Oct 20, 2013

Carbon-negative energy, machine that converts biomass into carbon-negative energy.

Tom Price, the director of strategic initiatives at All Power Labs, demonstrates the company's PowerPallet, a machine that converts biomass into carbon-negative energy.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

BERKELEY, Calif. -- In 2007, officials from this famously liberal city shut off the electricity to an artists space known as the Shipyard. That action, which forced the artists there to seek a new way to power their flamethrowers, is the origin story of a company that now produces what it says is the world's only carbon-negative power source.

Located in one of the grittiest areas of town, where train tracks, garbage, and broken downcars are far more prevalent than the hippies Berkeley is famous for, All Power Labs has set up shop inside the Shipyard. Run by CEO Jim Mason -- who owns the space -- the 5-year-old startup now produces technology used to transform dense biomass like corn husks or wood chips into clean, sustainable, and cheap energy.

All Power Labs makes machines that use an ancient process called gasification to turn out not only carbon-neutral energy, but also a carbon-rich charcoal by-product that just happens to be a fertilizer so efficient that Tom Price, the company's director of strategic initiatives, calls it "plant crack."

Gasification, in which dense biomass smoldering -- but not combusting -- in a low-oxygen environment is converted to hydrogen gas, is nothing new. Price said that ancient cultures used it to enrich their soils, and during World War II, a million vehicles utilized the technology. But after the war, it more or less vanished from the planet, for reasons unknown. Until Mason needed a way to power his flamethrowers, that is.

All Power Labs has taken gasification and combined it with two of the Bay Area's most valuable commodities -- a rich maker culture, and cutting-edge programming skills -- to produce what are called PowerPallets. Feed a bunch of walnut shells or wood chips into these $27,000 machines and you get fully clean energy at less than $2 a watt, a fraction of what other green power sources can cost.

Please read full and follow at: