from this energy simply and efficiently.
  • Small Hydro Power. There are emerging Small Hydro Applications coming to market every year. Water Districts can recapture some of their power used by introducing Small Hydro pumps inline to produce electricity that can be used at the facility of fed out to the grid. Smaller dams and holding lakes that in the past may not have been considered big enough for traditional Hydro may now look to produce electricity, cleanly, efficiently and economically.
  • On Demand Hydrogen Generation. While this may sound futuristic and in some ways scary in reality it is neither. On Demand Hydrogen generation exists today and has an ever growing list of Safe, Green, Energy saving applications. To start with these devices use water and very little power to produce hydrogen.  When married with a diesel engine or generator it can reduce fuel consumption up to 30%, reduce emissions and maintenance costs. Long and short haul trucks are an emerging market in this space. Reducing fuel costs can make companies more profitable and competitive while reducing emissions can make them a bit more liked. Rail and the Marine industries can benefit from these devices as they rely heavily on diesel engines and generators. In the next few years there will be more engines and micro turbines that will run on this gas.


Call or email ASAE to see if a Co-Generation solutions on your home or business makes sense!