ASHLAND, Ore. -- An Ashland company has teamed up with an East Coast engineer who has figured out how to generate cheap, clean electricity from a plant all too familiar to people who frequent the Lithia Park ponds -- duckweed -- and then use exhaust from the generator to grow more duckweed.
Pacific Domes of Ashland, a global marketer of geodesic domes, is now selling BioEnergy Domes developed by Rudy Behrens, an aerospace engineer whose patented system is capable of producing a megawatt of electricity for the same price as coal or nuclear energy -- and much cheaper than wind or solar. The systems are green, sustainable, and can be small enough for a single home or large enough for a city utility.
Behrens, who was in the Rogue Valley this past week, said the present technology grew out of ocean energy projects he pursued in the mid-1990s. His technology uses biomass grown inside of automated, climate-controlled greenhouses within geodesic domes.
The critical ingredient, the fast-growing biomass that makes the project viable, is duckweed, a solution that should come as no surprise to those who have seen the plant blanket the ponds in Lithia Park each summer.
"It's a little, water-born plant that doubles in mass every 24 hours. The ducks really like it," Behrens said.
There are four sizes of BioEnergy Domes, ranging from a backyard-sized, 5,000-kilowatt version that can supply energy for one home to a commercial-size, 60-foot-diameter unit, such as the initial unit in a Philadelphia industrial park. The generating unit sits outside the dome and runs silently.