Cheri Cousens, EVN ’98, has created an initiative to turn the tide in environmental energy.

The executive director of the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (GLSD), Cousens spearheaded the Organics-to-Energy Project, which called for the circa-1977 GLSD water treatment plant to produce enough power to meet its own electrical needs and become a net-zero or possibly net-positive energy user.

The initiative was successfully completed with the implementation of a renewable fuel produced on-site
and the potential to offset a nearly $3 million annual energy bill. The group added a fourth anaerobic digester, underground food acceptance tanks with associated pumps, a gas-cleaning process to produce pipeline-quality gas for fuel and two, 1.6-megawatt cogeneration engines to reduce emissions.

“The Organics-to-Energy capability also includes the ability for black start and islanding, which means if the electrical grid has a blackout, GLSD can disconnect from the grid and restart its engines to provide virtually uninterrupted operation of its treatment facility,” Cousens says.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has estimated that the project will reduce GLSD’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, which is equivalent to taking more than 1,000 cars off the road and fuel savings equivalent to filling 70,000 cars every year.

Cousens notes that the achievement was a team effort.

“[Thank you to] public officials of Lawrence, Methuen, North Andover, Andover, Dracut and Salem, New Hampshire for their continued support of this project,” Cousens said. “[I’d also like to] acknowledge the participation of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Department of Energy Resources, National Grid and the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, each of which provided partial funding to see the project through.”

— John Franklin