A Port Coquitlam business is tapping into a tremendous amount of energy that's wasted, several times a day, with the flush of a toilet.
International Wastewater Systems Inc. is spreading its carbon-saving green technology using, of all things, the power of sewage, to projects throughout North America and around the world.
It all started when president and CEO Lynn Mueller began wondering whether there was a way to recover all that energy going down the drain; with a 30-year background in the heating and geothermal industries, it wasn't long before he'd hatched a plan.
"Upon investigation, what's really in the sewer system is 98% water and paper," Mueller said. "The byproduct of human existence is long gone before it hits the drain."
Mueller, who started out as a refrigeration journeyman before a 25-year stint in the geothermal heat pump industry, during which he founded two geothermal businesses, partnered with a plumber friend to hash out ideas for a prototype.
"We did a world sewage tour, which is not as exciting as it sounds… and found we could build a system that could do it," he said. "It's the ultimate renewable energy."
Mueller invented and patented the SHARC system (it's a modified acronym for sewage heat and recovery), essentially a filtration system that separates solids from the flow of sewage, pumps it through a specialized heat exchanger, and recovers the waste heat to warm up the clean water coming into the building.
The SHARC system has been installed at a handful of multi-unit residential buildings in Greater Vancouver; it was the key sustainability feature behind the LEED Platinum and Built Green Gold certifications at North Vancouver's Seven35 development of 60 townhomes, where it saves more than 75% on the production of hot water. And at the 172-unit condo development Sail at UBC, the SHARC system warms the radiant floor heating and operates at 80% efficiency.
On an industrial scale, SHARC is operating at Richmond's Gateway Municipal Theatre, the Sechelt water treatment plant and at Borders College in Scotland, where it's supplying about 95% of the heat requirements, as well as a wastewater treatment plant in New Jersey.
Mueller said the system is designed for large-scale buildings and multi-family developments but his company is working on smaller units for individual homes.