Sustainable technology to convert waste to energy, clean water

The Office of Sustainability has proposed a plan to incorporate Campus Auxiliary Services waste in a waste digester at the water treatment plant on Riverside Drive, thus generating electricity and clean water. The proposal requires funds that the office hopes to receive from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority through a grant known as the “NY Prize.” Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn and other staff members are in the midst of writing the grant application.

The “NY Prize” presents funding to projects with an initiative to develop micro-grids that create climate change resiliency. The waste digester project meets the named requirements by both eliminating waste and creating energy, which would provide electricity across the grid in Livingston County.

By moving waste into this digester, Geneseo would be reducing its carbon footprint by eliminating trucking the waste to landfills and decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that the food waste would omit by rotting in a landfill.

In addition, by using the digester to create biogas from food waste—which creates electricity when burned—Geneseo would be offsetting the fossil fuels burned that usually generate electricity. This electricity would then be allocated across the grid and also stored for situations when chunks of the grid lose power.

“There is this reality that we are going to see large, more unpredictable storms that are going to create grid instability,” DeZarn said.

Currently, large power plants are used to distribute electricity across the grid, yet this provides only a centralized source of power. By creating a micro-grid—which would be the area powered by the proposed waste digester—the county would be able to produce more of its own electricity and distribute it where need be.

If the Office of Sustainability receives the “NY Prize,” it will move to hire an engineering firm that will determine the overall feasibility of their plan and put it into action. From there, DeZarn and his team will apply for another grant that would fund the actual implementation of the project.

“We are a few years off from actually seeing this happen,” he said. “But we are in the early stages of putting it together.”

DeZarn explained that the idea for incorporating CAS waste into the nearby digester was in the works before grants were even available, yet they provide funds that would ultimately be necessary for the project.

Regardless of whether or not they receive the grant, DeZarn expressed his firm belief in the success of the project.

“I am confident we have a good idea,” he said.

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