Toilet flushes are helping to power our homes following a multi-million pound investment from Anglian Water.
During the past year the Great Billing Water Recycling Centre at Northampton produced enough electricity to power 57,240 homes for a month – the equivalent of a town the size of Wellingborough for over two months.
The power is produced from the treatment of sewage sludge, a by-product of the water recycling process. The sludge is treated in specialised vessels, a process known as anaerobic digestion, to high temperatures to kill off harmful bacteria meaning what’s left behind can then be used as a soil conditioner in agriculture.
The process produces a biogas and this is channelled into massive engines and converted into heat and electricity. This is then used to power the site and export what’s left back to the grid.
Over the past 10 years Anglian Water has invested £230million to enhance the treatment process at nine of the region’s largest water recycling centres and enable them to produce renewable energy in this way.
Matt Pluke, energy manager for Anglian Water, said: “Part of our strategy is to reduce our carbon footprint.
“A key part of how we do this, is to maximise the amount of renewable energy we produce, it’s not only good for business but it’s great for the environment too.
“Using our region’s sewage to produce energy in this way is a great example of renewable energy. You can guarantee that we’re never going to run out and we can keep pushing forward to produce more energy each year.
“The results we’ve achieved to date are staggering, but we’re aiming even higher over the next five years.”
In the past year, across the whole Anglian Water region, some 88.6Gwh (Gigawatt hours) were produced. Not only would this be enough to send Marty McFly Back to the Future over 70 times, it is also the equivalent amount of power used by a city the size of Norwich for two months.
By 2020 the company plans to invest millions more and is aiming to produce even more renewable energy than it achieved last year.
Mr Pluke added: “By changing the way we manage these sites, with dedicated local teams of technicians looking after them, we’ve been able to achieve a threefold increase in the amount of energy we produce over the last five years.
“Projects like this and reducing our reliance on traditional energy sources is definitely something we believe a 21st century water company should be doing more of, it’s something our customers told us they want to see more of and it’s also helping to keep bills broadly flat over the next five years.”