The biological treatment of wastewater could yield high energy fuels such as methane and alcohols, however most conventional treatment systems do not recover this energy potential. With a simple model of the energy yields of various wastewater treatment technologies it is possible to demonstrate how minor shifts in technology selection can lead the industry from being identified as predominantly energy intensive, to being recognised as a source of energy resources. The future potential energy yield is estimated by applying energy yield factors to alternative use scenarios of the same wastewater loads. The method for identifying the energy potential of wastewater was demonstrated for the New Zealand wastewater sector, but can equally be applied to other countries or regions. The model suggests that by using technologies that maximise the recovery of energy from wastewater, the potential energy yield from this sector would be substantially increased (six fold for New Zealand).
Keywords: algae, biogas, energy, ethanol, nutrients, wastewater