SoCalGas displays innovative energy technology projects at San Diego State University

Published on July 02, 2019 by Dave Kovaleski

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SoCalGas, in collaboration with several partners, displayed some innovative renewable energy technology projects at the San Diego State University Center for Energy Sustainability in Brawley, Calif.

The projects support the commercialization of low-cost, commercial-scale renewable energy technology. They were done along with assistance from Hyperlight Energy, Genifuel Corporation, the STARS Corporation, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“We know that there is no simple, single solution to the problem of climate change,” Yuri Freedman, senior director of business development for SoCalGas, said. “That is why these types of partnerships, and the research that develops from them, are critical for reaching our environmental goals and keeping California at the forefront of clean energy leadership.”

One of the projects is called the Hyperlight system, which is a concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, which uses sunlight to produce heat for industrial processes. The Hyperlight technology works in conjunction with Genifuel’s hydrothermal processing (HTP) technology. HTP converts wet organic matter — such as manure, algae, and biosolids — into renewable natural gas. HTP captures 86 percent of the energy in the waste and uses only 14 percent to process it. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

“Hydrothermal processing converts wet waste materials into renewable oil and natural gas, directly offsetting the use of fossil fuels,” James Oyler, president of Genifuel Corporation, said. “There are enormous amounts of these materials which would otherwise degrade the environment instead of contributing clean, renewable energy. This project shows how the process could benefit California’s dairy industry by converting dairy cow manure into renewable fuels.”

Another technology they demonstrated is called the solar thermochemical advanced reactor system, or STARS, which produces hydrogen from sunlight. Initial applications include putting STARS systems at fueling stations to produce low-cost hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

“The deployment of fuel cell vehicles has been slowed by limited availability of low-cost hydrogen at filling stations,” Robert Wegeng, president of STARS Technology Corporation and a former technology developer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said. “Combining concentrated solar energy with advanced chemical process units plus water and low-cost, carbon-lean natural gas provides a near-term opportunity for cheap hydrogen at the locations where it is needed. This gives fuel cell vehicles an opportunity to compete in the marketplace and will help California achieve its goals of net-neutral carbon emissions by 2045, net-negative afterwards.”

SoCalGas, based in Los Angeles, delivers natural gas service to 21.8 million customers across 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California.