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Calif. Wastewater Plant Using Sewage Powered Fuel Cell

April 4, 2013 By Jessica Lyons Hardcastle

A wastewater treatment plant in California run by Inland Empire Utilities is providing 60 percent of its power from a fuel cell that makes energy from the sewage that the plant produces.

Regional Water Recycling Plant No. 1 is located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles and has been treating sewage since 1948, reports Slate. But up until October last year the plant had no use for the solid waste it was left with after processing more than 44 million gallons of wastewater daily. But that month it brought online a 2.8MW fuel cell power plant making electricity from biogas harvested from the plant’s sewage byproduct. It is currently the largest fuel cell making electricity from biogas in the US, reports GizModo.

Rather than burning methane from the sewage – as a natural gas plant would – the fuel cell plant feeds the methane from a digester into the fuel cell. The cell performs what Slate describes as some “electrochemical magic” that results in electricity, which helps power the plant; as well as water and heat, the latter of which is fed back into the digester to help bacteria in the digester do their work.

In other fuel cell news, Aquion Energy, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, today announced it has completed the first closing of a $35 million financing round. Bright Capital is leading the round with participation from new investors Bill Gates and Gentry Venture Partners as well as returning investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures.

Aquion says that its products suit the requirements of both small- and large-scale stationary energy storage applications. The company will be delivering initial, pre-production units to selected lead customers and partners throughout 2013 and will begin shipping production units from its high-volume manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania at the end of this year.

In October, Toyota Motor Sales, USA activated its 1.1MW hydrogen fuel cell generator on its Torrance headquarters campus. The fuel cell supplies approximately half of the electricity for six headquarters buildings during peak demand, while producing zero emissions. The fuel cell is powered by hydrogen gas fed directly from a pre-existing industrial hydrogen pipeline, a first for this technology.



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