Monday, August 31, 2009

Odd Couple in Oil Addiction Fight: Algae and OTEC

Pat Takahashi and Andy Twomey after today's Energy Futures show.
Monday’s Energy Futures program on Hawaii Public Radio kicked off with a call from Ted Liu, director of the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism that’s hosting this week’s Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Expo and Summit.

With the Expo dominating energy news in the Aloha State this week, Energy Futures invited two participating companies to be on the show – Lockheed Martin and Phycal Hawaii. Lockheed, of course, has decades of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) experience, while Phycal is a start-up company with plans to harvest oil from algae as feedstock for liquid fuels, including eventually becoming a replacement for diesel and jet fuel.

Dr. Ted Johnson, the public face of Lockheed’s OTEC aspirations, was unable to be with us due to a prior commitment, so we talked with Lockheed program manager Robert Varley from his home in Virginia. When asked for a timeline for Lockheed’s proposed pilot OTEC plant here, Rob said a 10-MW plant could up operational by 2016 – assuming relatively early funding.

Phycal Hawaii was represented by President Andrew Twomey, a returning Hawaii resident; earlier this decade he commanded a brigade of the 25th infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. His company intends to start operations with a 40-acre facility to produce 100,000 gallons of algae oil for proof-of-concept before expanding to fill a need to replace diesel and jet fuel at a competitive price.

Former Hawaii Natural Energy Institute director Pat Takahashi joined us in the studio as a “guest questioner,” and as usual, we were better informed thanks to Pat’s involvement. Monday's show will be archived at Hawaii Public Radio sometime on Tuesday, September 1.

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