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The New Power Plant in the Backyard?

One day recently my friend Oliver Fix and his colleague Rudy Behrens arrived at my home on the Rogue River in Oregon with a bucket to scoop up some of the bright green film called duckweed that covers the pond. “Please, take all you can,” I said. “Make it go away!” But the two men joked that I should be less giving. Because duckweed grows so incredibly fast, they say it is valuable as a zero-emission “green coal.” In fact, they were gathering the weed for the fi rst electric power plant, called a bioenergy dome, that is being built by Pacific Domes in nearby Ashland (, who built the prototype, is a former aerospace engineer now specializing in biospheres who also won a Best Renewable Energy award in conjunction with Rutgers University. According to Behrens, a bioenergy dome creates an “eternal spring” inside that dramatically increases the growth of duckweed, which is then burned in a special oven to produce electricity. The residue is potash and micronutrients, as well as CO2 and water vapor, which all help to grow more duckweed. As part of the system, the pond is stocked with …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

This entry is tagged with:
SustainabilityElectric Power PlantSolar Energy

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