NYPA to Install Microturbine at Brooklyn Wastewater Treatment Facility: New Generating Device Will Harness Waste Gas and Improve Air Quality

Michael Saltzman
(914) 390-8181

April 29, 2003


NEW YORK—The New York Power Authority (NYPA) Trustees Tuesday authorized the expenditure of up to $700,000 for installation of a small generating unit that will harness the gas by-product from a wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn to produce electricity while enhancing local air quality.

The up-to 250-kilowatt microturbine will be installed at the New York City Owl’s Head Wastewater Treatment Plant, operated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), in the Bay Ridge section of the borough.

“The project that we’re planning for Owl’s Head shows that current technologies are available for strengthening electricity capacity while improving the quality of the air that we breathe,” said Louis P. Ciminelli, NYPA chairman.  “Governor Pataki has made these goals top priorities, and the Power Authority has been one of the key organizations being relied upon to accomplish them.”

Last January, the Governor directed the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to initiate a process that will ensure that one-quarter of the electricity purchased in the state be renewable power, such as wind and solar energy, and waste gas, by the end of the decade.  This followed a 2001 executive order that established similarly ambitious goals on the use of renewable power by state agencies.

“The new microturbine that NYPA is planning to install at Owl’s Head will allow us to significantly reduce the amount of waste gas that is currently being flared to the atmosphere by the wastewater treatment plant,” said Alfonso Lopez, deputy commissioner of the NYCDEP.  That will cut its emissions by thousands of pounds per year.”

Also known as anaerobic digester gas, or ADG, the waste gas emitted from the sewage treatment process at facilities like Owl’s Head is largely comprised of methane and carbon dioxide.  Both are considered greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.  These gases are typically flared, or burned, for that reason and odor control.

In 2001, NYPA installed two microturbines at a wastewater treatment facility in the Town of Lewiston in Western New York.

Microturbines are small combustion-turbine generating devices that can be fueled in a number of ways, including ADG, natural gas and liquid fuels.

ADG will also be harnessed by eight fuel cells that NYPA is placing in service later this year at other DEP wastewater treatment facilities in New York City.  They’ll be identical to a 200-kw fuel cell that the Power Authority installed in 1997 at the Westchester County Wastewater Treatment Plant in Yonkers.  It marked the first fuel cell in the Western Hemisphere to use ADG.

Whether it’s ADG or some other source of energy, fuel cells are designed to extract hydrogen from whatever fuel they’re using, and combine it with the oxygen in the air, to produce electricity.  

NYPA meets the full electricity needs of thousands of public facilities in New York City, including those operated by the NYCDEP, saving them millions of dollars a year on their electric bills, compared to what they would have otherwise paid for their cost of power.  In addition, they’ve benefited from energy-efficiency measures by NYPA that, to date, have cut their electric bills by more than $48 million a year, with a corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 400 thousand tons.