Dallas Morning News
Published 22 April 2011 05:31 PM
In the search for alternative fuels, Dallas Water Utilities has something of a home field advantage. The city has discovered a mother lode of raw material right at its southern Dallas site. Yes, smart energy policy can be found at the end of your toilet’s flush.
Just as the cowboys burned cow patties to keep warm, Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant is taking advantage of a little-appreciated fuel with its Green Energy Recovery project.
Though the use of methane from decomposing waste as a fuel source is already in use in a handful of places in the U.S., the technology is still cutting edge. Here’s how it works: Decomposing solid waste creates methane gas. In the past, most of this gas had been burned off by flares. Now, the methane mixture, dubbed biogas, is used to generate electricity and hot water, providing 60 percent of the power for the Southside plant. Some 1.2 million cubic feet of biogas is expected to be produced every day.
Taxpayers have good reason to support the city’s partnership with Ameresco, a company specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Because Ameresco operates the new facility, training for city staff is minimal. Outsourcing also eliminated the need for $10 million in construction at the southern Dallas plant.
Green Energy Recovery will produce about 30 million kilowatt-hours of energy each year. Because the city doesn’t have to purchase nearly as much electricity from the grid, it will save up to an estimated $1.5 million a year. And despite its origins, this is clean energy; the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 19,150 metric tons annually.
The city has given conservationists a “Why didn’t I think of that?” victory in which everyone plays a part. You can feel good about those flushes.