A Stanford University analysis could help policymakers across the U.S. spend billions of dollars in new federal infrastructure funding more wisely. The study, published March 31 in Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, presents a first-of-its-kind framework to design the most efficient building mix for an urban district along with systems that supply wastewater treatment, cooling, heating and electricity. The approach optimizes hourly demand and supply of power and water with integrated neighborhood-based power and water plants, significantly reducing costs and pollution compared to traditional systems that serve larger areas. This, in turn, could lead to more walkable, livable and affordable cities.
Using advanced technologies, integrated power and water plants can be relatively compact – about the size of two or three low-rise buildings – highly efficient and capable of recycling wastewater into potable water. They emit no odors, can run on renewable power sources, such as solar energy, and emit low or no emissions. Each plant can serve between 100 and 1,000 buildings, depending on the buildings’ sizes and resident populations. More than 4,000 integrated power and water systems already exist in the U.S., China and other countries, especially Europe and Canada. Private corporations and universities, such as Stanford, have seen significant energy efficiency gains after adopting some form of the approach.