Gwinnett County Using Sewage By-Product to Power Plant
County Water Resource Department has begun using methane gas, generated by sewerage, to power its plant.
The Gwinnett County Water Resource department is now generating some of its own electricity using methane gas, a byproduct of sewage treatment.
“We’re making good use of a renewable, previously wasted resource to help cut operating costs and keep water rates low for Gwinnett residents,” said Lynn Smarr, acting director of Water Resources.
The project, known as POWER (Processing Organic Waste for Energy Recovery), won an environmental sustainability award from the Atlanta Regional Commission earlier this year.
Officials said a new gas-to-energy facility at the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources plant near Buford can produce up to 40 percent of the plant’s energy needs plus all the heat it needs to operate its anaerobic digesters. Bacteria in the egg-shaped digesters turn wastewater solids into methane gas at temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing the waste that goes to landfills. The gas by-product was previously burned off as waste.
Officials said the Hill plant can process up to 60 million gallons of sewage every day and can return up to 40 million gallons a day of treated wastewater to its source in Lake Lanier. It can also send up to 20 million gallons a day to the Chattahoochee River near Norcross.
In addition, construction on a companion receiving facility for fats, oils and grease from restaurants and food service operations and other industrial waste is expected to be completed by next fall. That waste will go into the digesters to increase methane production while helping reduce clogs in county sewers. Officials say disposal fees will be comparable to the cost of other disposal options.
Smarr said the department used $5 million from federal stimulus funds, a $3.5 million federal grant and $500,000 of local water/sewer funds to build the new facilities.
Gwinnett County will have to repay $2 million over the next 20 years at 2-percent interest.