Kathleen Sebelius's War on Green Algae Power

Before she became czarina of ObamaCare, Kathleen Sebelius was the governor of Kansas.  In that role she vetoed the construction of the expansion of Sunflower Power's Holcomb power plant.  To fully understand the potential of algae power, you need to start with the basics of understanding algae.

Algae is a very simple form of plant life.  As such, it needs the same sort of inputs as other forms of plant life.  Being a farm state, Kansans know plants!  So they understand that plants need sources of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen to form carbohydrates, plus nitrogen to form amino acids.  Plants also thrive in sunlight, using photosynthesis to grow, especially in warm, moist environments.  So if one wanted to grow algae to make renewable power, one would want sources of all those elements.

Coal is the remains of long-dead plant life, so it is full of all those essential nutrients for modern plant life, having been plant life itself millennia ago.  So the overall plan for the Holcomb expansion is to integrate several symbiotic operations to maximize the amount of power generated while minimizing any adverse effects on the environment, making the process as sustainable as possible.  You can find a complete description of the integrated processes on the Holcomb website.

For now, we want to concentrate on algae power.  The principal fuel for the Holcomb expansion is coal.  As they burn it, they will extract huge amounts of thermal energy as they convert the coal into carbon dioxide, water, and oxides of nitrogen -- the building blocks of plant life, and in this specific case, green algae.  So the plan is to feed the flue gas into the algae ponds.  There the algae will feast on the carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides as organic fertilizers to initiate a phenomenal growth spurt.  The algae would be collected daily to feed the bio-energy phase of the power plant.

Here is a description of the algae reactor (emphasis added):

The cultivation of microalgae in the algae bioreactor system provides excellent prospects for renewable energy production. Microalgae are the most primitive plant form -- typically a single-cell plant. Because of this simple structure, algae are very efficient in converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients into oil (for biodiesel) and starch (for ethanol).

Algae are suspended in water acquired from the anaerobic digesters and process water from the coal plant. To grow, the algae will use micro-nutrients from the digesters, along with carbon and nitrogen from the coal plant. A significant portion of the carbon dioxide and some of the nitrogen oxides from the power plant fl u gas are consumed in the bioreactor by algae through photosynthesis. Algae will be harvested daily, sent through a dewatering process, and then processed into co-products including solids and oils.

The outputs from the algae reactor are numerous. The carbon-enriched algae biomass can be dried and fed back into the power plant as renewable fuel or further processed to produce transportation fuels and other high-value products. The lipid oils in the algae can be processed into biodiesel. The carbohydrates can be fermented into ethanol, and the proteins can be used in the production of feed and fertilizers for crops. Most of the water can be recycled and used in the coal plant cooling system or returned to the reactor for additional algae growth.

Algae systems have been researched for decades, most notably by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and NASA. Production was found to be viable, but most work was done when fuel prices were half of what they are today. No large-scale algae reactor is in operation today, but significant venture capital investment has been made recently to develop this technology.

Two of the Holcomb Expansion Project partners, Sunflower Electric and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, have contracted with Greenfuel Technologies to begin a study at Holcomb to determine the appropriate algae strains for the algae reactor subsystem at the Center.

With all this promise for a green technology to be scaled up to initial commercial production to meet the needs of western Kansas for base load power production, one might normally think it would be a centerpiece of an administration devoted to "Green Power."  So what has been the hold-up?  At first it was Kathleen Sebelius.  Her successor as Kansas governor, Democrat Mark Parkinson, fixed that.  Now it is the Obama administration's partner in economic crime, the Sierra Club, that is holding up progress.

So to fight "global climate change," the ditz-in-charge of ObamaCare and her allies are holding up an algae-powered energy revolution based in a state with a Democratic governor.

Bruce Thompson maintains a blog MachiasPrivateer. He sends this greeting to Spring Breakers enjoying their vacation on the Gulf Coast: You're Welcome!