An innovative project to convert sewage into a zero-emission fuel has been given the green light – alongside a raft of renewable energy projects being advanced by Welsh Water.
The "Make Your Poo Work For You" project – a collaboration between Welsh Water, Cardiff Council and local authorities and technology company Costain – will see biogas waste from sewage "sludge" converted into hydrogen fuel, which will be used to power zero-emission vehicles.
Sludge is a by–product of the wastewater treatment process – producing microbe-rich solid sewage, which can then be used as biogas fuel or for other purposes, like fertiliser.
The project has been awarded £60,000 from Innovate UK, as it aims to push up the production of green fuel for hydrogen vehicles. at one of the company's four biogas sites.
While the majority of the energy will be used to produce clean, green energy and improve air quality in South Wales, Welsh Water is hoping to use the technology to help green its entire fleet of vehicles – saving around 9,000 tonnes of carbon being released into the environment, which would make up around 15% of the company's entire carbon footprint.
Last year Welsh Water agreed a five megawatt connection from Cardiff Council's Lamby Way solar farm to Cardiff Wastewater Treatment Works.
Costain is also working with Cardiff Council and other local authorities in South Wales to explore potential demand for hydrogen vehicles, in particular for the councils' waste collection vehicles, HGV tractors and buses.
Welsh Water has also ramped up renewable energy projects – unveiling three solar sites on its estate, generating enough energy to power hundreds of homes.
The not–for–profit water company, which serves more than three million people across Wales, Herefordshire and parts of Deeside and Cheshire, has a target to generate all its own energy at its sites by 2050.
The solar installations – at its sites in Bolton Hill (Pembrokeshire), Clydach (Swansea), and Ponthir (near Cwmbran) – are forecast to save 311 tonnes of CO2 being emitted every year, and would produce enough power for the equivalent of 300 homes.
The £1.3m project will also save the company more than £125,000 in annual energy costs alone – and will even bring back some income from exporting excess energy to the National Grid.
Welsh Water director of environment, Tony Harrington, said: "These projects are exciting developments to help us become not just a carbon-neutral business but one which produces its own energy using renewable sources – something we have targeted for 2050, but want to achieve as soon as possible.
"This sewage-to-hydrogen fuel project is at the forefront of the innovation we need to pursue to meet these ambitious targets – and the funding from Innovate UK will help us on the way to de–carbonising our fleet of tankers.
"Together with the huge advances in solar, wind and hydro power across our sites, we're ever closer to reaching our goal of meeting all our energy needs in a sustainable way."