Professionals and academics from the energy, water, and wastewater industries gathered at Energy and Water 2011: Efficiency, Generation, Management, and Climate Impacts, sponsored by the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), to learn more about the relationship between energy and water and discuss opportunities to better utilize both resources.
Approximately 370 professionals attended the conference, which was held in Chicago, July 31–Aug. 3, and featured three workshops, 20 technical sessions, a table-top exhibition, and an opening general session with keynote speaker Patrick Lucey, senior aquatic ecologist at Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting Ltd. (Kimberly, British Columbia).
During the opening general session Lucey shared his insights about the self-funding capability of integrated resource management, focusing on the challenges of integrating water, wastewater, energy, and solid waste into a holistic resource-management system for various municipal, residential, and industrial operations.
“This conference offered a unique demonstration of the commitment of two crucial municipal sectors [water and energy,] to address the urgent need for a new design framework for strategic municipal infrastructure and its asset management,” Lucey said. “There was broad agreement that this new framework must be based upon a ‘design with nature’ approach that will lead to a closed-loop, resource-recovery, and revenue-generating system that will provide significant taxpayer relief and enhanced energy and water security whilst yielding significant GHG [greenhouse gas] emission reductions.”
Attendees also participated in technical presentations and open discussions examining research, design approaches, strategies, and operational issues related to the energy‒water nexus and identified ways to increase energy efficiency in the water and wastewater sectors. Specific topics covered included the need for collaborative efforts to meet water demands by the electric power industry, the latest research in generating biofuels from algae, advances in biogas production from wastewater solids, microhydropower, adoption of best practices in energy conservation at treatment plants, and the pursuit of a multiorganizational approach to integrate water and energy policy initiatives.
Representatives from several utilities, including the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, Calif., the Gloversville–Johnstown (N.Y.) Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the Strass (Austria) Wastewater Treatment Plant, shared plans for using self-generated energy for their operations and returning any surplus to the grid.
“Municipal water and wastewater treatment systems are among the most energy-intensive facilities but have excellent potential to be net energy producers,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. “In fact, it is through its use of energy that the water sector has its greatest opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate a major source of climate change.”
In addition, conference sponsor Imagine H2O (San Francisco) presented its second annual Water‒Energy Nexus Prize at the conference. The prize was awarded to the winner, Hydrovolts (Seattle), for its new hydropower technology that taps renewable energy from water currents in canals and channels around the world, and to the runner-up, BlackGold Biofuels (Philadelphia), for its patented system that converts fats, oils, and greases found in sewer systems into biodiesel. Other conference sponsors include the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Consortium for Energy Efficiency, Alliance to Save Energy, Central States Water Environment Association, Illinois Water Environment Association, Water Environment Research Foundation, and Alliance for Water Efficiency.
“The WEF conference was a great opportunity to present the winners of our 2010 prize to industry players that are looking to advance the water and energy sectors,” said prize manager and Imagine H2O fellow Kate Gasner. “This community puts a premium on implementation of innovative solutions, so highlighting water innovation at this event held great significance for our winning companies.”
Energy efficiency has become a key focus area for WEF, so in addition to this conference, WEF is developing a position statement that will call for energy generated from water and wastewater treatment plants to be recognized as green energy for future policy discussions. Several energy-related technical sessions and workshops will be featured at WEFTEC® 2011, which is being held this month in Los Angeles. See the Energy Efficiency Access Water Knowledge Web page for more information.