How Much Electricity Does a Domestic Sewage Treatment Plant Use?

by Anna

Domestic sewage treatment plants play a crucial role in maintaining public health and protecting the environment by treating wastewater before it is released back into natural water bodies. However, the operation of these plants requires a significant amount of energy, with electricity being a primary component. Understanding the electricity consumption of domestic sewage treatment plants is vital for improving energy efficiency, reducing operational costs, and minimizing environmental impacts.


The Basics of Domestic Sewage Treatment

Domestic sewage treatment involves several stages, including preliminary, primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary treatment. Each stage employs different technologies and processes that consume varying amounts of electricity.


Preliminary Treatment: This initial stage involves removing large solids and debris through screening and grit removal. The energy consumption at this stage is relatively low as it primarily involves mechanical processes.

Primary Treatment: In this stage, sedimentation tanks are used to settle out suspended solids. The energy used here is also minimal compared to later stages, primarily for pumping and mechanical equipment.

Secondary Treatment: This is the most energy-intensive stage, where biological processes are used to degrade organic matter. Common methods include activated sludge processes, aeration, and biofiltration, all of which require substantial amounts of electricity for aerators, blowers, and pumps.

Tertiary Treatment: Some plants include this stage to remove additional contaminants, such as nutrients and pathogens, using advanced processes like filtration, chemical treatment, and ultraviolet disinfection. These processes can significantly increase the energy requirements of the plant.

Factors Influencing Electricity Consumption

Several factors influence the amount of electricity a sewage treatment plant uses, including plant size, technology, treatment processes, and operational practices.

Plant Size and Capacity: Larger plants with higher treatment capacities typically consume more electricity. However, they might be more energy-efficient per unit of wastewater treated due to economies of scale.

Treatment Technology: Different treatment technologies have varying energy demands. For example, membrane bioreactors (MBRs) and advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) are more energy-intensive compared to traditional activated sludge systems.

Operational Practices: Efficient operational practices, such as regular maintenance of equipment, optimization of aeration processes, and energy recovery systems, can significantly reduce electricity consumption.

Influent Characteristics: The quality and composition of incoming sewage affect the energy required for treatment. Higher loads of organic matter or pollutants require more intensive treatment processes, thus increasing energy use.

Regulatory Requirements: Stricter effluent quality standards may necessitate additional treatment stages and processes, leading to higher energy consumption.

Typical Electricity Consumption

The electricity consumption of domestic sewage treatment plants varies widely based on the aforementioned factors. On average, the energy consumption ranges from 0.2 to 0.6 kWh per cubic meter of wastewater treated. However, advanced treatment plants with stringent effluent standards can consume up to 1.5 kWh per cubic meter.

Activated Sludge Plants: These are the most common type of sewage treatment plants, consuming between 0.3 to 0.6 kWh/m³. The primary energy draw comes from aeration systems, which are essential for maintaining the biological activity required for organic matter degradation.

Membrane Bioreactors (MBRs): MBRs provide high-quality effluent but are more energy-intensive, with consumption ranging from 0.8 to 1.2 kWh/m³. The additional energy is due to the need for maintaining membrane integrity and preventing fouling.

Aerated Lagoons: These systems are less energy-intensive, consuming about 0.2 to 0.4 kWh/m³. However, they require large land areas and are less effective in achieving high effluent quality.

Anaerobic Treatment: Anaerobic systems, such as anaerobic digesters, are energy-efficient, consuming around 0.1 to 0.2 kWh/m³. They also produce biogas, which can be used to generate electricity, offsetting part of the energy consumption.

Energy Efficiency Measures

Improving the energy efficiency of sewage treatment plants is critical for reducing operational costs and environmental impacts. Several measures can be implemented to enhance energy efficiency:

Optimizing Aeration: Since aeration is a major energy consumer, optimizing aeration systems through the use of variable frequency drives (VFDs), fine bubble diffusers, and automated control systems can significantly reduce electricity usage.

Energy Recovery: Implementing energy recovery systems, such as combined heat and power (CHP) units using biogas produced from anaerobic digestion, can offset electricity consumption and provide heating for the plant.

Advanced Monitoring and Control: Utilizing advanced monitoring and control systems to optimize process parameters and equipment operation can lead to substantial energy savings.

Efficient Pumping Systems: Upgrading to energy-efficient pumps and implementing demand-driven pumping strategies can reduce the energy required for moving wastewater through the treatment process.

Renewable Energy Integration: Integrating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, can provide a sustainable energy supply for sewage treatment plants.

Regular Maintenance: Ensuring regular maintenance of equipment to prevent inefficiencies and breakdowns can maintain optimal energy usage.

Case Studies and Examples

Denmark’s Aarhus Water: Aarhus Water’s Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant is a leading example of energy efficiency, producing 150% of its energy needs through biogas production and solar power. This surplus energy is fed back into the grid, showcasing the potential for sewage treatment plants to become net energy producers.

United States’ East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD): EBMUD in California has implemented advanced anaerobic digestion and energy recovery systems, achieving energy self-sufficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Germany’s Emscher River Project: This project incorporates state-of-the-art energy-efficient technologies and processes, resulting in a 20% reduction in energy consumption compared to traditional plants, while meeting stringent effluent quality standards.

Future Trends

The future of domestic sewage treatment is geared towards greater energy efficiency and sustainability. Innovations such as the development of low-energy treatment technologies, increased use of artificial intelligence for process optimization, and broader adoption of renewable energy sources will play a crucial role in reducing the electricity consumption of sewage treatment plants.

Moreover, there is a growing trend towards resource recovery from wastewater, including nutrients, water, and energy, transforming sewage treatment plants into resource recovery facilities. This paradigm shift not only improves energy efficiency but also contributes to the circular economy.

See Also   Harnessing Algae in Sewage Treatment


Electricity consumption is a significant aspect of the operation of domestic sewage treatment plants. By understanding the factors that influence energy use and implementing energy-efficient practices and technologies, these plants can reduce their electricity consumption, lower operational costs, and minimize their environmental footprint. As the demand for sustainable wastewater management grows, the focus on energy efficiency and resource recovery will continue to drive innovation and improvement in the sector.


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