The Blue Plains facility addresses three goals shared by the District of Columbia and DC Water: cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; increasing resiliency to volatile and non-diverse energy markets; and reduction of waste. The city is facing serious challenges from climate change, and alternative energy development in the district is a key part of developing a carbon free DC. DC Water has focused on climate adaptation activities, with this project maximizing the production of clean, green energy at Blue Plains. Presentation of a solid business case for the project led to DC Water’s largest investment to date for a climate change mitigation project.
DC Water’s wastewater treatment operations produces up to 13MW of clean, renewable power, resulting in the facility eliminating approximately 219 metric tons of CO2 emission per day. With the new thermohydrolysis system, this has reduced by two-thirds the truckloads of biosolid waste for landfill, eliminating further CO2 emissions from transportation. The project has resulted in savings of $10M per month energy costs and related operational savings from trucking and hauling. This has improved rates charged by DC Water to DC’s diverse and economically-challenged citizenry.
The biosolids resulting from the new process are a cleaner product that DC Water uses as a compost called Bloom ™, which is being used around the District for urban gardens and green infrastructure projects, and will eventually be available on the open market.
Through the thermal hydrolysis process and reduced transportation requirements, the Walter F. Bailey Bioenergy Facility should continue to eliminate hundreds of metric tons of CO2 emissions every day. Its provision of an independent local supply of renewable energy will give citizens, and the plant itself, a secure source of energy and protect against rising energy prices in the future.
Bloom™ will provide a further income source for the plant and integrate its activities with green infrastructure projects in the city. The Bioenergy facility has extra capacity to allow for expansion of the process as required. The city is currently exploring opportunities to digest waste streams from regional wastewater plants, food waste and other materials from the District. With the largest plant of its type in the U.S., DC Water is in a position to inspire other cities to adopt thermohydrolysis or other renewable energy systems, and it is already providing support and expertise through relevant C40 networks.