|(12/12/07) - Mayor Don Plusquellic this
morning fired up the City of Akron and KB Compost Services, Inc's. (KBCSI) green energy
project designed to produce electricity from biogas. Generated by the decomposition of
sludge from the City's wastewater treatment plant, biogas is now the fuel that powers a
335 kW engine-driven generator. That's enough electricity to power 325 homes. Roughly 20 -
30% of the available power will be used by the wastewater plant and the remaining
electricity will be utilized by the composting operations.
Mayor Plusquellic praised the work of KB Compost and city engineers.
"We will save money by not having to purchase an equivalent amount of
electricity," he said, "thus offsetting some of the $1.35 million we spend
annually for electricity here."
The city's sludge plant will be the first in the country to
create electricity with the help of some hungry bacteria using high-solids anaerobic
Akron Water Pollution Control Administrator Brian Gresser
said, "Anaerobic digestion and the capture of biogas is a widely used biological
process for treating wastewater solids going back to England in 1895 when biogas was
recovered from a sewage system and used to fuel street lamps."
Akron's system --- the first of its kind in the U.S. ---
has been developed by Schmack Biogas AG in Germany, who now has a local affiliate in
Schmack BioEnergy LLC here.
Akron and KB Compost constructed the $7 million plant to be
similar to the 200 or so operations developed by the Schmack in Asia and Europe.
It was in Europe, outside of Zurich, that Mayor Don
Plusquellic first saw a biogas operation several years ago.
"I knew we had the infrastructure largely in place to
do this in Akron," said Plusquellic, "and it makes sense for us to get the most
out of materials we'd otherwise discard. This has wide-ranging benefits for us.''
While biogas is in its infancy in the U.S., Annette Berger,
vice president of operations for KBCSI says it's booming in Europe and makes an effective
model for Akron.
"What we've learned," Berger said, "is that
as the bacteria multiply and consume part of the sludge, a methane-rich burnable gas ---
biogas --- is produced and will help reduce Akron's rising costs for handling solid
Akron's composting plant handles 1.2 million gallons of
sludge every week. The initial biogas operation is designed to handle 5,000 dry tons of
solids annually, or about one-third of the 15,000 dry tons produced annually at the
wastewater treatment plant.
The City and KBCSI have negotiated an arrangement for KBCSI
to design, build and operate the biogas facility in concert with the composting operation.
The parties recognized the need to identify a technology other than composting to
stabilize the ever-increasing cost of sludge treatment and disposal.
"We'd like to eventually replace the composting plant.
It has served Akron well for more than 20 years, but it's getting old and the odors are
still an occasional problem for us," said the mayor.
The financial arrangement has the City initially
contributing about 10 percent to the 7 million dollar project. Following an 18-month
performance evaluation period, if successful, the parties will negotiate a new contract
and potential expansion of the system to process all of the sludge. If the system does not
meet agreed upon performance criteria, then the City's financial obligation ceases.
The upgrades to the composting facility were financed by
the Summit County Port Authority, which has assisted in financing the upgrades to a number
of important local projects such as: Goodyear's utility upgrade, the Akron Civic Theatre,
the Job Center and Lockheed Martin.
"The Port Authority has been a valuable partner for us
and a viable regional economic development tool," said Mayor Plusquellic. "It
has stepped up to help keep this region economically strong."
Brian Gresser- Akron Water Pollution Control Administrator email@example.com/ 330-928-1164