Wastewater Heat Recovery is a story that needs to be told!
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International Wastewater Systems is on the leading edge of wastewater heat recovery technology. The following story by Rowan Oloman provides a quick glimpse into the vast potential of our unique approach to renewable energy.
Turning Wastewater Into Energy: Clean Tech’s Best Kept Secret
Every day the average North American household flushes one full tank of hot water down the drain. In a city of 1 million homes, that is equivalent to approximately $500,000 in energy from natural gas casually flowing into our city sewers daily. Running underneath our homes and buildings there is an untapped energy goldmine.
Globally, it has been acknowledged that in regards to climate change mitigation energy efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit. China recently announced they will spend a whopping US$372 billion in energy conservation and the US plans to invest US$155 billion in energy efficiency projects.
Yet by and large North America continues to ignore the single most cost-effective and most profitable form of energy efficiency, which is to recycle the energy that we’re already wasting.
The simple fact is water enters our buildings at 7-9 degrees Celsius and leaves at 20-25 degrees Celsius. If captured, this wasted heat could be used to fulfill 40-50% of our buildings energy requirements.
Sometimes innovation is not about a quantum shift in thinking or spending millions in research it’s about re-inventing how we use the technologies already available. Lynn Mueller and his colleagues at International Wastewater Heat Exchange, all with long-time careers in the geothermal heat pump and renewable energy industries, saw the opportunity in wastewater heat recovery.
The company created the SHARC system, an innovation which filters raw sewage and extracts the heat in an easy, maintenance-free way using geothermal heat pumps and chillers. While sewage may not be as attractive as solar or wind power, with a 3-5 year payback period, the SHARC system is likely the most cost-effective renewable energy system currently available.
“We’re operating at 600 percent efficiency,” Mueller says. “So every dollar we spend recovering the heat out of the sewer we get $6 worth of heat out.” Mueller is speaking about his latest successful installation at Seven35 Condominiums complex, in Vancouver Canada.
The SHARC system has reduced Seven35’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 150 tonnes (averages are between 30%-85% reduction), is recovering 80% of the buildings wasted energy and has contributed to earning the condominium the first dual ‘green’ certification in Canada – LEED Platinum and Built Green Gold. It’s also the first time the technology has been used at a residential building in North America.
For residents the equation is simple, now they are recycling the same energy over and over again, instead of paying for the natural gas to re-heat their tanks daily.
Reliable, trouble free operation is the major challenge in recovering heat from waste water. The SHARC system has been designed to be clog-proof with an automatic back flush to filter sewage simply and effectively. It has full backup capacity with zero down time and is available in heat exchange or heat pump applications.
Added benefits of the SHARC system include full automation with a DDC or BACnet interface and a wireless or Ethernet connection for data retrieval and instantaneous calculation of COP and GHG savings. The system comes with a factory maintenance and warranty service and can be incorporated immediately into existing mechanical infrastructure.
Mueller, who was previously President of WaterFurnace and Earth Source Energy – the world’s largest installer of heat pumps, is humble about his company’s innovation. “We are a new company simply revolutionizing old technology,” says Mueller. “We saw a way to provide energy easily, cheaply and in a way that is ecologically sound.”
International Wastewater Heat Exchange has opened marketing and distribution channels across Canada and in forty US States. The applications for the SHARC system are multitudinous, from condominiums, to public facilities like sports and aquatic centers, to industrial complexes and district energy systems.
In a world where municipalities are progressively being held responsible for efficiently decreasing their own greenhouse gas emissions, systems like the SHARC will become more and more attractive. The biggest challenge however will be re-framing the way people view waste.
Despite the widespread use of waste-to-energy (WTE) projects in European countries, where innovative projects are supported because space for waste disposal is scarce, in North America waste to energy projects are in still in their infancy. In Germany the majority of waste is recycled, composted or processed by biological or thermal method which is likely why Mueller has already received calls from German companies interested in the technology.
The Collins English Dictionary describes the saying ‘money down the drain’ as money ‘wasted’. The SHARC system turns this old adage on its head.
Rowan Oloman is a freelance writer living in Vancouver Canada. She has written for various greentech communications over the past 4 years, has an MBA in Sustainable Energy and a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Management. Rowan is currently working for Radiant Carbon, a unique carbon offset provider.