On August 2-3, 2011 ASU hosted the “Arizona Solar Summit 2011.” The summit brought together a range of industry leaders, government policy makers, research institutions and major landowners to discuss collaborations, projects, and policies affecting the solar energy industry on a grand scale.
Discussions fell under the following branches:
• Supporting and growing the country’s leading industrial cluster in renewable energy in Arizona;
• Developing a blueprint for sustainable utility leadership in the renewable energy marketplace of the future; and
• Launching a program for the reform and integraiton of critical federal and state solar based policy initiatives.
For those who could not attend the summit or for those who wish to revisit the discussions, videos from both days are now accessible online at the Vimeo channel “Arizona Solar Summit 2011.”
To learn more about the summit or to visit the agenda, visit the solar summit homepage.
Who he is. Mark Sholin, a graduate student from the University of Arizona, is Co-Founder and CEO of Pragmatic Energy. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, and is now a Graduate Research Associate at ASU’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. As CEO of Pragmatic Energy, he oversees all company activities and uses his expertise to drive the company forward.
What they do. Founded in 2010 by Mark Sholin and Dr. Steven Van Ginkel, Pragmatic Energy, LLC is a company focused on expanding environmental biotech for commercialization purposes. Their effort aims to provide a more sustainable fuel source, improve water treatment systems, and reduce the effects of pollution. With the rising cost of fossil fuels, the rising popularity of sustainability and the desire to rebuild the economy, Pragmatic Energy is taking advantage of this ideal timing and working hard to rebuild our future.
How they do it. The term BHR, or BioHydrogenator, refers to an innovative treatment solution that aims to decrease the cost of wastewater treatment, while also reducing the production of hydrogen gas. By doing so, the process drastically reduces the amount of electricity and solid waste that would otherwise have been produced in a conventional aerobic treatment. The BHR prototype is still being tested at Arizona State University, with its patent pending.
Where they are going. Current project features underway include managing pH balances, complex contaminant removal, and the recovery of nutrients.
Dr. Steve Van Ginkel, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer
En-Tien Chen - Chief Marketing Officer
Lon Huber - Chief Financial Officer
Ken Baker - Advisor
Dr. Cesar Torres - Advisor
Dr. Bruce Rittmann - Advisor
Follow them on Twitter. http://twitter.com/pragmaticenergy or @pragmaticenergy
An Overview of Biofuels and the Biofuel Industry
With all the current hype about biofuels, one might assume that biofuels have only been around for a short period of time. Quite the contrary. Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, constructed his engines so that they were able to run on peanut oil. Later on, Henry Ford’s Model T cars were designed to use biofuels derived from hemp to run.
With the discovery of large amounts of petroleum, the use of biofuels slowly declined and nearly became nonexistent for decades. With the rapid growth of technology and raising awareness of global health, biofuel research began to slowly increase and gain momentum. Now, people are talking—and they’re talking about biofuels.
Obama Administrations $510 Million Investment in the Biofuel Industry
As a part of the government’s plan to slowly diverge from its foreign oil dependence, the Obama Administration announced that they would be investing $510 million in the biofuel industry. Many are hopeful, many are skeptical…let’s hear what Milt Sommerfeld, ASU’s Laboratory of Algae Research and Biotechnology co-director, and Dan Rees, president of REV Biodiesel, have to say about this investment and how it will affect Arizona’s biofuel industry.
Although Dan and Milt have high hopes that the $510 million investment in the biofuel industry will positively affect their research and development, they are still a bit skeptical on the whole thing. Milt explains how “the devil is in the details” and as far as investment and partnership in the industry goes, there has been a limited amount of funding and partnership. One reason, Milt and Dan explain, is that the current fuel tax credit is soon expiring at the end of this year, so potential investors and partners remain hesitant.
Although 2011 has been a great year for biofuel research and development, the soon-to-expire tax credit is leaving many biofuel advocates uneasy. Milt elaborates on the success of university level biofuel research in the past year, saying that much support was received from the Science Foundation of Arizona. This, he says, got some companies interested in the research going on in the Polytechnic campus.
