The Inland Empire's cadre of water treatment plants clean millions of gallons of waste water every day. But what to do with all that left over poo? Normally it's unceremoniously dumped in a local landfill but at Regional Water Recycling Plant No. 1, that massive pile of crap is put to a better use—making electricity with the largest biogas fuel cell generator in America.
Located in Ontario, California, just east of LA county, Plant No. 1 filters solid waste and sanitizes 44 million gallons of water per day. The clean water is then used to irrigate city parks while conserving potable water for the Empire's 850,000 residents through conventional sanitation methods. The strained solid waste is then dumped into an anaerobic digester where colonies of bacteria break down the poo into its base chemical components. Problem is, the bacteria excrete methane while they eat, a leading contributor to global warming. Since the plant can't just vent this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, it instead uses it to power an onsite 2.8-megawatt fuel cell generator to provide some 60 percent of the treatment plant's operating energy. Anaergia Inc. of Canada installed the generator at no cost to the IEUA last October and will eventually recoup that money by selling the energy that the fuel cell produces back to the utility.