Green Tech Regional Report: 9-14-11

This week’s Green Tech Regional Report looks at some of the progress being made in the biomass and biofuel areas, from using algae to clean your home’s emissions to biomass plants popping up in the woody Northeastern US. We’ve also got news on green technology and energy efficiency in urban environments, and what’s happening in the world of solar and wind power.

At Bowdoin College in Maine, engineering student Keith Heyde, class of ’11, is working on developing a way to convert waste CO2 into a cleaner product by way of algae. While this idea is not new, Heyde’s proposal is to create the process on a much smaller, and therefore more affordable scale. In his plan, a wind-powered fan would draw CO2 from a boiler up the chimney of a house and into clear pipes filled with seawater and marine algae on the roof. Using photosynthesis, the algae converts the CO2 into a cleaner effluent that contributes less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Additionally, the algae would be regularly harvested for biofuel.

Image via Bowdoin College/Keith Heyde

State government officials in New York are pushing to introduce the biomass industry in Ogdensburg, due to the ample supply of biomass in the heavily forested area. The plan involves converting the existing Alliance Energy plant to use biomass. New York State Senator Patricia Ritchie, city manager Arthur Sciorra, Alliance Energy and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy are seeking a license allowing for a 90 megawatt capacity, and they say that the project could produce over 50 jobs. If the current challenges are overcome, Sciorra expects that the project could be finalized in about a year and a half.

In New Hampshire, financing for a biomass plant has been found, and construction on a $275 million biomass plant will begin immediately in the small city of Berlin, on the site of a former pulp mill. The Burgess Biopower plant will use 750,000 tons of low-grade wood per year, and is expected to create 40 permanent jobs. Cate Street Capital, who provided the financing, is currently looking for small manufacturing companies to open up space near the plant to utilize the steam and hot water produced there.

Construction of Oregon’s Baldock Solar Highway, a solar installation of 6,994 solar panels built behind a rest area on Interstate 5, continues this week after its beginning on August 23. The installation, built on land owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, will generate up to 1.97 kilowatt hours of energy, which is about 9% of the energy needed in the Portland area.

In Houston, Texas, where summer temperatures can easily hit over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, causing residents to crank their air conditioners and strain the power grid, Green Power 4 Texas installed over a hundred solar-powered attic fans in an affordable housing apartment community in Fort Bend County. The fans are designed to keep the attics of the apartment buildings cooler and less humid, and to cut down on energy costs. The 20-watt fans will ventilate the attic up to 30 times an hour for 30 years. Green Power 4 Texas also provided residents with information on solar power and panels, and about green jobs.

Similarly, apartment buildings in New York City’s Harlem also got a green upgrade, thanks to the Green Retrofit Program. In addition to photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs, 32 boilers were replaced with 10 highly efficient boilers, and extra roof insulation and low-flow shower heads were installed. Measures like these are being taken not only to reduce power and water use, but can also help keep rents affordable for residents.

Farther north in New York State, in Irondequoit, a public meeting will be held to discuss the New York Power Authority’s Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) Project, which proposes that a wind farm be built in Lake Ontario. As usual, there is some debate over the project, which opponents say will have negative effects on quality of life.

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Laura Caseley is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and a resident of New York State’s Hudson Valley. She writes for several publications and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found painting in her makeshift studio or enjoying the scenery of her hometown.