Wastewater has lots of energy potential

The wastewater that courses down drains and into municipal water-treatment plants around the world contains a substantial amount of organic material, or “biosolids,” or, well, “poop” and such. When this organic matter breaks down, it generates “biogas,” a methane-rich fuel that some plants use to heat the water and buildings used in wastewater treatment. However, researchers say that the plants are capturing only a fraction of the available energy. According to engineering professor David Bagley, wastewater contains roughly nine times the energy most plants are now capturing from it. The water from three Toronto water-treatment plants, he says, contains enough organic material to produce up to 113 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small town for a year. Bagley recommends — and many municipalities in the U.S. and Europe are investigating — an anaerobic process to capture a higher percentage of the energy. Yes, okay, we covered this story just to use the headline “poo-poo power.” What of it?