Two serial water technology entrepreneurs from Israel, Eytan Levy and Ronen Shechter, who also founded Israel’s AqWise, have come up with another way to put bacteria in wastewater to work for us. Their electrogenic bioreactor generates electricity directly during the process of treating wastewater.
Emefcy uses naturally occurring bacteria in an electrogenic bioreactor to treat wastewater. The organic material in the waste produces power and treated water.
Although exactly how it occurs is a little mysterious, Emefcy claims that the process is not the usual methane harvesting technique. Rather than using conventional energy-intensive aerobic processes or methane-producing anaerobic digestion to treat wastewater, Emefcy claims that they can harvest renewable energy directly from the wastewater.
Because wastewater treatment is itself an energy sink, consuming an estimated 2% of energy worldwide, this breakthrough is significant. Instead of guzzling power, Emefcy can feed power to the grid, creating an energy-positive wastewater treatment plant, transforming wastewater treatment from an energy-intensive, cost-intensive and carbon-intensive process, into an energy-generating and carbon-reducing process.
The primary initial applications would be for wastewater treatment in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, with total market potential of US$10 billion annually. Emefcy’s simple modular equipment can be used “out of the box”.
The investment comes from a consortium of VC groups, that indicates the degree to which this innovation is taken seriously. Part comes from Pond Venture Partners, Plan B Ventures and Israel Cleantech Ventures, all VC groups that are already developing cutting edge technologies in Israel, which is fast becoming the Silicon Valley of clean tech water innovation.
In this round of funding the group was joined by Energy Technology Ventures, a joint venture put together between GE (NYSE: GE), NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) in order to develop next-generation energy technologies.
Energy Technology Ventures is not a purely clean tech fund, because it does invest in nuclear, oil, coal and natural gas as well. But it aims to promote venture-and growth-stage energy technology companies in the renewable power generation, smart grid, energy efficiency, emission controls, water and biofuels sectors as well, focusing mainly in Europe, Israel and the US.
The group takes an agnostic approach to energy investment. So this investment is perhaps an indication that the time has come for alternative energy innovations like Emefcy’s to be considered as just another form of energy.
With Peak Oil looming, smart energy companies are looking for more energy, of every kind. Even energy made by bugs.