Salem’s New Cogen Facility Saves Money and Converts Waste to Energy

Posted on November 14, 2020

City of Salem – 11/13/20 3:00 PM

The Willow Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant is now producing much of the energy it needs to operate, thanks to a new Biogas Cogeneration Facility. The biogas facility responds to two key Salem City Council goals, Natural Environment Stewardship and Good Governance.

“By turning waste into energy, we’re powering the plant, saving money, and protecting our environment,” said Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett.  “Taking pollutants out of the waste stream helps reduce Salem’s impact on the natural environment – one of our Strategic Plan goals,” said Mayor Bennett.  “I’m really excited to see that this facility is up and running.”

This innovative project is one of only 11 similar facilities in Oregon that use biogas, a byproduct of wastewater treatment, to produce renewable energy (YouTube – Cogen Chapter 1). Construction of Salem’s new Cogen Facility was made possible through the support of customers participating in Portland General Electric’s Green Future Program through the Renewable Development Fund, and generous support received from the Energy Trust of Oregon and Oregon Department of Energy.

The City of Salem is a pioneer in the biogas energy. Willow Lake treatment plant has produced of clean, renewable energy from biogas for more than 50 years. The new Cogen facility significantly increases this clean energy output to the point where half of all the power needed to treat Salem’s wastewater is produced at the plant.

The new facility is expected to keep about 5,000 metric tons of pollution-causing gases from being released to our atmosphere every year and will save the City more than $300,000 a year in average annual energy costs based on wastewater treatment costs without a functioning Cogen Facility.

Here’s how Salem’s Cogen Facility Works:

  • Salem area wastewater is piped to the Willow Lake Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • Large material is removed before the wastewater is sent to Aeration Tanks
  • Tiny microorganisms help to break down or digest the wastes with the addition of heat
  • Carbon Dioxide and Methane biogas are released by the microorganisms
  • Cogen captures these gases and converts them into energy that’s used at Willow Lake.

Salem’s new Cogen Facility has just come online.  City staff will be monitoring energy savings and providing updates over the next several months.  Please visit the City of Salem YouTube and social media channels for continued project updates, to view Cogen Video clips (YouTube – Cogen Chapter 1), and to see messages and interviews from project partners.

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