Collaboration on Energy Research for the Wastewater Sector

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

Water Environment & Reuse Foundation

Since 2008, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has collaborated with the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), now Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF), to further research and information transfer to the wastewater sector on innovative energy efficiency and onsite electricity generation technologies and processes. WE&RF and NYSERDA work together to develop and demonstrate economical and environmentally responsible processes and approaches that foster energy self-sufficiency for wastewater facilities (i.e., Zero Net Energy Wastewater Treatment ). Currently, research and finished reports and tools include:

Energy Efficiency in Value Engineering: Barriers and Pathways (OWSO6R07a)

Joseph Cantwell, P.E.

The study explores pathways to advance the use of value engineering as a means to increase WWTP energy efficiency.

Overview of State Energy Reduction Programs and Guidelines for the Wastewater Sector (OWSO6R07b)

Joseph Cantwell, P.E.

An overview of the effectiveness of state energy efficiency programs in promoting energy sustainability in the wastewater sector.

Electricity Generation from Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment in Microbial Fuel Cells (OWSO8C09)

Baikun Li, Ph.D.
University of Connecticut with Hydroqual

A pilot scale project to develop and demonstrate microbial fuel cell technology (MFC). MFCs are an innovative, early-stage, cost-effective process to convert organic contaminants to a usable form of energy.

Barriers to Biogas Use for
Renewable Energy (OWSO11C10)

John Willis, P.E.
Brown and Caldwell;
Lori A. Stone, PE, LLC

An evaluation of the social, business model, regulatory, and technical barriers to greater implementation of biogas to energy or heat recovery by the wastewater industry. Potential use of biogas for vehicle fuel was also explored.

Reframing the Economics of
Combined Heat and Power Projects:
Creating a Better Business Case Through Holistic Benefit and Cost Analysis (OWSO11C10a)

John Willis, P.E.
Brown and Caldwell;
Lori A. Stone, P.E., LLC

An illustration of how the use of different economic decision metrics (simple pay back or ROI, present value, etc.) affects the decision outcome. Metrics that consider the long-term cost of money and the long asset life are more appropriate for energy projects.

A Guide to Net-Zero Energy Solutions for WRRFs (ENER1C12)

Steve Tarallo, P.E.
Black & Veatch
Paul Kohl, P.E., PWD with AECOM, North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA), American Water, Hemenway, Inc.

Developed 20+ process configurations that cover the spectrum of commonly used, current wastewater treatment practices and associated baseline energy flows using energy and mass balance models. These energy-flow “diagrams” are calibrated with selective field validation using real-world data from utility partners. Data from utility partner pioneers was used to profile energy-reducing or energy-producing “quantum improvement” process modules.

Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Evaluation for Biosolids Management Options (ENER1C12a)

TBL evaluation of common wastewater solids management options from the point where solids are collected from primary and secondary clarifiers through to the end use of the final product(s).

Demonstrated Energy Neutrality Leadership (ENER1C12b)

Based on the information gathered from utility partners, eight energy-neutral or near-energy-neutral “best in class” case studies on utilities such as Ithaca, NY, Gloversville-Johnstown Joint WWTP, and others.

Identification of Barriers to Energy Efficiency and Solutions to Promote These Practices (ENER7C13)

John Willis, P.E.
Brown and Caldwell;
Lori A. Stone, P.E., LLC

Many hurdles and delays in implementing energy efficiency or recovery projects tend to occur between the project feasibility and approval stages, with project momentum stalling due to competing organizational priorities, savings uncertainty, funding challenges, design complexity, etc. This study will identify hurdles and solutions, as well as assess the effect of state legislation, public utility commissions, and power companies on efficiency and energy recovery.

Current Energy Position of New York State Wastewater Treatment Facilities (ENER7C13a)

John L. Willis, P.E., BCEE
Brown and Caldwell

This research project assessed the magnitude of increases or decreases in wastewater electrical consumption over the past 10 years in New York state based on the net effect of efficiency gains, increased electrical production, and increased process requirements. The researchers also explored the impact of organizational initiatives such as energy benchmarking, energy audits, goal setting, energy-use tracking, and operational optimization to reduce energy use.

