Widmer's BEST practice: Fuel cells for wastewater cleaning

Waste2Watergy's Hong Liu wants to help Widmer Bros. and other brewers reduce their wastewater treatment costs.

Waste2Watergy's Hong Liu wants to help Widmer Bros. and other brewers reduce their wastewater treatment costs.

A Corvallis start-up has landed money to help develop technology that will help Widmer Bros. simultaneously clean its wastewater, generate electricity and reduce the amount of water it sends to the city for treatment.

The startup, Waste2Watergy wants to test a microbial fuel cell with the brewers because the industry yields abundant wastewater that's expensive to treat.

Widmer and other brewers pay high wastewater treatment costs.

To that end, Waste2Watergy collected $150,000 from the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center, or Oregon BEST.

“We chose to partner with Widmer because they are very engaged in sustainability efforts, their wastewater has an ideal mix of organic materials for our technology, and they use a lot of water,” said Hong Liu, a professor in Oregon State University's biological and ecological engineering department and a Waste2Watergy co-founder. “Ultimately, we want to be able to reuse the treated water after it flows through the fuel cell instead of sending it to the city for treatment.”

Widmer is part of the Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (NASDAQ: BREW).

The science behind the concept is complicated, but essentially, the microbes generate electricity that helps decompose organic matter in the wastewater.

Julia Person, Widmer's sustainability coordinator, pointed out that beermakers use water usage ratios, which gauge how much water is needed to make a gallon of beer, to measure their efficiency.

"If this technology can help us reduce our water usage ratio by cleaning our wastewater so we can reuse it, and in the process generate some electricity, it will be a real win," she said.

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