New research from the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia shows that using microbial fuel cell technology can convert winery wastewater into electricity.
Winery wastewater management is an energy intensive process which makes it unaffordable for many small-scale producers. Global wine consumption is expected to grow to more than 30 billion litres by 2020. With this novel treatment approach, researchers in the Biological Solutions Laboratory at the Okanagan campus of UBC have found a way to turn winery wastewater into power.
Engineering Professor, Deborah Roberts, explains that by “using microbial fuel cell technology, that converts energy from organic waste into electrical energy, wastewater that was once a hindrance for winemakers is now an advantage to their wine making process.”
As the science of winemaking continue to grow, winemakers continue to take more care in how they create their wines. Using sustainable practises or being a “green” winery can be an advantage with today’s consumers. One aspect of the treatment of winery wastewater is the pH of the wastewater. Winery wastewater is typically acidic. Typical biological systems are run under neutral pH conditions. “We found that if we could stabilize the pH levels of winery wastewater to pH 5.5 to 6.5 using buffers, the power output from the generation process was higher and more stable” says graduate student Taylor Liu. Being able to treat the wastewater at a lower pH will save money on the addition of caustic to raise the pH.
Liu will present the group’s current findings in November at the 8th IWA Specialized Conference on Sustainable Viticulture, Winery Wastes & Agri-industrial Wastewater Management in Viña del Mar, Chile. The international conference hosts winemakers and researchers in the area of sustainable viticulture and covers topics such as winery wastewater characterization, winery waste management and wastewater quality improvements.