Pathways to Energy Neutrality: Victor Valley Regional Water Reclamation Facility, California (ENER7C13c)

John L. Willis, P.E., BCEE
Brown and Caldwell

This informative 13-page factsheet documents VVRWRF’s journey from aging facility with outdated infrastructure to one that incorporated energy neutrality as a utility-wide goal, allowing it to be named the second-best plant of its size in California two years in a row. Less than 10 years after compliance challenges and regulatory fines, the VVRWRF is on its way to being one of the nation’s first completely energy-neutral wastewater treatment facilities. With final infrastructure now installed, VVRWRF has largely eliminated its dependency on outside power sources and creates more biogas than it uses.

Energy Performance Benchmarking Summaries and Recommendations for Energy Neutrality Opportunities at Three New York Water Resource Recovery Facilities (ENER7C13d

John L. Willis, P.E., BCEE
Brown and Caldwell

WERF is working collaboratively with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to advance implementation of energy-efficient best practices in the industry. This research contributes to the industry’s understanding of the complexities, opportunities, and challenges that water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) face as they strive for energy neutrality and will help WRRFs move toward net-zero energy use through near-at-hand practices and technologies in the areas of energy, demand reduction, and enhanced production. This document highlights three case studies and builds on concepts developed in the WERF/NYSERDA energy research portfolio, combining the findings of the ENER7C13 and ENER1C12 research series.

Assessment of Technology Advancements for Future Energy Reduction (ENER7C13b)

John L. Willis, P.E., BCEE
Brown and Caldwell

This research reviews 18 areas of emerging technology that have the potential to reduce the need for purchased energy and could improve the wastewater industry’s ability to beneficially recover resources. The review includes an assessment of the technology’s current level of maturity and potential opportunities for adoption. The review also considers which wastewater treatment, solids stabilization, and energy generation technologies are of greater interest relative to established technologies.

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Anaerobic Digester CHP Projects in New York State (ENER7C13e)

Nancy Andrews
Colin O'Brien
Brown and Caldwell

This project presents the results of one-on-one interviews with wastewater utility staff to document factors that drive biogas energy projects forward and those that hold them back. While some utilities reported that the biggest hurdle to implementing cost-saving, renewable energy is a perception of “inadequate payback,” many others faced local obstacles related to lack of outside funding, pressing demands for limited capital, and utilities’ own decision-making processes. The report documents the unique, local nature of biogas project decisions, and notes opportunities to increase consistency and accuracy in financial decision making. It suggests approaches for increasing the value of biogas and for maximizing cost savings through pursuit of favorable agreements with electric power providers.

Co-Digestion of Organic Waste Addressing Operational Side Effects (ENER9C13

Rudy E. Kilian, P.E.
Carollo Engineers, Inc. 

This study evaluated operational side effects associated with co-digestion of high strength waste (HSW) and wastewater solids (thickened primary sludge and thickened waste activated sludge) at water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). The two goals of this study were to evaluate co-digestion facility design, performance data, and operation and maintenance issues at five WRRFs and to evaluate the impacts of co-digestion of HSW on methane production, sludge production, and nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in recycle streams. Recommendations for better process control during co-digestion are included. 

GUIDE TO CASE STUDIES Sustainable Energy Management Planning (ENER21C17)

Katy Lackey

This study provides a guide to case studies on energy management at utilities in the United States and around the world, covering a variety of energy activities and utility planning at different levels of energy management. Information on the case studies includes snapshots of existing full-scale and pilot or demonstration programs and projects and highlights biogas production, anaerobic digestion technologies, FOG waste, co-digestion, aeration optimization, biosolids land application, efficient equipment, estimated or realized return on investment (ROI) for energy investments, as well as challenges with particular technologies or management strategies. 

WaterWatts: A Modern Look at Wastewater Power-Metering Data (ENER15C15)

Nancy Andrews,
Brown and Caldwell 

This research investigated the effectiveness of real-world wastewater equipment and control systems in responding to increases and decreases in influent flows, organic loads, and nutrient loads. The analysis was based on a statistical review of daily operating data and electrical data, with a focus on the correlations between blower power consumption and changes in plant influent loads. The report provides an approach to evaluating individual facility energy response to process loading relative to other U.S. treatment facilities and provides energy comparisons at the process level for varying treatment unit processes for use in benchmarking target energy performance. 


For more information on any of the materials described, 
visit or