A Revolutionary Project: Turning Waste to Energy


Here at ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kīlauea (AHK), we are constantly searching for innovative ways to effectively manage our infrastructure and in turn, the future of our community. 



MEC site on KCAC property

Throughout 2019, AHK has been working in conjunction with GELF Sciences and Wellspring Impact Group to create a Microbial Electrolytic Cell (MEC) that turns farm and solid waste into energy. This includes a Public Bathroom Wastewater system and Waste Substrate Receiving Station (WSRS). The Public Bathroom Wastewater system’s intent is to capture and store sewage wastewater to be fed to the MEC system while the Waste Substrate Receiving Station receives non-sewage substrates (meat, agriculture, distillery, etc.). The MEC system uses anaerobic electrogenic bacteria to consume organic waste in the anode to produce hydrogen gas at the cathode. There will be some organic matter left from the MEC system which will be used to facilitate a worm farm. The worms eat undigested organic material separated from the MEC system and create a soil amendment. These worms will be used to feed the farm. 



MEC System Diagram

This system is going to begin its journey at Arizona State University where Bruce Rittmann PhD and Cesar Torres PhD, with the collaboration of Z. Jason Ren PhD from Princeton University, will be working with his team to build the MEC system. Once it is built, the system will be moved to New Mexico, where Pei Xu PhD, lead scientist on the Algae Forward Osmosis-Reverse Osmosis (AFORO), will add her system to the MEC and spend time testing the system at their facilities at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGRNDRF). In addition, Sunny Jiang PhD will develop a real time monitoring system to analyze the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) content in the wastewater system and provide real time results. Once Dr. Xu, Dr. Jiang and their respective teams are confident with the MEC system’s performance, it will be moved to the Kīlauea Community Agriculture Center (KCAC) property, where AHK and GELF Sciences will be operating the pilot in a real application. Lastly, David Johnson and wife, Hui-Chun Su, will be assisting in developing the right composting bioreactor to process the residual organic matter. 



Related Links:


NMSU Environmental Engineers Examine New Method for Wastewater Treatment:

NMSU environmental engineers examine new method for wastewater treatment, reuse


NMSU, consortium partners awarded $100 million grant to tackle nation’s water challenges:


UCI to collaborate in Department of Energy hub addressing water security issues in US:

UCI to collaborate in Department of Energy hub addressing water security issues in U.S.


Harnessing sunlight to pull hydrogen from wastewater:



We are ecstatic to be working on solving fundamental infrastructure problems such as waste management and energy accessibility. CEO of AHK, Yoshito L’Hote, states, “our vision is to have a working model to demonstrate that the technology works to enhance our agriculture center. It is a step in the right direction to potentially address our energy needs and to develop responsible agricultural practices.”



BGNDRF Conference


From left to right, Zach Stoll, Brett Danson, Yoshito L’Hote, Pei Xu

In October 2019, Yoshito L’Hote, project partner, Brett Danson, and some of the scientists associated with the project traveled to New Mexico to attend The Bureau of Reclamation’s Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility’s (BGRNDRF) 2nd Annual Water Treatment Innovation Networking Workshop. This was the first face-to-face interaction with the team that will be bringing the MEC 2.0 to Kaua’i.


The group also went to visit a wastewater plant that processes 10 million gallons a day, where Dr. Pei Xu has a microalgae filtration system with a Reverse Osmosis-Forward Osmosis system to produce drinking water. From this visit, the group went on to New Mexico State University where they took a tour of Pei’s lab, the place in which all these systems were first developed. 


Next Steps


We are now scheduled with the universities, creating a partnership with a venture capitalist group, Wellspring Impact Group, for seed money, and have identified three grants that we are confident align with the scope of work. 


However, we are still looking for partners and if you are interested in an investment opportunity, please contact Darius Pelliser by filling out the contact form on Wellspring Impact Group. If you wish to make a scientific contribution, please contact Brett Danson by filling out the contact form on GELF Sciences. If you would like to financially support the creation of this exciting new project that will advance this technology for the benefit of Kaua’i and the world, make your philanthropic donation to AHK. 


For more information, or to find out how you can get involved, please email

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