By Hunter Kossodo
Researchers and students at ASU are conducting joint research studies with engineers at Salt River Project (SRP) to find new ways to utilize algae in the desert, specifically in the operation of power plants.
Dr. Tom Dempster, an ASU Associate Research Professor and lab manager for the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), says he’s excited about the work ASU and SRP will do together.
“The collaboration with SRP has provided an incredible opportunity for ASU students and researchers to work with top-notch SRP personnel to advance carbon capture technology and explore valuable co-products from the resulting biomass production,” Dempster said.
What ASU and SRP are hoping to find out is whether algae, which feeds on carbon dioxide to survive, can capture the carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant’s flue gas. This way, the carbon dioxide coming out of a coal fired power plant generating energy can be used to commercially grow algae.
The joint research studies are being conducted at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa and SRP’s Coronado Generating Station near St. Johns. The first two steps of the study are to create a marketable biomass product and to duplicate flue gas conditions at the Coronado Generating Station to see if algae can grow and survive in that environment.
Chico Hunter, manager of SRP’s Environmental Policy and Innovation group, says SRP is grateful to partner with ASU in this venture.
“SRP initiated the program four years ago with the ASU Polytechnic Campus and it has provided a great opportunity to leverage the expertise of ASU researchers on issues important to SRP,” Hunter said.
Hunter also noted that exposing these challenges faced by the utility industry to ASU professors and students will promote better education and training down the road for future utility engineers.
The study is funded through an SRP grant to the Advanced Technology Innovation Center (ATIC) at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at the Polytechnic Campus. The program under ATIC’s Conservation and Renewable Energy Collaboratory (CREC) awarded $475,000 in funds from SRP for 10 projects to be performed over 2015-16.