Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jasper County Power

Did you hear the news? The ethanol plant in Rensselaer is being sold. (link to news) I'm not sure if you recall me telling you a bit about it a while back (here and here). I'd heard rumors that they were in "financial distress." Guess I lost the bet, though -- I thought it would end up being closed. They got lucky and found a buyer instead ...from Australia.

Speaking of alternative fuels, here's a novel approach. Check out this article from USAToday Science and Space: "Algae — like a breath mint for smokestacks"
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.

...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% less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86% less nitrous oxide.

And there's another bonus attached to this unique science that could help coal fired power plants net a tidy sum -- biofuels.
One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density — about 50% 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.

As the price of corn keeps rising, forcing food costs higher and higher, this new science might become even more inviting for plants like the NIPSCO plant near Wheatfield. Listed as one of the nation's Top 50 Dirty Power Plants, this would be a unique way for them to clean up their emissions while raking in a tidy little side profit.

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