Could Nevada Sludge Keep the Lights On?

It’s a new patent-pending, low-cost, energy-efficient, carbon-neutral technology for generating electricity. And the solid fuel it utilizes is…dried sludge. That’s right: researchers at the University of Nevada in Reno have reported that they have now successfully tested and demonstrated a system that transforms wastewater sludge into electrical power.

Well, not quite. What has been demonstrated, so far, is that wastewater sludge from the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility in Nevada can successfully be turned into solid fuel–which researchers will now analyze for its suitability to be used for used in gasification. The refrigerator-size demonstration unit that produced this fuel will also help researchers determine the optimum conditions for a commercial-sized operation.

Sludge Dryer, University of Nevada

image via University of Nevada

Still, researchers are optimistic. “We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration testing of our research,” said Chuck Coronella, principle investigator for the research project and an associate professor of chemical engineering, in a statement. “The process to dry the sludge to make it burnable for a gasification process, which could then be transformed into electricity, is working very well. This is an important step for our renewable energy research, processing about 20 pounds an hour of sludge in a continuous-feed system to produce about 3 pounds an hour of dried powder.”

No word yet on how much power 3 pounds of dried powder could actually create, but the preliminary goal is for Truckee Meadows to produce its own electricity.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.