Project Manager Ruth Spierling conducts algae cultivation research at Stanton Energy Center.

Algae may be nothing more than a slimy, green aquatic weed to the general public but to a research team working at OUC—The Reliable One’s Stanton Energy Center (OUC-SEC) it will make something good out of carbon dioxide exhaust from power plants.

Utilizing waste carbon from power plants or other sources, algae farming can produce myriad renewable bioproducts, including animal feeds, biofuels and bioplastics. At the SEC complex, researchers are cultivating specific algae species in above-ground ponds supplied with scrubbed flue gas from the Unit 2 coal plant and conventional agricultural fertilizers. The algae biomass is harvested, dried and converted into pelletized animal feeds.

This two-year carbon utilization pilot project is funded by a $1.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy-National Energy Technology Laboratory, with OUC providing facilities and technical support. The project is led by Dr. Tryg Lundquist of California-based MicroBio Engineering Inc. and includes team members from the University of Central Florida, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Global Thermostat LLC of Alabama.

“Algae farming is a new form of agriculture,” says Ruth Spierling, project manager, with MicroBio Engineering and UCF. “It is sustainable, renewable and has enormous potential for turning waste carbon dioxide into feeds, fuels and biobased products for use in everyday life. Adopting such carbon dioxide utilization technologies provides multiple benefits, including economic, environmental and social.”

Algae farming is sustainable and renewable.

For its initial product, the multidisciplinary team will supply algae biomass produced at SEC for testing at Cal Poly as an ingredient in chicken feed. Algae will improve the nutritional value of the feed, resulting in healthier chickens and improved egg yolk coloration. Future applications of algal biomass could include feeds for ruminants, biofuels, biomaterials such as bioplastics, and chemicals and nutritional products.

“OUC is always looking into new ways to make our power generation portfolio more sustainable,” Justin Kramer, OUC’S Supervisor of Emerging Technologies, said. “Participating in this research allows OUC to advance these carbon utilization technologies, while learning which are the best technologies, their economics and applications.”

Eric Costello, Senior Engineer and OUC’s onsite liaison, agrees: “Carbon utilization will always be important to the electric industry, so it makes sense for OUC to invest in a project like this. OUC also is located in the right kind of environment for algae cultivation, so we’re a good fit for this project.”

With its sunny, hot climate and abundance of flat land and water, Florida is a perfect site for large-scale algae farming.

“Florida is very attractive for algae farming,” said Spierling. “Algae farmers can use land that’s not suitable for other crops, and they can use different sources of water, including seawater, brackish and wastewater. Algae agriculture will increase farming revenues while being kind to the environment.”