Tracy Renewable Energy plant at dusk.
Clean water
Clean power

Introducing the Innovative Tracy Renewable Energy (TRE) Process

Revolutionizing water recycling and the management of agricultural by-products, the Tracy Renewable Energy (TRE) process stands as a trailblazing solution. With its cutting-edge SteamBoy Distillation process, TRE boasts the capacity to effectively process a staggering 400,000 gallons of water daily.

Collaborating closely with the City of Tracy, TRE has established a groundbreaking facility dedicated to treating a substantial portion of the city’s pre-treated water. This pivotal partnership focuses on removing harmful salts from the water before its safe discharge into the environment. The result? TRE delivers ultra-pure water, a key resource utilized at the Tracy Wastewater Treatment Plant to responsibly dilute its discharge.

Furthermore, TRE’s scope extends to processing industrial process water transported by trucks, now rendering it usable within the local ecosystem. This transformative approach not only diminishes truck traffic and pollution but also generates pristine, reusable water within the community.

TRE’s commitment to sustainable practices and fostering local water reuse is a testament to its innovative solutions and dedication to environmental responsibility.

Filthy water before and clean distilled water after being run through a SteamBoy.
Steam tube dryer room with large mounds of dehydrated agricultural product covering the warehouse floor.

TRE: Pioneering Sustainable Energy from Local Biomass

At the heart of the innovative TRE process lies an environmentally conscious approach powered by waste biomass. Operating from its plant in Tracy, TRE harnesses the energy from an unconventional yet abundantly available source: walnut shells.

These walnut shells, considered a waste stream by local shellers, find new purpose within TRE’s highly efficient combustor. Here, they play a crucial role, generating the essential heat required to evaporate contaminated water. Notably, TRE’s solid fuel burner ranks among the nation’s cleanest biomass burners, with its CO2 emissions sourced directly from last year’s atmospheric CO2 absorbed to create walnut shells. This establishes the TRE system as a net CO2 neutral process, embodying a commitment to environmental sustainability.

TRE’s innovative utilization of steam is noteworthy. High-temperature steam drives the SteamBoy system, effectively boiling contaminated water. Subsequently, solids separated from the water are directed to the TRE Ecopod for drying into solids, either for removal or further processing.

The resulting purified steam finds purpose in a large steam tube drier, where TRE efficiently dries various agricultural products like sweet potatoes, pumpkins, grape pumice, tomato pumice, and potatoes. This process yields a high-quality, clean base ideal for various types of premium pet food, showcasing TRE’s commitment to resource maximization and product diversification.

The integration of waste biomass, cutting-edge technology, and sustainable practices positions TRE as an industry leader in renewable energy and resource management.

TRE’s Innovations: Turning Local Biomass into Clean Power and Sustainable Solutions

At the heart of TRE’s cutting-edge facility in Tracy, California lies an 8 MW biomass-powered electric plant, a pivotal component driving innovation in sustainable energy. Fueled by walnut shells, an abundant agricultural waste product from local walnut shellers, this facility boasts a large boiler that efficiently combusts walnut shells to generate steam, powering a turbine generator set.

The electricity generated serves multiple purposes: 3 MW is seamlessly integrated into the local grid managed by Pacific Gas and Electric, contributing to the community’s energy needs. Approximately 1 MW powers both the electric plant and the desalination plant, while the surplus energy charges 20 electric semi-trucks operating across the Central Valley. This local approach not only alleviates strain on regional transmission lines but also significantly enhances local air quality by replacing diesel-powered trucks with electric ones, all charged using renewable energy.

Furthermore, in a groundbreaking partnership with Cummins, TRE is spearheading the development of small-scale gasifiers. These gasifiers will produce biochar, a valuable resource for local farmers when applied to the soil. This innovative process is estimated to sequester an impressive 1,400 tons of CO2 annually. Notably, the scalability potential of this initiative is substantial, holding promise for a significant impact on carbon reduction efforts.

TRE’s commitment to sustainability and innovation is exemplified by its adept utilization of waste biomass, specifically walnut and pistachio shells. Processing an impressive 5.5 tons per hour, this transformative approach yields clean water, clean power, high end pet food while at the same time sequestering CO2.

Steam turbine, gearbox, 8 megawatt generator.

Frank Schubert.

History and Ambitions

Frank Schubert first had the idea for the SteamBoy, the core technology that makes TRE what it is today, when he was constructing Mars habitats here on Earth. He was considering how astronauts might source clean water on the red planet when he realized the scalable potential of distillation and how, when thoroughly considered, the system could be highly efficient on top of being highly effective. He drew up plans for an industrial machine capable of the task; people told him it wouldn’t work, they said his machine wouldn’t last 6 months and yet here it is still running 15 years later!

The economic model of the SteamBoy is just as innovative and important as the technology that drives it. At Tracy Renewable Energy we make sure that no waste goes to waste, every part of the process is thoroughly considered to make sure that efficient use is made of all the energy put into the system. On their own an individual wastewater distiller, a dehydration plant, and a material recovery plant would be challenging to make business sense, however all them working together is what makes TRE not just viable but vibrant!

This is Frank’s 6th time building a SteamBoy facility and it’s the largest one yet! We’re perfecting the process of building and running the plant here in Tracy so that wherever there is a wastewater problem and available biomass nearby, we’ll be there to provide quality service and incredible efficiency.