Algae could be energy source of the future

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

PRINCE GEORGE, VA (WWBT) - The green energy revolution just might be headquartered here in Virginia.

A farm in Prince George County may look like a science project gone haywire, but it's about to turn into the largest algae project on the East Coast.

"You're looking at green water, I look at a crop. One that's 100 times more productive than woodlands for energy creation," said Jes Sprouse, an entrepreneur and inventor who is on the cutting edge of algae farming. He thinks it's time we wean ourselves off oil.

"I got tired of the oil companies holding me over a barrel, so I did it," he said.

He grows and harvests the algae by feeding it pig waste.

"That's the green gold right there," he said. He distills it on site and runs a car on algae bio diesel.

He envisions a small algae system like this on every farm in the country. Animal waste and dirty water go in, clean water and bio diesel for farm equipment comes out. And the algae is home grown. Nothing exotic here.

"You don't ever get into the situation of an invasive species coming in and taking over the waterways and messing up the ecosystem," he said.

But bio diesel isn't the only way to use algae. This is algal coal, a solid fuel made of algae and cellulose.

"It's a drop-in replacement for power plants that burn coal now," Sprouse said. "It's got a very similar energy content."

Or these pellets that can be used to heat homes. And when you burn it, you don't release toxins. The leftover ash can be safely spread on a field.

"This has mercury and lead and a lot of nasties in it that you don't want to put on a crop because the plant will uptake it," he said.

Sprouse is eyeing two commercial scale projects next. One at an old wastewater treatment plant in Chesterfield County. And another at a Dominion Virginia Power plant in Halifax County. He expects to capture CO2 from the plant, and grow his algae there.

Who knows? Jes Sprouse just might be green energy's first tycoon.

Email Dr. Carole Inge with Virginia's Clean Energy Business Incubator for more information:

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