Turning waste into power: Austin Plant will run on electricity from gas

posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012 8:56 AM

AUSTIN (KXAN) - One of Austin's wastewater treatment plants will soon be powered by 100-percent renewable energy. The Hornsby Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant in East Austin has a brand new 60,000-pound biogas generator. It will use methane gas created by the sewage treatment process at the plant to power the plant and more.

"This generator produces so much electricity that it runs the entire treatment process here at Hornsby Bend, and the water department will get a credit, because the generator produces more than it will actually need to use," said Austin Energy spokesman Carlos Cordova.

Plant officials said the biogas generator will be able to produce 700 kilowatts of power. That is more than the 500 kilowatts needed to run the treatment plant. The left-over energy will be fed back into the power grid, and Austin Water will get a credit for it.

"According to Austin Energy estimates it's about the equivalent of the power needed for 370 residential homes in Austin will be provided here with no outside fuel -- all produced by methane gas," said Orren West, plant division manager.

The new biogas generator has another green energy advantage. Austin Energy officials said the clean generation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2,867 tons or the equivalent of taking away five million vehicle miles traveled in Austin.

The generator was paid for by federal stimulus money. It is currently being installed at the Hornsby Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant, and an Austin Energy spokesman said it should be up and running by the beginning of November 2012. The plant's division manager calls it an exciting addition for the plant and for the taxpayers.

There's more. The final product at the wastewater treatment plant is dillo dirt. It will be used as compost for gardening projects all over the city.

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