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Using beer waste to produce green power

Not exactly a dry run.


Portland’s Widmer Brothers Brewing is partnering with a Corvallis startup company, Waste2Watergy, that is working on a fuel cell that could simultaneously clean the brewery’s wastewater, reduce the amount of water it sends to the city sewage treatment plant and generate renewable energy.

Waste2Watergy, created by a pair of Oregon State University researchers, recently won a grant from the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to help commercialize its invention.

The patented technology uses electrodes impregnated with a proprietary combination of microbes that generate electricity when consuming organic matter suspended in wastewater.

"In the brewing industry, one of the main measuring sticks is the water usage ratio, or how much water is needed to make a gallon of beer,” says Julia Person, Widmer’s sustainability coordinator. “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."

Widmer’s Portland plant consumes about 4 million gallons of water a month.

Widmer makes a good partner because of its interest in sustainability, uses a lot of water, and its wastewater has an “ideal mix of organic materials for technology,” says

Hong Liu, a professor in OSU’s Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, who cofounded Waste2Watergy with department researcher Yanzhen Fan. "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."

The $150,000 Oregon BEST grant will allow Waste2Watergy to install a small-scale fuel cell at Widmer’s Portland brewery, which is expected to treat about 1,000 gallons a day while generating electricity.

Oregon BEST is a state-supported collaboration among academics and researchers designed to promote clean technology breakthroughs.