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Renewable Jersey
Jamais Cascio, 24 Dec 05

acuawindsolar.jpgOkay, folks, what's the number one message we preach about renewable power? Success comes from a mix of sources, not trying to rely on just solar or just wind. And I'm happy to say, we're finally starting to see that lesson demonstrated out in the world.

The Atlantic County Utilities Authority in New Jersey has opened up a new power center for its wastewater treatment facility near Atlantic City. Wastewater treatment is an important job, but very energy-intensive. When ACUA decided to add on-site power to the plant, they had to pick something that could handle the job -- so they went with combined wind and solar. The system, when completed, will include a 504 kW solar power grid and five 1.5 MW wind turbines.

The ACUA took a broad look at the entire campus of the large wastewater treatment facility and determined there were strong reasons to deploy both solar and wind. For wind, this area of New Jersey's coast has been identified as one offering some of the best wind resources in the U.S. The total 7.5 MW output of the wind turbines offer the bulk of the hybrid project's on-site power but solar proved a good fit as well since the facility is endowed with considerable open spaces suitable for solar. New Jersey's best-in-the-nation solar rebates, which pay for roughly half the cost of commercial solar installations, offered another push for solar. Lastly, the water treatment uses a vast amount of energy and they could use all the power they could get. And the combination of two renewable energy resources provides for a more consistent power delivery to the treatment plant since both the solar and wind resources fluctuate.

The system doesn't cover the entire power requirement of the facility, but when completed, it could account for up to half of it (assuming peak production from wind and solar simultaneously). ACUA estimates that the system will provide 20 million kilowatt-hours annually to the facility and to nearby residences. The main drawback of the system is that, like most home solar and wind units, it simply feeds into the grid, and doesn't have on-site energy storage or the ability to supply power in a grid failure. The ACUA intends for future renewable power projects, already in the works, to include these features.

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Wastewater, if treated anaerobically, produces biogas. It takes some time for anaerobic bacteriae to do the job, but there are designs as that by Prof George Chan (of fame) to make that happen. I've heard there are such digesters in China, 8000 cubic meters in size. Worth exploring and maybe reporting on?

Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 26 Dec 05



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