SOURCE: City of Riverside Public Utilities

April 19, 2007 10:30 ET

Riverside, Calif. Scores a Win for the Environment by Converting Restaurant Grease Into Renewable Energy

Representatives From 20 Cities and Public Utilities Across California Will Tour Riverside's Wastewater Treatment Plant Today -- Three Days in Advance of Earth Day -- to Learn How the City Is Converting Restaurant Grease Into a Renewable Energy Source and Will Save the City Millions of Dollars in Electricity and Waste Disposal Costs

RIVERSIDE, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 19, 2007 -- The fats and oils used in restaurant cooking have long been a nuisance for cities, which often struggle to keep these fatty deposits from clogging up their sewer lines.

And while most cities require restaurants to install and maintain grease wastewater interceptors, disposing of the grease has become increasingly costly as growing numbers of landfills have refused to accept the fatty solids.

But Riverside, Calif. has discovered a solution to the problem. Through a two-year pilot project, the city has learned that restaurant grease can easily be converted into a relatively clean source of renewable energy.

"This technology is a win-win for the environment," said David Wright, general manager of Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), the municipally owned and operated utility for the city of Riverside, located some 50 miles east of Los Angeles. "Instead of disposing of restaurant grease in landfills, we're proving its value as a renewable energy source."

Representatives from more than 20 California cities and public utilities today will get a firsthand look at what Riverside has achieved through its grease to power program, which RPU initially financed using public benefits funds. The plant, located on the northwest corner of Jurupa Avenue and Acorn Street, has been converting restaurant grease into electrical power for the past two years.

"As Earth Day approaches, we hope to showcase the benefits of using restaurant grease as a cogeneration fuel," said Regan S. Bailey, a wastewater resources analyst with Riverside's public works department who spearheaded the city's efforts to develop the grease to power project.

Riverside initially developed a cogeneration capability eight years ago to serve as a backup power source for the city's 33-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant. But while the solids taken from the wastewater treatment plant were initially used as a cogeneration fuel, the city started adding restaurant grease to the mix two years ago. The city has found restaurant grease to be a highly efficient cogeneration fuel.

In fact, Riverside plans to install a fuel cell this summer that will further enhance its power production capabilities using restaurant grease. Once the fuel cell installation is completed, the city should be able to produce up to 3 megawatts of power from restaurant grease.

"That's enough power to make the city's wastewater treatment plant energy independent," Bailey said. "It's also beneficial for the environment because a fuel cell powered by restaurant grease produces 95 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than a standard internal combustion engine. This could help us from a global warming standpoint as well."

Using restaurant grease as a power source will also enable the city to save more than $1 million a year in electricity and natural gas costs, he said.

Bailey added that while several cities across the country are now using restaurant grease as a cogeneration fuel to produce electrical power, Riverside has developed one of the most efficient grease to power production capabilities in the nation.

Today's wastewater treatment plant tour, which begins at 3 p.m., was organized in cooperation with the California Water Environment Association, which is holding its annual conference this week in Ontario. Riverside's wastewater treatment plant is one of several facilities conference attendees will be visiting on the eve of Earth Day, which falls on Sunday, April 22.

Established in 1895, Riverside Public Utilities is a consumer-owned water and electric utility that is governed by a Board of nine community volunteers. Riverside Public Utilities serves over 102,000 electric and 62,000 water customers within the City of Riverside. For more information about Riverside Public Utilities and its green energy programs, please contact Barbara Gallert at (951) 826-5598 or visit the utility's website at www.riversideca.gov/utilities/.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Barbara Gallert
    (951) 826-5598
    (909) 215-9627 (cell)
    Email Contact