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Water: Sustainable Infrastructure

Renewable Energy Options


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solar and wind energyGreen power is electricity produced from a subset of renewable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and low-impact hydroelectricity. Buying green power is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your organization's environmental performance. Whether your goal is to be an environmental steward in your community, to support domestic energy supply or to improve your bottom line, consider going green!

On-site Energy Generation

Increasingly, wastewater utilities are realizing that in addition to being a consumer of energy, they can be a generator of energy. Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is a reliable, cost-effective option for wastewater treatment facilities that have, or are planning to install, anaerobic digesters. Biogas from these digesters can be used in a CHP system as "free" fuel to generate reliable electricity and power.

In addition to CHP, utilities may want to consider the use of various alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on traditional energy sources. Options include solar panels (the most common), wind turbines, fuel cells and microturbines. Utilities can purchase and operate their own renewable energy generation equipment or contract with a third-party provider that owns and manages the green power on-site for them.

Purchasing Green Energy

In lieu of generating renewable energy on-site, utilities may have the option of purchasing renewable energy directly from the power grid or through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs). RECs are credits sold separately from electricity. They represent the environmental, social and other positive attributes of power generated by renewable resources that enable organizations to choose renewable power even if their local utility or power marketer does not offer a green power product. The availability of these options varies according to your facility's location and your electricity provider's offerings.

  • Guide to Purchasing Green Power (PDF) (50 pp, 961KB) The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program through the EPA that supports organizations by offering expert advice, technical support, tools and resources to buy green power and to reduce the environmental impacts associated with purchased electricity use. Partnering with EPA can help your organization lower the transaction costs of buying green power, reduce its carbon footprint and communicate its leadership to key stakeholders.

Funding Green Power

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Guaranteed Loan ProgramExit EPA Disclaimer The REAP Guaranteed Loan Program encourages the commercial financing of renewable energy (e.g., bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen, solar, wind and hydroelectric power) and energy efficiency projects. Under the program, project developers will work with local lenders, who in turn can apply to U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development for a loan guarantee up to 85 percent of the loan amount.
  • Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)Exit EPA Disclaimer Solar Portal DSIRE SOLAR is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote the adoption of solar technologies. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technology Program, DSIRE SOLAR is a new component of the DSIRE project that provides solar-specific policy information to consumers, policy makers, program administrators, the solar industry and other stakeholders.

State & Local Efforts to Promote Green Energy

State and local governments are beginning to develop programs to assist public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities with adoption of renewable energy use.

  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP)Exit EPA Disclaimer is working on a number of efforts to integrate renewable energy and green building into their state revolving fund program. Information about this and other related efforts is available on the MA DEP website.
  • The City of Palo Alto's PaloAltoGreen ProgramExit EPA Disclaimer invites customers to voluntarily pay 1.5 cents more per kW. This enables the city to purchase renewable energy certificates. The city uses funds allocated to the purchase of renewable energy to support the growth of "clean energy" technology jobs and renewable energy facilities. Over 20 percent of the city's electric service customers are enrolled.
  • The Washington Suburban Sanitary CommissionExit EPA Disclaimer is embracing wind power as an energy source to run one-third of its drinking water and wastewater operations. Their action places them as one of the Top 20 Local Government partners in EPA's GreenPower Partnership. Learn more at their Power Up! website.
  • The West Lafayette, Indiana, Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP)Exit EPA Disclaimer replaced two 50-year-old anaerobic digesters with a new, efficient, externally pumped mixing system housed inside a new digester building. The building also incorporates a new sludge heating system, with heat exchangers and a boiler, and a co-generation system that will use the digester gas (methane) to generate electricity. The WTTP will also allow the city to convert fats, oils and grease to produce energy at the plant. This innovative waste-to-energy treatment system will reduce the plant's overall operating and maintenance costs, decrease the overall carbon footprint of the community and reduce waste going to landfills.
  • Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD)Exit EPA Disclaimer in Beaverton, Oregon, purchases green power for 100 percent of its operations, including its headquarters building and outlying pump stations. TVWD's commitment to green power is strongly supported by its board of commissioners and management.
  • The Los Angeles County Sanitation DistrictsExit EPA Disclaimer in California provide environmentally sound, cost-effective wastewater and solid waste management for over half the population of Los Angeles County. Approximately 54 percent of the district's electricity needs are met by converting biomass into energy on-site.
  • The City of Santa Barbara's El Estero WWTPExit EPA Disclaimer is an 11-million-gallons-per-day secondary treatment facility equipped with a 4.3-million-gallons-per-day tertiary treatment for recycled water. The plant utilizes waste gas fuel cell technology to produce nearly half of the facility's electrical needs.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy's The Green Power NetworkExit EPA Disclaimer provides information about green power products available through utility green pricing programs throughout the nation.
  • Climate CommunitiesExit EPA Disclaimer is a national coalition of cities and counties that educates federal policymakers about the essential role of local governments in addressing climate change and promoting a strong local-federal partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Program provides technical assistance, analytical tools and outreach support to states, local and tribal communities.
  • The Water Research Foundation's Climate Change ClearinghouseExit EPA Disclaimer provides numerous resources to water supply utility managers with key information about climate change impacts and how these impacts will affect utility operations.

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