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2019 advanced energy groups tour NASA

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/04/10 @ 9:17am

Three Work Groups from the 2019 summit with an advanced energy focus toured NASA Glenn Research Center's renewable energy labs yesterday. For decades, scientists here have been testing and building solar, wind, fuel cell, biofuels and waste heat for energy systems, and spinning off technology from the space program to the commercial market.

NASA has built local capacity for renewable energy intellectual property ? which the agency sells or lends to firms like Athens, Ohio-based Sunpower, which developed a power condenser for LG refrigerators based on the nuclear propulsion system in spaceships (German company Microgen also modeled the system in a residential co-generation heating and cooling unit). We saw the high intensity photovoltaic ("PV") concentrator systems developed by Bernard Sater when he worked at NASA. Sater's invention led to his forming Greenfield Solar, a company that produces the solar concentrator in Oberlin, Ohio. 

Cleveland State University hopes to develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered RTA bus tapping the work of NASA fuel cell scientist (and strawbale home builder), Mark Hoberecht. A $300,000 Cleveland Foundation grant will seed the project, estimated to cost $1 million, to develop a fuel cell and power station that would start with power from the wind turbine and solar panels at the Great Lakes Science Center. The pilot might prove concept for using wind power from Lake Erie to split hydrogen (from oxygen in water, also from the lake) to power fuel cells which can act as a power storage unit.

Other experiments could have broader implications for Cleveland as it figures out what to do with a glut of vacant land. As the city starts to identify 'catalytic' projects using the ReImagine a More Sustainable Cleveland study, and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank ramps up its plans to identify specific locations for urban agriculture, stormwater management and renewable energy generation on vacant land, the micro-algae biofuels experiment of Dr. Bilal Mark McDowell Bomani should take on significant interest. Dr. Bomani is growing plants and algae in giant fish tanks, and is working with major airlines to test the biofuels as an additive to jet fuel. A farm operation in Marysville, OH has already approached him to use the system. The company will build twenty, 300 ft.-long tanks under roof on .7 acres of land. Bomani says that his tanks can produce the energy equivalent of an acre of corn for ethanol.

The relatively small footprint and reasonable start up costs make micro-algae biofuels attractive for urban agriculture; even if an operation employs only 6 to 10 people, a cost-benefit analysis can determine if it deserves serious consideration.

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