IMAGE: ALGAE IN TUBES
GreenFuel Technologies
Algae stored in tubes are busy capturing carbon dioxide in this reactor created by GreenFuel Technologies. A similar system will be tested with a New York power company.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/17/2006 3:18:13 PM ET 2006-05-17T19:18:13

How's this for a green idea: Remove carbon dioxide, a gas that many scientists tie to global warming, by having algae turn it into clean fuel?

It's actually more than an idea, and the state of New York along with independent power producer NRG Energy and GreenFuel Technologies will be testing the technology.

In a partnership announced Tuesday, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is funding the project, which will test GreenFuel’s CO2 recycling technology at NRG's coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk, N.Y.

"This project has the potential to not only benefit the air quality in the surrounding community, but to also continue our progress toward producing clean renewable energy here in New York," NYSERDA President Peter Smith said in a statement.

Around 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil-fueled power plants.

GreenFuel will use a mini-bioreactor system to assess the technical and economic viability of its technology, which would use algae to consume CO2 emitted by the power plant. The algae could then be converted into biofuel, NRG said.

IMAGE: ALGAE
Oak Ridge National Lab
Algae like these can be used to produce ethanol and biodiesel.
In a press release, the partners described the process this way: “In the presence of light, the single-celled algae take up CO2 to produce the energy that fuels plant life -- with a general rule of thumb being that two tons of algae remove one ton of CO2. Once the algae are harvested, they can be converted to generate commercially viable byproducts such as ethanol or biodiesel."

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will fund the study through the end of the year.

"Our key goals are, and have always been, to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible energy. In that regard, doing our part to advance technological initiatives that may reduce CO2 emissions from our plants is a moral imperative," NRG President David Crane said in the statement.

GreenFuel said it expects its bioreactors will be able to be retrofitted to existing sources with minimal impact on existing generation operations.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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