State Honors Greater Lawrence Wastewater Plant for Offsetting Its Own Energy Use

State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen A. Theoharides. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District in North Andover received state honors last week for reducing its carbon footprint to zero by creating an organics-to-energy project that produces enough power to meet the plant’s own electrical needs.

As part of Climate Week in Massachusetts, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg highlighted the clean energy project, which received more than $35 million in financial support from multiple state agencies.

“The organics-to-energy capability also goes a step further. It includes the ability for ‘black-start’ and ‘islanding,’ which means if the electrical grid has a blackout, GLSD can disconnect from the gird and restart the engines to provide virtually uninterrupted operation of our treatment facility,” said plant Executive Director Cheri Cousens. “Ensuring stable and low-cost energy to the treatment facility is paramount during times of unpredictable power supply from outside sources.”

Greater Lawrence Sanitary District’s organics-to-energy project takes food waste and organics away from the waste stream, pumps it into anaerobic digesters at the plant and mixes it with sewage sludge, produces a renewable fuel source, biogas. Any surplus energy produced is used to offset energy costs at a remote pumping station.

Officials used the visit to announce $5 million in new grants available to help utilities invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects. The money comes from the administration’s plan “fill the gap” by using $400 million in American Rescue Plan funds to modernize outdated and aging water infrastructure.

“The intense rainfall we’ve experienced in recent months highlights the threat to public health and the environment caused by climate change, which is why we need to support our water utilities by helping them upgrade their infrastructure and make investments in clean energy solutions,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement.

The state Department of Energy Resources estimates the organics-to-energy project will reduce the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, which is the equivalent of taking more than 1,000 cars off the road and fuel savings equivalent to filling 70,000 cars every year.

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