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Turning waste to windfall

New sewer station generator said to save over $400k per year

Workers install a new turbogenerator at the Albany County Sewer District's North Plant in Menands on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The new waste-to-energy project is expected to save the county over $400k per year.

Workers install a new turbogenerator at the Albany County Sewer District's North Plant in Menands on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The new waste-to-energy project is expected to save the county over $400k per year.

— The Albany County Sewer District saw over 40 tons of equipment installed with the arrival of a turbogenerator at its North Plant in Menands on Wednesday, Sept. 21, as part of its Waste Heat to Energy project.

When everything is installed and up and running, hopefully by February 2012, it is expected to save the county a total of $480,000 per year through reduced energy bills, according to Richard Lyons, executive director of the Albany County Sewer District.

“It’s going to provide a tremendous amount of environmental and economic benefit for the county of Albany,” Lyons said. “We’re going to offset about 3.3 million kilowatt hours a year of energy we used to consume. Now it’s going to be produced by this generating equipment.”

The $8.5 million project, which will convert sewage sludge into renewable energy, was funded by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation with about $5.8 million and $2 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The way the system works is through the disposal of the sewage sludge, which is done through combustion, Lyons said. They will then harness the energy and heat from the combustion by heating up oil, which will then spin a turbine that will produce the electricity.

“It’s self sustaining,” Lyons said. “So, that combustion of the sewage sludge and the heat produced, before it goes to the air pollution control equipment, it’s going to heat up that organic fluid, which is the oil, which is going to provide energy to the generating equipment… The process of the ultimate disposal of the sewage sludge won’t change. What will change in 2012 is the capturing of that energy to produce electricity.”

The construction process started in May 2010 and has created about 90 jobs dedicated to that task at the plant. Albany County Executive Michael Breslin referred to the generator as “the perfect machine” as once some heat gets into the system it begins generating power. With the amount of money the project will be saving the county, Breslin said it will realize its savings in under a year while reducing CO2 emissions.

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