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Berlin is Knorke: Sewage treatment plants become power stations

Berlin, 25. March 2024 – What actually happens to our wastewater? And how can it be used more sustainably? These are questions that Nina Heine and Dr. Fabian Habicht may also have asked themselves and in response they founded their start-up Shit2Power. The company specialises in sewage sludge and its sustainable recycling. More specifically: Energy and hydrogen are to be generated locally from the waste product. The cost factor sewage treatment plant could thus become a sustainable power plant for municipalities – this is the idea of the Berlin start-up team, for which they won the IDEE funding award in November 2023.

In Germany, almost 100 per cent of wastewater is treated – compared to only around 20 per cent worldwide. While wastewater treatment is required by law in Germany, the process is not economically viable for many other countries due to the high operating costs involved. However, untreated wastewater causes environmental damage in rivers and seas – but it actually offers great potential. Two good reasons to take a closer look at the resulting waste product, sewage sludge.

Treating wastewater requires an enormous amount of energy. However, this is contained in even greater quantities in the sewage sludge itself. A potential that Shit2Power wants to exploit. The company wants to use container systems to generate green hydrogen and renewable energy from the waste product. A special thermo-chemical process ensures that the wastewater becomes a sustainable resource – on site. The business model thus aims to promote both important sustainability projects adopted at federal level and the local production of energy and hydrogen. An innovative vision – which Shit2Power initially wants to implement with municipalities of up to 120,000 residents. Their advantage: significantly reduced electricity and disposal costs as well as more independence when it comes to energy generation.

Shit2Power was founded in February 2023. Founder Nina Heine came up with the idea after a conversation with a farmer. He told her how problematic it was to dispose of sewage sludge – partly because of the very long transport routes. After initial research, it turned out: sewage sludge is not only a waste product, but can also be an excellent source of energy. Together with co-founder Fabian Habicht, she drew up an energy and material balance sheet to turn the idea into a certainty: sewage sludge contains 1.3 to 3 times as much energy as the actual wastewater treatment process requires. The founding team constructed a test system and applied for a patent after the first successful test runs.

Shit2Power is now in the planning phase of a scalable prototype. This should be connected directly to sewage treatment plants. The aim: in around five years, the company would like to mass-produce the high-tech system and install it across Europe. Initially it is designed for municipalities with 30,000 residents. However, as it can be stacked and expanded, so municipalities with up to 120,000 inhabitants can also benefit from this energy innovation. In order to market its vision worldwide, the company would also like to develop so-called low-tech systems with simple handling and uncomplicated maintenance in the long term.

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