Newsletter: Recovering Energy from Trash to Make Electricity (Oct. 2017)

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In many ways, Kinross Charter Township, located in the beautiful eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is no ordinary community. Its source of employment, Kincheloe Air Force Base closed four decades ago, leaving Township officials on their own to convert the military base into a civilian community.

Officials at Kinross have learned to be resourceful to make ends meet. It’s become a way of life. Over the years, Kinross officials have been very frugal – operating their public utility like a business – with
competitive water and sewer rate charges that not only provide service but set aside funds for future improvements.

Township officials have worked with Fleis & VandenBrink (F&V) over last decade to evaluate options of recovering energy from waste. The idea of squeezing energy out of trash was explored in conjunction with
digester upgrades at the plant because so much energy is just tossed out with the garbage.

Research showed there was plenty of waste energy available in the trash generated around Kinross. And much of that trash gets hauled a great distance to be disposed in a landfill.

A local trash hauler is currently working with F&V to determine the energy content of the garbage, including the juicy stuff. Equipment to squeeze energy out of the trash will be selected and matched with the
anaerobic digester improvements at the wastewater plant to make good use of the new source of energy.

The anaerobic digester facility in Kinross, which had been operating for many years, was recently updated and expanded to receive not only the WWTP biosolids, but also about 20-times more waste energy value
from squeezing the trash.

“I’m used to people telling me ‘No, that can’t be done,’ in a small community like ours. But what they’re really telling me is that it can’t be done the normal way they do it,” said Rick Bernhardt, who serves on the Township’s water and sewer advisory committee.

The food waste will be hauled to a processing building at the wastewater treatment plant to extract the high energy material to be fed to the digester. In the digester, the volume of the waste is reduced
producing biogas. The biogas is then used to fuel generators to produce electricity.

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