East Kentucky Power, state unveil new algae production project
Tony Campbell, East Kentucky Power Cooperative CEO, left, and Mark Crocker, the Center for Applied Energy Research associate director for Biofuels, discuss the new technology that converts carbon dioxide into fuel using algae in front of a module of the project. One of the modules will be transported to Dale Station next week to be tested until spring before more modules are added. (Katie Perkowskiemail@example.com)
East Kentucky Power Cooperative will work with the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research, allowing the center to demonstrate the new technology at its plant. The module uses algae to capture the carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants, before converting it into fuel.
Tony Campbell, CEO of EKPC, said the project represents a strategic step to meet the challenge of ensuring that the utility industry can continue affordable and reliable electricity while reducing environmental impact.
“When coal burns, it releases carbon dioxide. In recent years, the federal government has begun taking steps to regulate those emissions. But the fact is, today we have the technologies necessary to allow us to capture and store carbon dioxide on a large scale without seriously impacting the affordability and reliability of electricity we produce,” Campbell said to a group of about 30 who gathered under an outdoor tent for the announcement. “ ... And so the research ... that will result from this project is vital. It is vital to East Kentucky Power Cooperative, and it is vital to Kentucky economy.”
Campbell joked about the irony of using algae for a productive goal.
“And I’m an old farm boy, we used to call that pond scum. And now we’re going to do something with it,” he said. “This is amazing research. It’s real innovation, and we desperately need this innovation.”
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet will give $1.3 million over two years for the CAER to demonstrate the process.
Kentucky Energy Secretary Len Peters said stronger federal regulations was a reason to come up with innovative ways to use the state’s coal in an “environmentally sensitive matter.”
“I think it’s fair to say that we have some issues and problems that requires a new way of doing things. Quite simply, our demands for energy are growing,” he said. “I think in fact, all fuel sources will be needed. We have to remember — coal must and will remain the bulk of the fuel mix ... and that’s going to be true for several decades to come.”
The first module will be tested this year, with more to be added in the spring. Czarena Crofcheck, a faculty member in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering who worked extensively on the project, said CAER is looking for the algae to eat the carbon dioxide as fast as possible. She said it will grow continuously, and it would double in between eight to 14 hours.
“But that’s what’s so much fun about, you know you’re talking about pond scum, and the idea that this is something that people spent all this time trying to kill, and we’re actually trying to grow as much as we can,” she said.
Contact Katie Perkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.