NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Bill Gates says a new plant that can turn human feces into electricity and clean drinking water can save a huge number of lives.
The plant, called the Omniprocessor, was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy and backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The facility would try to prevent diseases caused by contaminated water supplies.
A test plant is up and working at Janicki’s headquarters north of Seattle, according to a blog post by Gates. The first operational plant is planned for Senegal.
“The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity. If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry,” Gates said.
Included is a video of him drinking a glass of the water produced by the plant, which he describes as “delicious” and “as good as any I’ve had out of the bottle.”
“Having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe,” Gates said.
The feces is heated to 1000 degrees Celsius, or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit to draw off the water, which is then further treated to make sure it is safe. But the dried out feces can then be burned, producing enough heat to generate electricity needed to extract the water. Excess electricity can be sold to outside users, as can the water.
Gates says diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is making an effort to improve sanitation in the developing world.
“Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply,” Gates said.