It takes just over three weeks: flush a toilet in Didcot, England and 23 days later, it has produced biomethane that heats about 200 homes—through the national grid.
The BBC explains how the project goes beyond existing waste-to-energy facilities:
The practice of using anaerobic digesters – carefully managed bacteria – to turn faeces into a means of generating electricity is already well established across the country. But the additional plant that British Gas has installed at the Thames Water sewage treatment works in Didcot cleans up the spare biogas that is produced and turns it into biomethane suitable for household hobs and in gas central heating.
The project is a joint effort by British Gas, Thames Water and Scotia Gas Networks, which collectively hope to replicate the process across the UK.
Expanding beyond Didcot
British Gas already has four other biogas-to-grid projects planned, but it’s not the only company going down this path.
Projects that feed biogas into the grid are not new, and even exist in the U.S., but this is thought to be the first time people are using their own human waste to power homes through the natural gas grid.
United Utilities and Ecotricity also have plans in the works to feed biomethane into the grid, and if the company’s estimate is accurage, United Utilities could by powering 500 homes this way as soon as next summer.
NewNet quotes an official from Thames Water: “For decades we’ve generated electricity by burning sewage sludge or methane derived from it, saving £15m in power bills last year alone.”
Using biomethane from sewage as another source of gas was just the next step on their “renewable energy hit list.”
If you’ve in the market for a toilet, you’re probably weighing your options for optimal performance and eco-friendliness. Dual-flush toilets were a great option for a while, since they used far less water for liquid waste, but the newest high-efficiency toilets are using a gallon or less of water per flush, every flush.
So how do they work?
The Stealth has a larger water spot (opening), allowing waste to be flushed away more easily. The system uses water and air to force waste down and refill the bowl. What’s nice about the design is it functions well even with changes in water pressure, which happens in a lot of older areas.
The Power Assist uses a powerful but quiet compressed air system to force the waste through the pipes–similar to the systems used on airplanes and on trains. And the toilet is able to flush twice the weight of the average solid waste.
What does this mean for you?
For a family of four with each person flushing the toilet five times daily, it means up to 20,000 gallons in water savings yearly over a standard toilet, which will save you about $100 each year. If you have a high efficiency toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush, a family of four will still save more than 6,000 gallons of water each year with the Stealth, or about 5,000 gallons with Foremost Group’s toilet.
So whether you’re remodeling or you’re just looking to upgrade to a more efficient toilet, the newest one-gallon-or-less per flush toilets are the way to go.