PNNL senior energy analyst Juliet Homer was an invited panelist at a recent California Energy Commission workshop.
Homer participated on the Innovations in Energy Generation panel. The purpose of the workshop was to gather information to aid the commission’s awarding of the next round of Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) research projects related to the energy-water nexus.
The workshop highlighted innovative research on water treatment, delivery and energy. The commission also sought public input on research needs and to identify potential methods of commercializing emerging technologies.
“There’s a lot of great research going on related to producing energy from water and wastewater treatment processes, such as generating hydropower from water pipelines where excess pressure builds up, supplementing anaerobic digestors at wastewater treatment plants with additional food, or food processing and agricultural wastes to increase production of biogas that can be used to generate electricity, or power motors or cars,” Homer said. “However, practical and institutional barriers are large and must be addressed if technical potential is to be realized. Water people tend to focus on water, and power people tend to focus on power, and traditionally they haven’t had much interest or incentive to work together. But the potential for mutually beneficial coordination is huge.”
Nearly 20 percent of California’s electricity consumption is associated with water, from extraction to treatment, distribution, disposal, and use. There has been a 74 percent increase in energy use in municipal wastewater treatment and a 39 percent increase in energy usage for public drinking water systems since 1996.
At the workshop, Homer spoke about the opportunities and barriers that exist for generating energy from water and wastewater systems and how shifting the timing of certain very large electricity loads can enable better coordination with the needs of the power grid.
Homer’s work at PNNL has focused on tools and policies for planning the electric grid as it shifts from energy generated at large, centralized power plants to an increase in the amount of intermittent renewable resources like solar and wind at different locations throughout the grid.
Homer was involved in a project that looked at the potential for the water and wastewater industries in California to work cooperatively with electric utilities to support the grid in mutually beneficial ways. The work was sponsored by DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office for the California Public Utility Commission.
“PNNL plays a significant part in DOE’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium,” Homer said. “Our work in grid optimization and modernization, hydropower, and hydrology make us a natural fit to lead innovation at the water and energy nexus.”