Renewable energy program gains steam in Ridgewood

October 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

So ground-breaking is the renewable energy plant at Ridgewood’s water treatment facility that the success of the environmental endeavor is creating a global buzz.

Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser (left) explains a renewable energy program during a tour of Ridgewood's water treatment facility.

Municipal officials and other dignitaries recently commemorated the project’s completion and ongoing energy production with a celebration that included a tour of the inner workings at the state-of-the-art operation center.

In the limelight are the village’s biogas system and its generator, which optimizes the water treatment process and converts gas produced by waste into useable electricity. That electricity is then utilized to power the entire complex, which is the village’s greatest energy consumer. The particular practice was described by officials as an innovative process, one that is only beginning to gain steam in the country, let alone in the world.

The new biogas-fueled power generator is one of the crown jewels of Ridgewood Green, a public-private partnership that formed in December 2011 and merged the ideas of village officials with the capital and resources of Natural Systems Utilities (NSU), Middlesex Water Company (MWC) and American Refining and Biochemical. Ridgewood Green also installed solar energy panels at the facility, as well as at Village Hall, Ridgewood Fire Department headquarters and the EMS building.

The electricity, which is owned by NSU, is purchased by Ridgewood at rates generally lower than those charged by other providers. NSU and MWC provided the lion’s share of up-front financial support, approximately $4 million, for the project, while village employees run the site.

Bob Gillow, facility supervisor, suggested that Ridgewood’s initial savings from the biogas system might approach $40,000, though the dollars are likely to increase in future years as the costs and demands for power rise.

“This is an exciting moment for Ridgewood,” said Mayor Paul Aronsohn, further describing the system as a win-win situation. “It’s great to save tax dollars.”

The mayor and Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, who were both present at the ceremony, publicly praised municipal engineer Chris Rutishauser for his work on the project.

“I want to express our pride in this achievement, spearheaded by Village Engineer and REAC member Christopher Rutishauser,” said Walsh, who is also a REAC (Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Commission) member. “REAC is charged with long-range planning with respect to environmental concerns, and this project embodies that spirit: a renewable energy source with cutting-edge technology that will be a model for municipalities throughout New Jersey. Chris’ dedication to our village and keen outlook on environmental concerns enables our village to realize substantial benefits.”

The science behind the system is technical but relatively easy to grasp when explained by officials at Ridgewood’s Water Pollution Treatment complex, located on Prospect Street in Glen Rock. According to Rutishauser, who with Gillow was one of the official hosts of last week’s program, the treatment of waste water yields methane gas that is then consumed rather than expended into the environment.

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