Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series of six profiles of winners of NCPPP’s 2015 National Public-Private Partnership Awards that recognize organizations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to advance the concept and implementation of P3s across the country. The winners were honored during P3 Connect 2015 in Boston.
Faced with an influx of 20 million gallons of wastewater daily, the city of Gresham in Oregon operated a treatment plant that was the largest energy consumer around. Ten years later, Gresham turns sludge from its wastewater treatment plant into energy.
The plant treats wastewater produced within its borders and from the neighboring cities of Fairview and Wood Village. Through an innovative public-private partnership, the energy-dependent plant has taken biogas produced from sludge, along with solar power, to generate as much energy as it uses. The now-energy-neutral plant even exports any surplus energy back to the local utility.
In 2005, Gresham negotiated a seven-year P3 with Veolia North America that called for the company to manage and operate an existing wastewater treatment plant serving 106,000 people. The contract was expanded to include the development and long-term planning of a cogeneration power system that turns methane into energy used to run the plant. The contract, which included a $21 million payment to Veolia for the management and operation of the treatment plant, was renewed in 2012.
Veolia improved asset management after taking over the facility in 2005. Accessing records from its other wastewater treatment facilities, Veolia found that it had increased productivity based on industry standards employed elsewhere. Accidents also have been reduced. Cameras have been installed around the plant to reduce labor requirements and enhance response to chemical feed issues. Maintenance schedules have changed from a reactive to a proactive approach: repairs and preventative maintenance have been prioritized, lowering capital maintenance and replacement costs by up to 25 percent over the life of the contract.
Wastewater-derived biogas now fuels 92 percent of the Gresham Wastewater Plant’s power and the plant achieved its first “net zero month” of energy use in March. Its monthly energy costs for wastewater treatment have dropped from $50,000 to zero. Based on these energy savings and the overall efficiencies produced by this partnership, the city is expected to recoup its investment in the project within eight years.
In recognition of the project’s success, NCPPP presented the Service Project Award to the City of Gresham, Oregon, and Veolia North America.