Oct. 14, 2014 03:55 PM

In late September Cleco and UL Lafayette showed off the Cleco Alternative Energy Center, where researchers explore ways to generate power by using renewable resources.

 

 
"The center will help all of us working together to be socially, economically and environmentally conscious, leading to greater energy independence and energy diversification," Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, said at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center Sept. 24.  

In late September Cleco and UL Lafayette showed off the Cleco Alternative Energy Center, where researchers explore ways to generate power by using renewable resources.

The center is part of the five-acre UL Lafayette Energy Development Complex in Crowley. According to a prepared release from UL, it was created in response to a directive from the Louisiana Public Service Commission to Louisiana power producers to evaluate technical and economic aspects of producing electricity power from sustainable materials rather than fossil fuels.

Pilot-scale equipment in the center lets researchers test alternative methods more quickly and affordably than full-scale facilities. Key alternative energy technologies under evaluation at the center include solar thermal, biomass-fed gasification, and anaerobic digestion. Gasification is a heat process used to convert carbon-based material into a gas.

Potential energy sources include rice hulls, sugar cane bagasse, sweet potatoes and switchgrass.

Research projects include the evaluation of new reflector materials for solar thermal power production; production of methane using Louisiana food industry wastes; and recycling waste gas for enhanced energy conservation. Research funding is provided by industry, regional and state government, and the federal government.

"The center will help all of us - working together - to be socially, economically and environmentally conscious, leading to greater energy independence and energy diversification," said Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president.

In addition to providing research of alternative fuel sources, the Cleco Alternative Energy Center is a hub for economic development in Louisiana. More than 10 research projects are underway at the center that produce electrical power that's being fed into the regional Cleco grid.

"With this facility, we started with a mission to gather data on possible renewable energy sources specific to Louisiana," said Darren Olagues, president of Cleco Power. "While we are achieving our mission, this facility has provided economic development benefits by assisting other renewable energy businesses that offer jobs and a possible future for alternative energy."

The center is also a learning tool for UL Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College students, who can observe process operations and participate in testing various systems.

There are plans to add buildings and process equipment at the complex, including fermentation systems, algae cultivation systems, a biodiesel production unit, and a pilot gas-to-liquid catalyst system. A company is developing plans to locate a research and development facility at the center to test gas-to-liquid processes. And, educational opportunities at the center will be expanded.

Cleco has provided about 70 percent of the costs of the $8 million facility. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, working with the U.S. Department of Energy, provided about 20 percent; UL Lafayette provided about 10 percent. The Acadia Parish Police Jury helped acquire the land in Crowley Industrial Park by trading property with the UL  Foundation.

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