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Drexel Alumnus Leads Philadelphia Water Department’s Energy-Saving Efforts

August 10, 2012

Alumnus Paul KohlCivil Engineering alumnus Paul Kohl spearheaded the development of a 5.6-megawatt biogas cogeneration facility, a behind-the-meter solar system and a demonstration sewerage thermal heat pump for various Philadelphia Water Department [PWD] plants.

Kohl is the energy management team director of the PWD, a department that serves as a role model for establishing and implementing a utility-wide energy management program.

“My official title is ‘Energy Champion,’ which makes me (and others) laugh but it sort of fits,” Kohl said.

Kohl leads the PWD’s research and energy groups. These teams provide strategic planning for energy and track all forms of energy usage through the PWD to look for ways to reduce or recover energy. Kohl is also a liaison between the PWD and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, universities, and energy companies to identify opportunities and strategies to reduce and recover energy.

Kohl attended Drexel initially for chemical engineering and worked in the petrochemical industry for his first two co-op jobs. He soon changed his study path to civil engineering with a focus on water and wastewater treatment based on the advice of Drexel professor Wesley O. Pipes and the faculty of Chemical Engineering Department. He spent his last co-op cycle working for the PWD before finishing his undergraduate education at Drexel.

After graduating, Kohl worked for an insurance firm in the asbestos abatement field before returning to Drexel for graduate school with an emphasis on microbiology and water treatment. In 1994 he was again hired by the PWD, and has recently returned to Drexel to complete his doctorate. He is also an adjunct instructor for an undergraduate class in the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Department.

Kohl, who is a father of two, was also involved with the Joint Initiative for Urban Sustainability [JIUS], an EPA program between the US and Brazil focused on identifying new ways to generate economic growth and protect the environment by focusing on increasing investment in green infrastructure and technologies. He recently found himself part of a multidepartmental initiative, Clean Kitchen's Green Communities, in which people are encouraged to use food waste disposers (FWDs) as a form of urban composting.

“I see payback requirements for energy projects becoming more holistic and including more consideration of long term benefits,” Kohl said about his expectations for the future of the biosolids industry and energy recovery technologies.

He suggests including energy use in strategic plans to help identify and question decisions that may go unnoticed.