Originally published on the ECOreport
This was to have been an article about the urban waste water and energy project for a new subdivision in Hamburg’s Jenfelder Au district. This yet-to-be finished neighborhood will use 30% less water than the surrounding area and have a completely self-sufficient energy supply, and this project is just another illustration of the sustainable projects from Hamburg Wasser.
Produces More Energy Than It Uses
Hamburg Wasser “… is the largest wastewater treatment plant in Germany, because in Hamburg we have just this one plant which collects all the wastewater from the whole city. We have an inward flow rate of 12 cubic metres per second, and (the facility) is designed for 18. Six meters may be discharged into the (Elbe) river after mechanical treatment. Under dry conditions we have three cubic metres per second,” said Lüder Garleff, who is in charge of Energy Management.
He added, “We have a focus on covering our energy demand with our own renewable energy.”
As you can see in the graph to the left, this facility is that it produces more energy than it uses. Hamburg Wasser facility sells its excess electricity, bio-methane gas, and heat.
I first visited this facility last year, when the wind turbine seen above went online.
Speaking as a Canadian, I find the fact that turbine has 3 MW of capacity galling. Last summer my native province of British Columbia, which has more solar potential than all of Germany, had 3.2 MW of solar capacity. We were expected to pass 4 MW by the end of the year. Assuming this has happened, we still haven’t passed the capacity of a single German wind turbine. (RH2-WKA, in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, has 7.5 MW turbines!)
This is the third, and largest, turbine at Hamburg Wasser. The others are both 2.5 MW, which gives this facility a total capacity of 8 MW, 24 MWh /a.
There are also PV solar panels installed on at least one rooftop.
“From my point of view, the sludge treatment is much more interesting,” said Garleff.
It provides most of the 80,000 MWh of electricity and 90,000 MWh of heat that this facility needs every year.
Looking at Water Treatment Process
Looking at the water treatment process as a whole, graywater passes through two treatments in which most of the impurities are removed. The cleansed water is then emptied into the Elbe.
Most of the sludge goes to digester tanks, like those you see at the top of this page.
One of the anecdotes that will probably be forever burned into my memory arises from the fact that, perhaps once a year, one of these tanks will need some internal maintenance. It is cheaper to send a diver down than empty the tank out. As visibility is zero, he or she needs to feel their way around.
Hamburg Wasser has its own sludge incinerator, which produces both electricity and heat.
Surplus gas is delivered to a neighboring container terminal, where they remove the excess carbon dioxide. Thus they can sell bio-methane.
Hamburg Wasser applied some of these same self-sufficient strategies to Jenfelder Au’s new “climate model district.” Grey water is cleansed and returned to the water table. Blackwater is used to produce heat and electricity.
One of the new additions in this package is vacuum toilets, such as is used in jets and trains, which only require half a liter to a liter of water per flush. (Normal toilets use 6 to 8 liters.).
There are other “separating sanitation systems” in Europe, but the largest is just over 200 households. There are 770 units planned for Jenfelder Au and 600 of these will be residential.
Once it is finished, there will be 2,000 people living in this self-sufficient community.
Garleff pointed out that this isn’t many, compared to the 1.7 million in Hamburg, but this is a model for future development.
Their only technical problem, so far, is that it will be difficult to add more units to the system after it is completed. (This sounds like the kind of problem that may disappear before they start a second subdivision.)
Photo Credits: The Digesters at Hamburg Wasser – Roy L Hales photo; Lüder Garleff, WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT HAMBURG, p 11; The 3 MW turbine at Hamburg Wasser, with plant in the background – Hamburg Wasser; Looking down at a PV Solar solar installation – Roy L Hales photo; Garleff, pps 4-6; Maika Hartmann, Green Energy from blackwater –The HAMBURG WATER Cycle® in the climate model district „Jenfelder Au,“ pps 9, 30
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