VOORHEES, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Backed by a 125-year history of innovation, American Water Works Company, Inc. (NYSE:AWK), the nation’s largest publicly traded water and wastewater services company, hopes to spur the industry to greener practices. American Water’s research and development resources have historically enabled the company to be an early adopter of new technologies, and 2011 has been no exception. Among the “firsts” this year that the company hopes will set the stage for more environmentally friendly practices throughout the industry are innovations that promise to reduce the water utility’s carbon footprint, from new solar power technology to “smarter” energy management to a more sustainable wastewater treatment method.
“American Water has developed comprehensive water and energy efficiency and preservation strategies that employ leading technologies, and makes capital investments in these areas which directly benefit the communities we serve,” said Dr. Mark LeChevallier, Director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship. “In 2011, the company made tremendous strides in these areas and in 2012 we aim to continue to grow these programs and look for additional innovations that maximize water and energy efficiencies for our customers.”
American Water’s major green innovations in 2011 include the following:
Floating Solar Power (Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant, Millburn, N.J.): This fall, New Jersey American Water installed the East Coast’s first solar array on a body of water designed to withstand a freeze/thaw environment -- weather conditions that are common to a northern New Jersey winter. Featuring a unique mooring system that allows the 538 solar modules to rise and fall with the water level of the reservoir, the array will generate approximately two percent of the water treatment plant’s power. Annually, the solar field will produce 135,000 kilowatt hours for an estimated energy cost savings of $16,000. The $1.35-million pilot project was designed and built by ENERActive Solutions of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Solar tax rebates obtained through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may offset some of the costs of the project, to the benefit of ratepayers. This is New Jersey American Water’s fourth solar project. Solar bees, also at Canoe Brook Treatment Plant, are employed to improve water quality by constantly circulating reservoir water. Other projects include solar fields at Canal Road Water Treatment Plant in Somerset and at a well station in Farmingdale.
Increasing Efficiency through Advanced Metering Techniques: American Water has accelerated its move toward both mobile Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). Over 35 percent of the meter reads collected from customers are acquired by AMR, where radio signals relay information to utility vehicles moving at normal speed through the service area. Most AMR meters purchased since 2009 have a feature that allows a customer service representative to download hourly reads for the past three months. The use of these tools reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and provides better service to customers and reduces water waste. AMI, which is a growing segment of our meter service, provides daily meter readings to the home office without dispatching any vehicles at all. Currently, American Water is looking at innovative equipment that easily allows conversion from AMR to AMI, further improving meter reading efficiency.
Demand-side Energy Management (Shire Oaks Pumping Station, Penn.): American Water is the first U.S. water utility to use the Smart Grid technology of ENBALA Power Networks. This innovative technology manages the way American Water’s treatment plants and pumps use electrical power. Instead of adjusting electrical generation to match changes in electrical demand, the network adjusts demand, enabling electrical equipment to consume more energy when demand is low and less when it is high. This provides Grid Balance to electricity system operators. A successful pilot program at Pennsylvania American Water’s Shire Oaks Pumping Station offset 2-3 percent of the site’s total energy bill and has led to a larger partnership between American Water and ENBALA Power Networks that will bring ENBALA’s Grid Balance technology to large treatment facilities throughout American Water.
A Patent for Optimized Nutrient Removal from Wastewater: Earlier this year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded American Water a patent for NPXpress, a more affordable and sustainable method to remove nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. Removing these nutrients – a requirement in various watersheds across the country – has traditionally been a difficult and costly process that involves the addition of extra chemicals and high concentrations of dissolved oxygen. The new patented process, credited to three American Water scientists, creates savings in both energy and process chemicals used for wastewater treatment.
These new innovations, particularly the ENBALA partnership and NPXpress technology, are the result of the company’s Innovation Development Process. American Water used its industry-leading position to launch the Innovation Development Process in 2009 to drive innovation and support the development of new products. The program tests new ideas, both from within the company and from business partners, to create greater efficiencies in strategic areas such as water reuse, desalination, wastewater operations and bio-energy.
About American Water
Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company. With headquarters in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide drinking water, wastewater and other related services to approximately 15 million people in more than 30 states, as well as parts of Canada. More information can be found by visiting www.amwater.com.
In 2011, American Water is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a yearlong campaign to promote water efficiency and the importance of protecting water from source to tap. To learn more, visit www.amwater125.com.