Horizon host, Ted Simons, asked Dan Rees what he thought about the fact that some people disagree with this type of funding because they might be choosing one type of alternative energy to fund, rather than another.
“Well, let’s go back how many decades have we supported the petroleum industry? In 2008 alone, $450 billion of government subsidies went into the petroleum industry. How can you expect a new technology, with better emissions and better for the environment, to come out and compete with the heavily subsidied petroleum industry, which are the richest companies in the world.”
He also goes on to say that if we got rid of petroleum subsidies, we could let the pump prices rise and then the biofuels industry will be able to compete. Advances are being make in the biofuel fuel industry every day, especially when it comes to algae. The only problem is that the industry is seeing limited support and consideration from Arizona.
To watch the full Horizon interview, visit http://www.azpbs.org/horizon/detailvid.php?id=3033
Arizona State’s commitment to sustainability grows stronger every day, and we prove it. Past, present, and future solar projects at ASU not only demonstrated ASU’s determination to power their buildings with clean, renewable energy, they also taught students and the community about the important of sustainability and the role that it is going to play in the future.
It all started with the first photovoltaic (PV) solar installation in October 2004. PV panels were constructed on top of the Tyler Street Parking Structure and produced 34 kW of energy. From there, there were several solar installation projects which involved the Apache Blvd Parking Structure (880 kW), Hassayampa Academic Village (131 kW), Barrett Honors College (161 kW), Hayden Library (249 kW), the Fulton Parking Structure (386 kW), and part of the Business Administration building, to name a few.
The entire project, called the Campus Solarization Program, includes all four campuses. Walking around campus, you will see several sites where projects are underway and almost being completed. Some current projects in the works include the Vista Del Sol Parking Structure (706 kW), Music building (94kW), Psychology North (74kW), Computing Commons (64 kW), Student Services Building (188 kW, and the Well Fargo Arena (497 kW).
To view the full status update, view the Campus Solarization Status Update.
Chocolate chip, macadamia nut, peanut butter, and sugar cookies seem to be at the top of everyone’s Favorite Cookies List. Well, that list is about to undergo some minor changes. Milton Sommerfeld, an ASU algae researcher at the Polytechnic campus, cooked up a plan with his wife Carolyn which included flour, sugar, milk, butter, and some good ol’ fashioned algae.
Carolyn and Milton’s algae cookies seem like your average, every day cookie, until you take a peek at the ingredients. The secret addition to this recipe makes it unique from any other treat you might find in the cookie jar.
In an interview with Milton, we asked him what are the benefits of algae research and what he hoped to accomplish.
"My primary research interests relate to understanding how algae function in the laboratory and the environment, and how they can be used to develop a more sustainable environment...Algae are underutilized green organisms that are capable of producing biomass that can be used for food, fuel, and fertilizer. A better understaniding of algae and how they function and how we can use them will enable us to exploit their desirable characteristics."
One of the main focuses at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) is to research ways to generate biofuels from algae. However, Milton had something else in mind. When we asked him what his inspiration was behind baking up algae cookies, he responded:
"My colleague, Dr. Qiang Hu and I have been growing algae for many years and are aware of their potential as a healthy food. We thought that green cookies would be a great way to get the attention of our students and lab members. We started making cookies about 4-5 years ago for members of the laboratory. The benefits of using algae is that they are high in protein and usually contain the essential amino acids that animals (humans as well) require. They also contain vitamins and minerals. In general, algae have great value as either a food, food additive or supplement."
He also revealed that they are considering teaming up with the nutrition group at ASU to do some small scale market testing.
Milton and Carolyn have shown us that the uses for algae are endless, and Milton and his team at ASU are taking advantage of every opportunity they have. Carolyn will continue to bake and share these delicious cookies as long as algae is available...and that will be for a while. So the next time you’re feeling a sweet tooth coming on, order up a batch of fresh baked algae cookies!
