For the past year, the Algae Testbed Private-Public Partnership (ATP3) along with national labs and other commercial and academic partners have been working to harmonize cultivation systems, processes and analytical methods. This unification of methods has been done in order to develop and implement a pipeline for the collection and distribution of high-quality cultivation data to support algae computation modeling including biomass productivity, techno-economic (TEA) and life cycle assessment (LCA). The work will also help inform and guide current state of technology readiness for algal based biofuels and bioproducts.
The ATP3 operating and analytical procedures were rigorously validated in 2013 through a series of “round-robin” exercises at the six ATP3 testbed sites; the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, Cellana, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Touchstone Research Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida Algae. The exercises culminated in a baseline cultivation trial performed at all the testbeds in the fall and early winter. The result was a suite of standard operating procedures for accurately assessing the composition and thus productivity of key biomass constituents available not only to ATP3 members, but to the broader algae research and development community at large.
Now in the second full year of partnership, ATP3 is using this harmonized, experimental framework to implement Unified Field Studies (UFS) which enable the comparison of promising strains at a standard system scale. The ATP3 network is exploring the influence that different regional climatic and seasonal environmental conditions have on algal biomass productivity.
The overall UFS concept includes uniform system design, including standardized mini-ponds and water quality monitoring equipment, standardized sampling protocols and operational procedures, standardized data entry templates and a scientific management data system (SDMS). The SDMS maintains and manages all the productivity, water quality, weather and analytical data from the cultivation trials.
ATP3 has completed the spring 2014 season run and is analyzing the cultivation data and biochemical analysis which will allow for assessments of productivities. The spring 2014 trial focused on a single strain, Nannochloropsis Oceanica, and explored two different harvesting frequencies to simulate a batch vs a semi-continuous mode of operation. While finalizing the analysis of the spring trial, ATP3 has also launched summer 2014 run (pictured at right). The summer 2014 UFS cultivation trial will again focus on the marine strain Nannochloropsis oceanica, as well as a fresh water strain, Chlorella vulgaris. The primary operational factor ATP3 is exploring during the summer trials will be dilution rate.
“For the past several years modelers at ATP3 partner sites and elsewhere have been developing cost models based on continuous cultivation, sustainability models based in part on water usage and productivity models based on calculated differences in growth rates based on regional and seasonal climatic data,” said Dr. Phil Pienkos, Director of Integration and Analysis for ATP3 and Principle Group Manager of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “All of these models were constructed with a dearth of real data.
“Now ATP3 will provide data on long term continuous cultivation of two strains from six sites distributed across the US covering all four seasons,” Pienkos said. “We have developed our experimental plan in consultation with these modelers to ensure that the data we generate will be well suited to allow them to test and improve their models. We expect the algae community to gain great value from this unprecedented experiment that will expand our understanding of the technical basis for large scale algal cultivation.”
The cultivation trial data from the spring and summer 2014 runs will be ready for release late summer 2014 with quarterly updates thereafter. ATP3 will be launching a data portal via the Open Energy Information Initiative (OpenEI.org) which is managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. OpenEI.org is a free, open source knowledge sharing platform created to facilitate access to data, models, tools and information that accelerate the transition to clean energy systems through informed decisions. It is a Linked Open Data platform bringing together energy information to provide improved analyses, unique visualizations and real-time access to data. In addition, ATP3 also plans to release broadcast media (webinars), updates on social media sites and host other forms of communication in between each quarterly update to OpenEI.org.
For more information please visit atp3.test