ASU & SRP explore using algae for greener power

When you think of algae here in the valley, you might think of the green slime growing in your pool. But researchers from SRP and ASU are working together on an algae project that could drastically change the way power plants operate.

The cutting edge technology is using algae to try and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired or natural gas power plants.

"The ability to keep these coal fired power plants going on, producing more power on a green basis will benefit all consumers," said Dr. Tom Dempster.

Could the green slimy stuff help make the earth greener? It's a question researchers at SRP and ASU are working to find out.

"This looks pretty promising like we might be able to implement it on a pilot scale project to do later on," said Sam Villalobos.

Villalobos is a Senior Engineer with SRP and has been working with Dr. Dempster an Associate Research Professor at ASU for four years. They have been testing algae to see how it can capture carbon before it is emitted into the air.

"The primary focus of this is to capture the carbon dioxide from the flue gas. In the process of capturing the carbon dioxide the algae will multiply, divide, create much more bio mass, or much more algae," said Dempster.

Right now algae from water sources around the Coronado Generating Station in St. Johns Arizona are being tested.

"We're looking for those that grow as fast as possible, the faster the algae grow, the more carbon dioxide they'll capture from getting released into the environment," said Dr. Dempster.

The study is in its first stages but in the end, it could make a big impact.

"We haven't actually installed a pilot project, but the next step would be to see if we could install something at the power plant, maybe take a small pipe from the exhaust and then pump that over to the algae and see if that algae could actually grow under those conditions," said Villalobos.

The algae technology is still in the early stages, but it holds huge commercial value and some of that algae could be sold for other things like animal feed and pharmaceuticals.