Energy Technology Ventures—a joint venture among GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips—is making its first non-US and first water-related investment by providing capital to Emefcy Ltd, an Israeli company that uses naturally occurring bacteria in an electrogenic bioreactor (microbial fuel cell, MFC) to treat wastewater.
|Concept of a microbial fuel cell. Source: Emefcy. Click to enlarge.|
Like any fuel cell, a MFC has an anode chamber and a cathode chamber. The anaerobic anode chamber is most commonly connected internally to the cathode chamber by an ion exchange membrane, and the circuit is completed by an external wire. Microbial fuel cells may use wastewater as a fuel, or more generally a dilute solution of a variety of organic materials in water.
The organic material in the waste produces power and treated water, transforming wastewater treatment from an energy-intensive, cost-intensive and carbon-intensive process, into an energy-generating and carbon-reducing process.
Emefcy’s MEGAWATTER system is based on microbial fuel cell technology and enables direct electricity generation or hydrogen production from wastewater as means for wastewater treatment. The unique components include: anode electrodes,cathode electrodes, mixing hydraulic components and a power control unit. MEGAWATTER systems are composed of multiple small modules, each module comprising a set of anodes, membranes, cathodes, electricity connections and air connections.
MEGAWATTER systems are applicable for a broad range of applications and conditions, including: high salinity, high sulfate concentration, etc., for which anaerobic processes are not suitable. The systems can be installed in existing plants by dropping in the modules.
Conventional wastewater treatment uses 2% of global power capacity (80,000 megawatts and 57,000,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide), costing $40 billion per year. Rather than using conventional energy-intensive aerobic processes or methane-producing anaerobic digestion to treat wastewater, Emefcy harvests renewable energy directly from the wastewater and feeds it to the power grid, enabling the energy-positive wastewater treatment plant.
The primary initial applications are for wastewater treatment in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, with total market potential of US$10 billion annually.
Energy Technology Ventures was joined in the funding round for Emefcy by Pond Venture Partners, Plan B Ventures and Israel Cleantech Ventures. Financial details were not disclosed.
One of the partners in Energy Technology Ventures, GE, is active in wastewater treatment and is expanding its technology focus on Israel. GE this month opened its newest multi-disciplinary Research and Development Center, in Haifa. A dozen researchers will be hired to evaluate and work on clean energy, water and healthcare technology projects. The new Israel Technology Center will facilitate the introduction of advanced technologies to GE through partnerships with local technology companies and academia.
The GE investment was made through business unit GE Energy Financial Services, which has made one other investment in an Israeli technology company—SolarEdge, a provider of smart, holistic solar photovoltaic power harvesting and monitoring solutions for maximum energy and cost efficiency. SolarEdge is based in Hod Hasharon, Israel.