Wastewater as a source of nutrients

Jan 18, 2011

China faces massive wastewater problems. At the same time it has set itself the task of investing more in the market for renewable energies. Together with Alensys AG and Hydro-Air GmbH, ttz Bremerhaven is developing a system within the BIOWARE project which mixes municipal wastewater with groundwater. In this way an innovative irrigation method is being introduced into energy wood plantations.

The development of a cost-efficient, water-saving and sustainable irrigation system for plant wastewater facilities is one of the objectives of BIOWARE, a project co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics. Above all in rural areas of China, wastewater treatment systems are either inadequate or non-existent. A nutrient solution produced by means of biological wastewater recycling and comprising wastewater and groundwater could be the answer to this problem and at the same time facilitate the efficient irrigation of energy wood plantations. Through the new irrigation method, not only are water and money saved, but also the use of conventional fertilizers reduced by means of the controlled application of nutrients from the wastewater.

This also contributes to intensifying technology transfer between German and Chinese enterprises. Further co-operative German-Chinese projects in the area of renewable energies might follow later, for example in conjunction with the processing of the energy wood.

With the help of the irrigation system, water quality can be controlled and its supply regulated. This takes place online so that the plant can be operated without any time delay and from any location via the Internet. The prototype developed in BIOWARE for technical implementation comprises three modules: an irrigation module, a control module and a monitoring module. In the monitoring module, sensors record soil parameters such as moisture, for example. The sensors transmit their measurements to the control module which determines the energy plantation’s nutrient requirements and communicates the exact mixing ratio to the irrigation module. In the irrigation module, a nutrient solution is produced from municipal wastewater and groundwater which rains on the energy plantation with the aid of drip irrigation. Above all in dry regions, this irrigation method leads to a greater biomass yield. At the same time, less groundwater is used and there are considerable cost savings in wastewater treatment in small municipal sewage plants as a result.

As yet, the Chinese bioenergy market for electricity, heat and fuels is still underdeveloped. Through the new monitoring and control system, ttz Bremerhaven and its partners are making a valuable contribution to boosting regenerative energies. BIOWARE aims to support China’s target of generating at least 16% of its total energy capacity through renewable energies by 2020.

BIOWARE, a project co-ordinated by research service provider ttz Bremerhaven, started in October 2009 with an overall budget of some 592.000 Euro. The plan is to install the prototype of the wastewater recycling system in the spring of 2011 in Yangjiteng, a small town near Chengdu with about 20.000 inhabitants. Following a successful test phase, the system can be marketed and established as an overall bioenergy wastewater concept in other regions of China and in this way bioenergy regions created (similar to the German bioenergy regions under www.bioenergie-regionen.de).

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