Municipalities Saving Energy and Lowering Costs for Wastewater Treatment

The Nebraska Energy Office (NEO) has established a groundbreaking partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) with the help of a $277,330 cooperative agreement from the US Department of Energy (USDOE), to address energy efficiency in local government wastewater treatment facilities.

In small and medium sized communities, wastewater plants and local water systems can use 20 to 40 percent of the electricity used by the local government. Managing energy use related to providing water and processing wastewater is a key strategy to minimizing the impacts of electric rate increases and preserving economic security in their community. The first step to capture energy savings is to understand the current energy use and identify opportunities to reduce use. Many of Nebraska's smaller communities face serious challenges to maintain their financial stability. This project will build off the Assessing Wastewater Infrastructure Needs (AWIN) program to note the percentage of communities that are decreasing in size, aging, and have limited financial capabilities to support their wastewater utilities.

This past summer, NEO worked with UNL interns and graduate assistants to complete energy assessments for wastewater facilities in Nebraska communities with 10,000 population or less (which represents 531 of the 547 total wastewater facilities in Nebraska.) Among the assessments, data was collected from nearly 100 wastewater facilities using mechanical processes and preliminary analysis indicates $250,000 per year savings would result just by helping the 25 most energy intensive facilities improve to operate at the overall average. During the coming months, NEO is working with UNL and NDEQ to facilitate energy audits and identify cost-effective energy efficiency measures. As part of this, UNL is also developing a calculator to better analyze wastewater facility energy use, which is often the largest use of energy for smaller communities.

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