Hidden energy harvested from Cities dog waste program could power over 4 years of EV commuting
Earlier this summer the City of Waterloo announced it will pilot a program which aims to clean city parks of dog droppings and use the waste to generate power. The idea, dubbed “poop power” by the city’s mayor, Dave Jaworsky, came from a local dog owner and construction worker who thought, ‘there must be a better way to do things’.
As it turns out, that ‘better way’ is a process more common in rural areas as a technique of making something useful from livestock manure. The process of harvesting waste is less common in urban areas and the pilot program run by American ground waste company Sutera, would be the first of it’s kind in the region.
The prospect of our four-legged friends foul becoming a new kind of commodity is intriguing. With dog waste accounting for an estimated 40% to 80% of the 115,000 Kilograms of trash collected by the municipality each year, it’s a big issue, and a big opportunity. The potential energy content of the waste is 175 kWh for each metric tonne harvested, as reported by a Sutera representative.
To put that unit of energy into perspective, the battery capacity on the top 10 most sold battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in Canada ranges from 16 kWh (Mitsubishi i- MiEV) up to 90 kWh (Tesla Model X 90D). This would indicate a potential for even the largest battery capacity electric cars could be charged from a single metric tonne of the biowaste.
Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) Battery Capacity and Combined Average Range
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The upside of ‘poo power’ hasn’t been lost on Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe who wants to use the ‘hidden energy’ to offset municipal energy use. If energy reclaimed from sewage treatment can be put to good use, perhaps the power from Waterloo’s dog dropping program could similarly be used in part for the growing Kitchener-Waterloo EV charging infrastructure.
Once in full operation and without accounting for normal energy loss in the processing and distribution of power, the city could potentially generate between 8 MWh to 16 MWh or energy a year. Based on rough calculations and assuming the average efficiency of the top 10 sold BEV in Canada is 17.7 kWh per 100 km (combined highway and city), EV owners who charge in the region could travel up to 91,000 all-electric kilometers from the power created from dog waste. Or between 2 to 4.5 years of commuting for the average driver. ‘Poop power’ might just be the most ‘alternative’ of sustainable energy sources yet.
The efficiency of the program is yet to be determined and is one of the reasons for conducting a pilot. The year-long trial of the receptacles will determine if they work as intended and promises a reimbursement if it doesn’t work out. If successful, the plan is to install more collection bins around the city.
Although the primary goal of the collection bins in Waterloo is not to provide power for charging electric vehicles, it and similar programs from around the world provide an opportunity to reflect on what we consider viable sources of power. As the requirement for sustainable sources of energy continues to grow, so will technology for harvesting so-called ‘hidden energy’. Sustainable sources of power may be much closer than we think.