Harnessing Wastewater for Renewable Energy (2013-2)

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Nov 15, 2013
Aaron Adalja, University of Maryland, and Chalida U-tapao, University of Maryland

This case study explores the options for using wastewater to produce renewable energy in the context of a public wastewater treatment plant. It provides an opportunity for students to synthesize knowledge from resource economics, engineering, environmental science, agriculture, and public policy to develop a transdisciplinary approach to a socio-environmental issue. The case is designed for upper division undergraduate courses in resource economics or environmental engineering, but several modifications are provided graduate course applications. Students assume the role of a newly hired analyst at a consulting firm in Washington, DC, that specializes in renewable energy solutions. They are charged with proposing a system that uses wastewater to produce energy, while accounting for multiple constraints across disciplines. Students are provided with economic, political, environmental, and engineering data on four different solid waste disposal options and work in small groups to develop a proposed solution that balances these factors. They present and justify their suggested solutions in small-group presentations, and the case concludes with an instructor-led discussion of the relevant considerations.

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