Vermont’s communities are trying hard to use less energy for their buildings, facilities and services — reducing both municipal energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
When thinking about how we use energy we tend to focus on the most obvious consumers of electricity and fuel. Lights, furnaces, water heaters and appliances are the first that come to mind. It’s easy to forget about the many processes taking place behind the scenes. One such process that may fly under the radar is wastewater treatment.
According to the federal EPA, a significant amount of municipal energy use occurs at water and wastewater treatment facilities. At these facilities, pumps, motors, and other equipment operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because treatment plants require so much energy input, energy efficiency offers an expanding opportunity to trim operating costs.
In Vermont, there are 96 municipally owned wastewater treatment facilities and 69 industrial and privately owned facilities. Treating Vermont’s wastewater is an energy-intensive operation and the expenses for treatment are often tied to municipal management costs. Reducing the amount of energy used for wastewater treatment results in reduced spending by businesses and municipalities.
Many of Vermont’s municipalities recognize they could save a lot of tax dollars and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the energy used for water treatment. The opportunities for efficiency improvements are many and varied. In the past five years, 58 Vermont wastewater treatment facilities have completed a project with Efficiency Vermont. These projects have included the installation of efficient pumps, motors, and drives; operational modifications; lighting improvements; heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades; and structural improvements. These improvement projects have contributed to a combined savings of $12 million and 128,000 megawatt hours over the lifetime of the efficiency measures.
The Waterbury Wastewater Treatment Facility is among the many that have worked with Efficiency Vermont in recent years. In May 2014, the Waterbury facility, in partnership with Efficiency Vermont, cut its energy use by 30 percent through an aeration system upgrade. The upgrade reduced operating expenses without any adverse impact to the treatment process.
“When we saw the operating and energy savings the choice was easy. We have done extensive testing and analysis over the past two years and we are finding the treatment has actually improved,” said Peter Krolczyk, chief operator of the Waterbury Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is now saving over $40,000 per year.
The Montpelier Water Resource Recovery Facility has also made great strides toward energy reduction. Since 2010, the facility has incorporated efficiency improvements to cut its total energy use almost in half. They worked with Efficiency Vermont each step of the way for technical and financial help. The facility received the 2015 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and the 2014 Energy Management Award from Efficiency Vermont. This reduction in energy use results in major cost savings for the city and is a big step toward achieving the goal set by the Net Zero Montpelier initiative.
Efficiency Vermont can help municipalities make energy decisions about their water and wastewater treatment systems and the way their facilities are operated. Locations that have put energy saving practices into play have found improved control and treatment as additional benefits. By managing energy use for wastewater treatment our communities become more economically stable, operationally efficient, and environmentally healthy.
Learn more about Efficiency Vermont’s work with community and economic partners at bit.ly/EVpartnerships.
Tim Perrin is an Efficiency Vermont account manager. He works with businesses and communities throughout the state.