Milton will be in attendance at the ABO Algae Biomass Summit, along with a number of algae supporters and experts in the field. This summit will take place on October 24-27 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. More information on the ABO Summit can be found here: http://algaebiomasssummit.org/ema/DisplayPage.aspx?pageId=About
With over 300 days of sun per year in this state, Arizona is a prime location for solar energy studies. Arizona State University has just created a new graduate program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy for this very thing: Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization. It is a PSM (Professional Science Master’s) program offering both technical and non-technical aspects to a student’s graduate studies.
The program’s objectives are to prepare students for careers in industry, government and the non-profit sector in terms of solar energy policies, implementation, and/or utilization. Students involved in the program will have an applied, collaborative project under the supervision of a mentor that will focus on high-impact solutions to solar energy and commercialization problems. As part of the applied project, students will interact and engage with government policy makers and solar industry representatives. Students will develop multi-disciplinary problem solving and critical thinking skills from both technical and non-technical areas. A full-time student can expect to complete the program in a year. For more information about the PSM program click here.
Additionally, ASU’s Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization PSM is being featured at the Expo21xx showcase as part of an exhibition on renewable energy. ASU has a reputation for being a leader in adapting campuswide sustainable technologies and has a number of renewable energy research projects on display as well as sustainability programs. Check out ASU’s Expo21xx profile here.
Take a look at some of the recent solar research occurring at ASU.
Algae research is on the rise at many universities around the country. Although funding is scarce, knowledge and persistence is abundant in many different colleges. Their determination to turn algae into biofuels is something that should be recognized within their communities and throughout the nation. Each day, these colleges are making history and getting us one step closer to a clean energy future. Let's take a closer look at universities who are stepping up and becoming role models in the algae research biz.
Colorado State University
Colorado State, like many other universities, are trying to figure out waysto extract the oil from the algae in order to produce biofuels. They hope to collaborate with others to reduce the world dependence on finite energy sources and give the world a cleaner source of fuel.
Currently partnered up with Solix Biofuels, Colorado State is always looking for partners to team up with. Hunt Lambert, associate vice president for economic development at CSU, said that "The idea of bringing industry intellectual property and partners into the University is extremely rare, and CSU’s willingness to engage those partners to address the great global challenges of our time is a testimony to the strength of President (Larry Edward) Penley and Provost Tony Frank’s vision for a 21st-century land-grant institution".
UC San Diego
Steve Key, UC San Diego dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, says “These awards validate San Diego as one of the major centers for biofuels research in the country, and the world”.
UC San Diego has a vision of the future in mind. They see trains, cars, light bulbs, and planes…all being powered from algae. They are home to several research centers and collaborative efforts including Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy (EDGE), SD-CAB, and 1 Barrel for Baja.
Just recently, they received a grant from the California Energy Commission in the amount of $2 million. With this grant, the collage and state hopes to speed up the research and continue their positive impact on the local economy.
University of Malaysia
Advances in algae research aren’t just taking place in the United States. At the University of Malaysia, an initiative called UMalgae, led by Phang Siew Moi, has made great strides in their research since their start in 1988. Their studies of Malaysian algae position them as one of the top algae research centers in Southeast Asia.
Arizona State University
I had to save the best for last, didn’t I?
The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), located at the Polytechnic Campus, is one of the leaders in algae research and development. At their facility, researches are dedicated to finding commercial uses for algae, developing algae based goods, provide breakthroughs in algae technology, and serve as a innovative example for others to follow.
Partners and supporters include Science Foundation Arizona, ASU Lightworks, Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology (LARB), Arizona College of Technology and Innovation, and much more.
The brains behind the operation is Milt Sommerfeld, who is the co-director of AzCATI. The video below is an interview with him as he explains AzCATI.
We're surrounded by it every second of every day. We hear it on the news, see it on our way to our dreaded math class—it seems to follow us around like some late night stalker. Even though we are constantly exposed to it, most of the time, we have no idea what it is or how it ties into our lives as students.
Most of us decide to leave these kinds of things to the grown-ups and keep our focus on school, work, and the rest of the things college life includes (you know what I'm talking about).
