NEW YORK - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other officials have introduced a new system at the city's wastewater treatment plants that uses fuel cells to convert waste gas into energy to help power the facilities.

The system is expected to reduce fuel oil consumption by 3,000 barrels a year, and eliminate nearly 170 tons of regulated emissions and more than 9,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The announcement was held at the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP's) 26th Ward wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn where the New York Power Authority (NYPA) has installed two 200-kW fuel cells that are currently providing a significant portion of the facility's electricity needs. The two fuel cells are among eight that NYPA partnered with the DEP to install at four wastewater treatment plants in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

"We are committed to implementing environmentally beneficial technologies that will improve the health and safety of New Yorkers, and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels," said Bloomberg. "This innovative technology is a win-win. It reduces our energy costs and instead of burning off and releasing noxious fumes into communities, we are recycling these gases and converting them into electricity."

Each of the eight fuel cells are designed to operate on anaerobic digester gas (ADG), a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process, primarily made up of methane and carbon dioxide. The fuel cells use the ADG to produce electricity and thermal energy through a chemical reaction rather than combustion.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), fuel cell emissions are clean enough to be exempted from many Clean Air Act permitting requirements.

At the 26th Ward, two complete fuel cell systems have been installed on a concrete pad built near the plant's dewatering building. The 26th Ward plant opened in 1944 and its dry weather treatment capacity is 85 million gallons a day. It serves a population of nearly 285,000 in the eastern section of Brooklyn.

In addition to the two fuel cells installed at the 26th Ward plant, DEP and NYPA have installed two other fuel cells at the Red Hook wastewater treatment plant, also in Brooklyn, one fuel cell in Staten Island at the Oakwood Beach plant, and three fuel cells at the Hunts Point plant in the Bronx.

The cost of the fuel cell program is approximately $13 million. NYPA provided $10.5 million and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and DOE provided more than $2.5 million.

Publication date: 03/08/2004