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Water Treatment

From Waste to Win

Waste to energy conversion

How 3 startups are redefining wastewater management.

Burgeoning disruptors flush with new capital, these three startups stand to turn waste into windfalls for customers (and the planet). See how they're flipping traditional wastewater management on its head - and doing it for less.

Axine Water Technologies: A promising Canadian upstart, Axine provides a one-step process to efficiently treat industrial wastewater – often high in toxic inorganics and ammonia - allowing it to be safely recycled. Unlike conventional water treatment methods, Axine's hyper-efficient processing doesn't require supporting electrolytes and won't experience fouling. Impressed? You're not alone. Axine continues to bolster investment and just completed a capital raise of $5.6 million CAD ($5.1 million USD) from The Roda Group, Chrsaliz Energy Ventures, and BDC Venture Capital.

Gradek Energy: Fellow Canadian startup, Gradek Energy feeds another niche with a unique approach to processing wastewater from oil sands production. Gradek’s core technology, Re-usable Hydrocarbon Sorbent (RHS)](, uses penny-sized beads that attract hydrocarbons like a magnet, while simultaneously repelling water. In turn, allowing the RHS to recover oil from polluted steams and rivers, leaving clean fresh water behind. A promising new technology, Gradek Energy announced plans to open its first commercial demo plant as early as June 2015.

Cambrian Innovation: Last but not least is Cambrian Innovation. Initially fueled by a NASA grant, the startup was officially founded in 2006 by an MIT brain trust looking to cut energy usage during wastewater treatment. Cambrian Innovation’s flagship product, EcoVolt, uses ‘electromethanogenesis’ to create a significant amount of energy to offset the initial energy spent. Offering a scalable, cost-effective solution the company claims will provide customers with full return on their investments in five short years.

By Remi Dalton

The Wave of the Future May Be Down Under

Wave Energy

How Australia’s revolutionary wave technology could produce power and fresh water with zero emissions.

The ocean has long been one of our closest allies. It’s allowed us to discover new lands, feed entire communities, and cool off in the summer heat. But it’s only very recently that the ocean, in all its vastness, has finally become an efficient and reliable source of renewable energy.

Researchers at Carnegie Wave Energy Limited in Western Australia have just redrawn the boundaries of wave energy technology by creating a system to generate efficient electricity and produce fresh drinking water through reverse osmosis.

The technology, named CETO (after the Greek goddess of sea monsters), is powered by a system of buoys anchored to the ocean floor. As waves roll in, the buoys move up and down, pumping high-pressure water to shore. This piston-like pumping action shoots water into hydroelectric turbines and creates electricity.

Unlike previous wave energy systems, CETO’s buoys are fully submerged. The buoys aren’t visible from shore, stemming complaints about the technology marring beautiful costal views. In addition to aesthetics, CETO’s full submersion provides another benefit: safety. By operating under the surface, CETO’s buoys are protected from the elements, allowing them to withstand harsh conditions that may be present during storms, and remain out of the way of watercraft.

Where CETO shines brighter than other, however, is in its ability to produce fresh water in addition to electricity. The hydraulic system that generates energy can also produce fresh water more efficiently and cost-effectively than any other wave energy device.

Previous wave energy systems rely on outside electricity to power pumps that draw in huge amounts of seawater for the desalination process. CETO takes out the middleman. The electricity that would have been required to pump water is removed from the equation, and CETO’s buoys pump high-pressure water directly to shore. This cuts greenhouse gas emissions from the process entirely, and reduces operating and capital costs.

The key distinguishing factor with CETO’s process is a way to potentially generate electricity and water with zero emissions. Two valuable outputs with one streamlined system.

CETO units have been deployed off the coast of Western Australia, but have yet to produce scalable results with respect to MW energy production and desalination. A second stage of the project is set to connect their buoys to the grid in early 2014. We’ll be revisiting this topic later in the year to see if wave energy technologies like CETO can deliver on their promises when put to the test.

Produced By: Patrick French

Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer. Everyone already knows that if we drink enough, we’ll eventually solve all the world’s problems. Now Sierra Nevada is proving it.

The North California brewery—6th largest in the US—produces beer so sustainable you can feel the planet healing with every sip.

They’ve halved water use, slashed transport greenhouse emissions and now generate more than 60% of their electricity onsite, from clean and renewable sources. All while delivering one of the most competitively priced craft beers on the market.

Here’s how they do it.

It’s hard to imagine when swigging a lazy summer beer in your hammock, but that beverage in your hand is energy intensive. Every drop has spent its entire life under some sort of temperature control—from steeping and boiling, through 60°F fermentation and into a refrigerated supply chain.

Sierra Nevada takes the heat off the planet with a two-pronged approach to sustainable energy that starts with efficiency. When done boiling a brew, for example, they don’t just cool the kettle with any old water. They use H2O that’s destined for the next batch. Doing so pre-warms the water, so it requires less energy to boil the next brew.

State of the art refrigerator seals and locks ensure cooling is equally efficient while large windows naturally light the workshop. Sensors switch on supplementary artificial lighting only when needed.

Even with these efficiencies in place, however, brewing still chews through a lot of energy. That’s why Sierra Nevada started generating their own onsite, using natural gas-powered hydrogen fuel cells and solar.

At almost 11,000 panels, theirs is one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the US, and literally no panel is left unturned to max out the available power. Tracking technology follows the arc of the sun through the sky and rotates some of the panels to face it, producing up to 30% more energy than if they were static.

Sierra Nevada also installed 2 miles of rail lines to connect their operations with the national network. The link not only cuts back on greenhouse-intensive road transport (rail is 50% cleaner than truck travel) but it significantly lowers their annual logistics bill.

Finally, and perhaps most ingeniously, the brewery derives energy from waste streams by using microbes to break down unwanted organic by-products. The process produces clean-burning methane, which is used to fuel boilers.

A typical craft brewery uses between seven and eight pints of water to put one pint of beer on the bar. Sierra Nevada does it with less than five.

After filtering yeast residues and unwanted proteins out of the brew, they allow the sludge to settle out in ponds. By adding microbes to the remaining water, they’re able to break down finer organic fragments and send it back to the city in good shape for further cleaning.

Sierra Nevada has also refined dry bottle- and kettle-cleaning technologies to meet rigid hygiene demands with minimal H2O. And by using brewing water for heat exchange, they not only save energy but water as well.

Hop for the best
There are many reasons to like beer. Many indeed. Sierra Nevada’s just given us another, with a sustainable brew that makes you want to send a late night text saying: “I love you, planet.”

In the process, they’ve proven sustainable manufacturing is not just viable, but profitable. The brewery says its practices are set to yield considerable operational savings over the coming years, rewarding them for an innovative approach to environment and business.

Produced by: Murad Sabzali

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