The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office’s (AMO’s) Water Resource Recovery Prize challenges multidisciplinary teams to present innovative solutions for resource recovery at small- to medium-sized water treatment facilities. To help lower the cost of treatment by extracting additional value from wastewater, the prize seeks to increase resource recovery from municipal wastewater treatment plants across the United States.
The Water Resource Recovery Prize is part of the Water Security Grand Challenge, which seeks to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure and affordable water. This multiphase competition challenges interdisciplinary teams to innovate cost effective, transformational water treatment technology system configurations and business plans that:
Accelerate the recovery of valuable resources
Lower the ultimate cost of small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities.
The DOE has launched the prize, inspiring teams that include small- to medium-sized water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) to compete for up to $1 million in cash prizes by developing ideas that provide potential wastewater treatment recovery strategies for wastewater treatment facilities.
The prize consists of two phases. Phase 1 challenges teams to submit two high-level facility engineering schematics, a business case demonstrating improvement relative to the existing baseline conditions, and a technical description validating the potential for cost-effectiveness and viability of the resource recovery plan. In Phase 2, selected teams from Phase 1 will be expected to provide a more detailed plan for financing and construction, supported by quantitative analysis and/or modeling.
The winners of Phase 1 will be announced in May 2020. The selected winners will progress to Phase 2, whose winners will be announced in June 2021.
UP TO $1 MILLION IN CASH PRIZES
This prize will distribute a total of up to $1 million of combined cash prizes. As many as 10 winners selected in Phase 1 will receive up to $50,000, while no more than two winners selected in Phase 2 will receive $250,000 in cash prizes.
The purpose of this prize is to encourage teams of wastewater treatment plants, engineering and design firms, technology developers, resource customers, and others to develop holistic resource recovery plans for their respective wastewater treatment systems.
The proposed solutions should represent innovations that could move the sector of small- and medium-sized WRRFs beyond their current technological status while addressing these challenges:
Financial stress on municipal budgets.WRRFs purchase about $2 billion of electricity each year and face more than $200 billion in future capital investment needs to meet water quality objectives.
Cost of disposal of residual biosolids. By turning recovery resources into marketable products, WRRFs can create new revenue streams for upgrading water treatment infrastructure, reducing nutrient pollution, and providing sources of alternative water supplies.
Increasing value of recoverable resources to offset the cost of recovery. Recoverable resources include energy that can be used on-site or sold, nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen that can be used as fertilizer, and clean water that can be reused for agricultural, industrial, and drinking water purposes.
Advancing system-level energy efficiency. Recovering energy from wastewater reduces the amount of grid electricity required to operate the wastewater treatment plant. Recovered water can also offer a substitute for water sources with a higher level of embedded energy for industrial, agricultural, and municipal use. Moreover, recovered nutrients can be less energy-intensive substitutes for fertilizer on agricultural land.
Please review theofficial rules for the complete application process and instructions for competing.
If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at .
We’re also looking for ideas on how to best structure this contest to attract groundbreaking ideas that will spark tomorrow’s resource recovery solutions. If you’re not interested in competing but want to help develop and judge the prize, please feel free to contact us.
Genifuel Not Waste: James Oyler, Aaron Fisher, and John L. Willis partnered with the City of Anacortes, Washington, Public Works Department, Wastewater Treatment Plant. Working with the wastewater treatment plant in Anacortes, Washington, the team proposed a concept that could recover more than 99% of the carbon in the plant’s wastewater and produce about three barrels of 100%-renewable biocrude per day. The biocrude could then be converted into renewable oil and natural gas and sold as fuel. Because waste disposal is expensive, this process could both offset disposal costs and earn the plant money.
SoMax BioEnergy: Dan Spracklin, Art Balzereit, Ross Lee, David Stoklosa, Ed Zalewski, and Jeremy Taylor partnered with the Borough of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Wastewater Treatment Plant. In Spring City, Pennsylvania, the team plans to help the wastewater treatment plant generate 100% of their energy needs on-site by using hydrothermal carbonization, a chemical process that mimics nature’s million-year-long method of creating brown coal and converts biomass (like local food waste) into renewable fuel in just a few hours. The plant, which will run entirely on this renewable power, may also share its excess energy with the city to offset other municipal energy needs.
We’d like to thank all the Phase 2 finalists for their time, effort, and impressive submissions.
It is our pleasure to announce that Phase 2 of the Water Resource Recovery Prize is now open! In Phase 2 of the prize, winners of Phase 1 will work to further their innovations to demonstrate how teams would finance and construct their resource recovery solutions. Although Phase 2 is only open to winners of Phase 1, we encourage all members of the community to stay engaged and follow the progress of Phase 2 over the course of the next 12 months.
On Monday, September 21, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Security Grand Challenge will host a webinar on the Wastewater Resource Recovery Prize (WRRP), including Phase I winners, competition goals, and how those goals support DOE’s WSGC. For more information and to register, go here. Please join us!
Just a friendly reminder that your submissions for Phase 1 are due tomorrow (May 28th) no later 5:00 p.m. ET. We strongly encourage that you upload your submissions well ahead of the deadline so that you don't have any last minute technical difficulties. If you run into any technical difficulties or have any questions, please email us at WaterResourcePrize@nrel.gov before 5pm ET.