From Poop to Power

Generating electricity through sewage and food waste has been found throughout the years to reap great benefits for local communities not only economically but also through the many environmental rewards.

According to a recent article published by NPR, if you piled up all of the food not eaten over the course of a year in the U.S., it would be enough to fill a skyscraper in Chicago about 44 times - waste that could otherwise be utilized and converted into a renewable energy such as electricity.

Naturally, with the large amount of waste to combat and the environmental benefits it provides, the conversion of waste into electricity isn’t a very radical concept for our client at the Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC). In fact, striving for a more sustainable future is a key goal for the facility – positioning Balfour Beatty as an ideal building partner.

An internal joint venture between Balfour Beatty’s Buildings and Civils teams, construction began on SNRC in late December 2018. As a progressive design-build project, teams have been collaborating with each other and the District throughout the design and construction of the project. The teams have worked alongside each other as well as Arcadia U.S. Inc. and Ruhnau Clarke Architects to design the SNRC facility with emphasis on efficiency, economics, reliability and sustainability, while also allowing for flexibility to upgrade the facility as future needs may evolve. 

“Early on we established a ‘Team Sterling’ approach to SNRC,” says Layne Arthur, director for Balfour Beatty in southern California. “We encouraged our partners and stakeholders involved in the project to champion ‘Team Sterling’ and embody a focus on teamwork, respect, flexibility and technical excellence. Through this, we are building an impactful project for all stakeholders that further enhances the quality of life for the surrounding community and environment.”

The new, state-of-the-art facility for the East Valley Water District in Highland, Calif. serves as part of a larger effort to bring independence to the San Bernardino area. Enhancing the region’s water supply, it will also provide the opportunity for the district to self-manage its wastewater and ground water recharge source. SNRC will be capable of treating up to 10 million gallons a day (MGD) while recharging the local Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin.

So, how exactly can waste turn into electricity? 

By using an advanced co-digestion process, the SNRC will give a new purpose to the waste collected by local solid waste companies. These digesters will take and combine high-grade waste with material left behind during the treatment of wastewater to produce three megawatts of electricity - the equivalent amount needed to power about 1,950 homes in the San Bernardino area. This enhancement required a $32.6 million investment from the district to purchase the necessary apparatus, increasing the original project value from $150 to $182.6 million.

The benefits will surely be seen by the local community. Once complete, the incorporated technology will further support the SNRC’s vision of sustainability and responsible use of resources. The technology will also ensure the facility reduces its carbon footprint while meeting the local water agencies’ needs and environmental commitments creating a new water supply for the community. As an extended bonus for the community, the facility will also create new opportunities for the surrounding area in the form of education and training, community space, neighborhood improvements and new habitat for the Santa Ana Sucker fish.

With deep roots in sustainable construction, Balfour Beatty is committed to environmental preservation and the essential infrastructure work we are honored to perform from coast-to-coast. 

The Sterling Natural Resource Center is expected to complete by the end of 2021.