One technology that can help...
I realize that this is not the do all, end all solution to global warming, but it may be something that a community can afford and have a revenue component to pay for itself.
I don't know how many exhaust stacks exist in the Northwest, but any industrial/commercial CO2 generating source whose gases can be acquired and processed by algae should work.
from the January 11, 2006 Christian Science Monitor
Algae - like a breath mint for smokestacks
By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
BOSTON - Isaac Berzin is a big fan of algae. The tiny, single-celled
plant, he says, could transform the world's energy needs and cut global
Overshadowed by a multibillion-dollar push into other "clean-coal"
technologies, a handful of tiny companies are racing to create an even
cleaner, greener process using the same slimy stuff that thrives in the
Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment for
growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up with the
idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.
If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn
the nation's greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green
generators with an attached algae farm next door.
"This is a big idea," Berzin says, "a really powerful idea."
And one that's taken him to the top - a rooftop. Bolted onto the
exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind
MIT's campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae soup
Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power
plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a
New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40
percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and
another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide.
After the CO2 is soaked up like a sponge, the algae is harvested
daily. From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed out:
biodiesel for automobiles. Berzin hands a visitor two vials - one with
algal biodiesel, a clear, slightly yellowish liquid, the other with the
dried green flakes that remained. Even that dried remnant can be
further reprocessed to create ethanol, also used for transportation.
Being a good Samaritan on air quality usually costs a bundle. But
Berzin's pitch is one hard-nosed utility executives and climate-change
skeptics might like: It can make a tidy profit.
"You want to do good for the environment, of course, but we're not
forcing people to do it for that reason - and that's the key," says the
founder of GreenFuel Technologies, in Cambridge, Mass. "We're showing
them how they can help the environment and make money at the same
GreenFuel has already garnered $11 million in venture capital funding
and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned
by a major southwestern power company. Next year, GreenFuel expects two
to seven more such demo projects scaling up to a full pro- duction
system by 2009.
Even though it's early yet, and may be a long shot, "the technology is
quite fascinating," says Barry Worthington, executive director of US
Energy Association in Washington, which represents electric utilities,
government agencies, and the oil and gas industry.
One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density - about 50
percent of its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so fast,
it can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60 gallons
are produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the major
biodiesel crops today.
Greenfuel isn't alone in the algae-to-oil race. Last month, Greenshift
Corporation, a Mount Arlington, N.J., technology incubator company,
licensed CO2-gobbling algae technology that uses a screen-like algal
filter. It was developed by David Bayless, a researcher at Ohio
A prototype is capable of handling 140 cubic meters of flue gas per
minute, an amount equal to the exhaust from 50 cars or a 3-megawatt
power plant, Greenshift said in a statement.
For his part, Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power
plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of
biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require
a 2,000-acre "farm" of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There
are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a
few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good
profit, he says.
Energy security advocates like the idea because algae can reduce US
dependence on foreign oil. "There's a lot of interest in algae right
now," says John Sheehan, who helped lead the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL) research project into using algae on smokestack
emissions until budget cuts ended the program in 1996.
In 1990, Sheehan's NREL program calculated that just 15,000 square
miles of desert (the Sonoran desert in California and Arizona is more
than eight times that size) could grow enough algae to replace nearly
all of the nation's current diesel requirements.
"I've had quite a few phone calls recently about it," says Mr.
Sheehan. "This is not an outlandish idea at all."
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article