Sewer Plant Debuts System Converting Methane To Electricity

Mar 11, 2016

The new $25 million cogeneration system captures methane gas produced during the sewage treatment process and converts it to electricity.
Credit Adam Mayberry, City of Sparks

The cities of Sparks and Reno are touting energy and cost savings after unveiling a new $25 million system that turns sewage into electricity. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

"As you can tell, it's a big engine and it's loud,” says Michael Drinkwater, plant manager at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility. “It's a GE Jenbacher, 20-cylinder engine, so we're burning right now approximately 250 cubic feet per minute of methane gas."

He’s explaining how the cogeneration system uses methane gas, a natural byproduct of the sewage treatment process, to produce electricity for the plant.

The Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility treats about 80 percent of the area's wastewater.

"Previously we had been flaring it. Now, we burn a large share of it. We still have a little extra, but the majority of the gas gets burned, we recover the energy and we use that to offset our utility expenses."

He says the system allows them to generate about 35 percent of their own power.