Turning A Farm’s Waste Into Power #VERGE16

All Power Labs promises to turn agricultural and forestry waste from a pure cost to something of value. Their Power Pallet, shown above, has been installed in hundreds of locations worldwide and converts waste into electricity, heat, and biochar. Biochar which represents sequestered carbon also makes a great soil amendment, according to Tom Price, Director of Strategic Initiatives for All Power Labs.

In the above video, Price explains how the heating of chunky agriculture and forestry waste in a low oxygen environment creates hydrogen vapor that powers a gas engine which spins a generator creating up to 20 kWh of electricity. The resulting electricity costs, according to All Power Labs’ website is $1.50/Watt, which compares favorably to other alternative fuel sources. An optional feature redirects the heat byproduct of the conversion process for things such as radiant floor heating providing further efficiency.

Of course, much of the cost of disposing of waste is no longer necessary with this method. These costs are significant, as Price suggests that it can cost $1,500 per acre to clear a California orchard of waste. Price points out that All Power Labs customers are a varied bunch from individuals to cooperatives. And, from a grid perspective, it looks like any other distributed power source (e.g. solar), so it ties into the existing grid so all can benefit from its electricity production.

The potential benefits of converting biowaste to energy extend to forestry. Their Powertainer PT150 model, set for a Q4, 2017 release, is an alternative to controlled burns for forest thinning. Bringing the power generation closer to the fuel source, it promises a way to generate electricity while creating a more economical way of preventing forest fires, as described in this California Agriculture article (PDF).

Another validation of All Power Labs approach is New Holland’s recent announcement of a methane-powered tractor that can use agriculture waste and cow-produced methane as its power source. Like All Power Labs, New Holland is trying to help farmers become more energy-independent, while reducing pollution. And although All Power Labs headquarters is in one of the densest and urban cities in the U.S., it is an appropriate place for it to call home, since, if there are, “Cows in Berkeley“, then waste to power makes perfect sense.¹

¹ This link provides information about Berkeley Farms and its iconic commercial, which was voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc.

One response to “Turning A Farm’s Waste Into Power #VERGE16”

  1. Ken Pyle Avatar

    Imagine robotic harvesting machines that would automatically cut switch grass (creating fire breaks), store it in a large hopper and then the biomass machine would generate electricity to augment solar, wind, flared methane, or small hydro power. These could connect to off-grid, fiber-connected data centers. The batteries from the robotic harvesters could also serve as back-up when not in use.

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