But, is this how it should be?
As future industry leaders, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and voters—we need to become involved in this topic now. It's our future too—we need to become informed and active members of society if we want to live in a clean, self-sustaining world.
So, how can we actually get students interested in renewable energy?
Clubs and Organizations
Many campus-involved students try to look into any and every club and organization available so they can become further submersed in campus life. It looks good on a resume, they meet new and exciting people, it opens up new job opportunities, and they build personal and professional skills all at the same time. Offering renewable energy clubs will get students further exposed to this topic and allow them to voice their opinion and take action.
Arizona State University currently offers courses, majors, minors, and certificates in sustainability. These classes give the students an in depth look at sustainability, how it affects the world around them, and gives them ideas on how they incorporate that into their own personal and professional lives.
Seminars and Events
Upcoming events like Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future gives students to take part in an intellectual discussion about the well being of our planet. Past events included The Future Energy Abyss, Talking Sustainability with American Public Media's Marketplace, and America's Energy Challenges.
In the small Navajo town of Nataanii, Arizona there sits a white orb. It is a bioenergy dome, an anonymous gift given to the Navajo people. The dome is a second prototype of its kind created by Oregon-based Pacific Domes International. The dome offers sustainable solutions for both food and energy.
Here is how it works: the algae and duckweed create biomass through solar energy conversion. The dome itself maintains an interior “eternal springtime” climate and has consistent, natural sunlight. Harvested plants are composted through a methane digester, and the methane is fed into a noise-free “Bear Genset” which then converts the thermal heat into kW energy. The by-products are cycled back into the dome as plant fertilizer. The only emissions, CO2 and water vapor, are also cycled back into the dome as plant food. The dome only requires an hour of maintenance once or twice per day and can be adjusted to fit specific energy needs. Additionally, inventor Rudy Behrens was a recipient of the “Best Renewable Energy Award” at the New Jersey Technology Council Venture Conference.
The Navajo Bioenergy Dome is already producing astonishing results. The pod is completely self-sustaining, and when used at full capacity, the dome has the ability to produce about 11 pounds of organic vegetables per day, about 100-150 pounds of fish per year, and enough methane to power a modern home. There are multileveled trays of hydroponic vegetables used to supply food for fish in the pond. The fish farm, unlike most, is self-cleaning and does not require chemicals. Together, the fish and vegetables supply a clean and consistent food source for the reservation.
Rex Lee Jim, Vice President of the Navajo Nation, is excited about the opportunities the dome presents. He hopes it will bring a more ancestral diet to the reservation, and provide a way to move younger people away from junk food while also creating a renewable, sustainable power source.
The NCIIA Open Minds 2011 Conference, held in Washington DC this year, is a public exhibition where students from all over can demonstrate their talent. This conference involved teams from Purdue University, Duke University, John Hopkins University, and of course, Arizona State University, to name a few.
ASU students showcased two energy products, one of which is being tested in Domeabra, Ghana. The first of the two products is a Gel-Fuel stove that uses ASU-produced ethanol which allows it to burn cleanly. The main objective of this prototype is provide a clean burning stove that decreases health risks and the environmental impact, thus providing a more sustainable way of living.
The second product is called the Twig Light and produces clean electric light from current waste energy like twigs. The Twig Light is comprised of a thermoelectric generator, a combustion chamber in the upper section, and a pan of water in the lower section. Material such as twigs are placed into the upper chamber and heated, providing a temperature difference between the upper and lower sections. Once this occurs, the thermoelectric generator starts and sends a current that powers the light.
Combining young entrepreneurship and sustainability seems to be a match made in heaven. Phil Weilerstein, Executive Director if the NCIIA, believes that society has a strong need for young entrepreneurs. He stated that "The need for innovation and entrepreneurial engineers is at an all-time high…NCIIA is looking forward to applying its expertise to helping universities build cultures of innovation on their campuses, and to supporting the entrepreneurial endeavors of engineering students and faculty."