TUCSON, Arizona (KOLD News 13) – Cities, counties and businesses are looking for more ways to use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Pima County and Southwest Gas are now teaming up to do just that. The unlikely source is in the sewers.
Most of what Pima County drains down the drain goes to the Tres Rios Water Harvesting Facility. Until now, part of it has been transformed into fertilizer or water for agricultural use. But Pima County is diversifying to do more, now feeding thousands of people.
âWe call it dirty gas,â said Bobby DeAngelo, of Pima County.
DeAngelo helped coordinate the construction and implementation of a new facility that collects wastewater and turns it into usable methane gas.
âThe solids are digested. We have digesters that are configured exactly like your stomach. They are set to a temperature of around 95 degrees, and exactly what goes on in your digestive system is what goes on in the digesters. One of the byproducts of digestion is gas, âDeAngelo said. “The technology behind me takes this dirty gas, removes all the contaminants … and leaves us with 99% methane.”
Southwest Gas uses the methane produced by the new biogas facility. It is the first of a handful of similar projects to use more renewable energy.
âEach year (the facility produces) enough energy to power approximately 5,500 homes,â said Will Batista of Southwest Gas.
As wind, solar and nuclear power pave the way for cleaner energy and renewables, as DeAngelo points out, this is a constant and untapped energy solution.
âI mean it’s 24/7, sewage never sleeps. So we’re open all the time, âDeAngelo said. âIt is a non-stop renewable resource. “
The facility has been under construction for almost a decade, with construction starting just over two years ago. The COVID-19 delays impacted the timing and completion of the facility by at least nine months.
Southwest Gas also has similar facilities in Arizona dairies. With a handful of projects, they will be able to produce a million times the power that a single home uses each year.
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