Generator adds up to big savings - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Generator adds up to big savings

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — A recently-installed generator at the waste treatment facility is saving the city a tidy sum on utility bills — and it didn’t cost a dime.

 A new machine installed at the treatment plant in August is using methane produced during the system’s process as a means to generate power. A combined heat and power generator, the new addition stands to save the city an estimated $40,000 a year in electrical costs, said City Planner Jeremy Grimm. The purchase and installation of the machine was funded through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars distributed to the Idaho Department of Energy.

“We looked at several different options, and this gave us the biggest return for lowest upfront cost,” Grimm said.

When Grimm and other city staff learned that they had been awarded the grant to use for efficiency projects, they began investigating the money’s possible uses. They checked out approaches like solar panels and other measures before investigating the possibility of installing a woody biomass generator as for energy creation. The approach seemed promising until staff discovered it posed an issue for environmental regulations.

“As we got further into it, we learned that to meet air quality standards, we would need to add a very expensive precipitator,” Grimm said.

With the woody biomass project nixed, city staff reoriented the project toward methane power generation. The region’s waste water treatment system uses digesters in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material. These digesters require precise heating to function properly.

“They work a lot like human stomachs,” Grimm said. “When the bacteria in there processes waste, it produces methane as a byproduct.”

The methane was previously treated as a waste product with no practical benefits. However, in an odd reversal, staff members are now researching ways to increase the level of methane produced by the system. They used some of the grant money to build a titration system that provides a range of benefits. For one thing, it allows companies like Litehouse and Laughing Dog Brewery to dump their high-strength waste, which they previously paid to have removed, at local locations. That saves both them and the city money, because staff can then measure the waste out in spurts to produce a great deal more methane. And more methane means more savings.

“We’re still trying to find that perfect recipe for producing methane,” Grimm said.

Between study costs and the actual machinery purchases and installation, the entire project cost about $250,000, a sum covered by the federal grant. If savings estimations prove accurate, the machine should cover those costs in a matter of years.

“We may explore the opportunity to build another CHP generator a few years down the road,” Grimm said.

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  • Luv83864 posted at 10:42 am on Fri, Nov 30, 2012.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    One more comment is allowing Laughing Dog and Lite house to dump waste a revenue for the city? I'm assuming so because it is very disgusting and leaks smell out every time a Lite House trucks leaves. I am not sure how all this is ha died but I do know the smell has gotten worse and very different type of unpleasant odor.

  • Luv83864 posted at 10:39 am on Fri, Nov 30, 2012.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    I agree. I think some of the savings should be used to help out the consumers, maybe a one time credit on their bills or something. I would also be more then happy to see the money applied to saving future bills from going up or more savings.
    I was told the back up generator was having a problem and they didn't turn it off immediately because it was a holiday. To me it seems that would even be a more appropriate to turn it off as it is very loud. It sounds like a train coming within 30 feet, as it does at rail road crossings. Oh well hopefully it's dealt with now.
    I have some neighbors who have routinely complained about fire smoke. I'm hoping they do not cause a ruckus with this smoke. I feel living in Idaho fire smoke is something that should be expected. And as I've said before I can't control the win but they can control opening or closing windows.

  • Corey Greve posted at 9:06 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2012.

    Corey Greve Posts: 937

    Good to know. Maybe they were just testing the backup generator as a regular test of the system. You would expect that it would be done during daytime hours, though.

    Thinking about this today, I began to wonder if any of those cost savings will be passed back to us as the consumer, or will they just be used to fund more city projects?

  • Luv83864 posted at 7:11 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2012.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    Corey, I did some research and found out that noise was the emergency generator that was going off due to some kind of malfunction. The new generator from what I've heard and haven't heard is very quiet and runs 24-7. It was not the problem as far as I've discovered. The power never went out when the emergency generator(s) were running but I have only heard it once since then. I hope saving money passes on to all of us paying incredibly high water/sewer bills.

  • Corey Greve posted at 6:25 pm on Wed, Nov 28, 2012.

    Corey Greve Posts: 937

    Sounds very interesting, but it also sounds as though they need to spend some of the money they save on some sound proofing for the neighborhood.

  • Luv83864 posted at 3:44 pm on Tue, Nov 27, 2012.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    What's the noise pollution that will happen in the neighborhood? It already happening at all hours of the night even the night before Thanksging and during Thangsgiving night you couldn't hear anyone talking outside talking due to noise coming from what sounded like a high powered generator at the facility.