Final Report: Eco-Energy Demonstration Model: Anaerobic Digestion, Algae and Energy Prosperity

EPA Grant Number: SU834290
Title: Eco-Energy Demonstration Model: Anaerobic Digestion, Algae and Energy Prosperity
Investigators: Wilkie, Ann C. , Alldridge, Jonathan S , Edmundson, Scott J , Granovskaya, Yelena , Graunke, Ryan E , Norrell, Taylor S , Society, Bio-Energy and Sustainable Technology
Institution: University of Florida
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

For the project, we:

  1. Designed and constructed an ecological energy model system.
  2. Investigated and characterized locally abundant agricultural and domestic waste resources that can have significant environmental impacts (dairy manure, poultry manure, sewage, food waste, and landfill leachate).
  3. Developed a functional anaerobic digestion ecology and discovered important lessons of digestion biology.
  4. Explored local phycological diversity.
  5. Explored importance of solar energy in the Eco-Energy model.
  6. Learned microscopy skills to probe wastes for indigenous methanogens and algae for lipids.
  7. Evaluated harvesting techniques and biomass production potentials of promising species of algae.
  8. Cultivated benthic algae and experimented with the potential for waste remediation.
  9. Demonstrated the Eco-Energy concept and model to local students, teachers, professors, and researchers.


Ecological energy holds great potential for both producing clean, renewable fuels and mitigating the impacts of wastes on the environment. The diversity of algae explored in this project is astounding. Likewise, the diversity of organic wastes that are possible to digest anaerobically are numerous. We chose to examine locally available and globally pervasive wastes common to modern human societies, whether developed or developing. We discovered that algal assemblages are difficult to establish on-demand and depending upon the species need specific environmental habitats to thrive. Once established, however, benthic algal assemblages showed biomass production potentials of 42.4 ± 4.4 g/m2 and showed an 80.5% reduction of soluble reactive phosphate over a 48-hour period. Moreover, some species of local algae were found to store significant quantities of lipids intracellularly (oleaginous algae) and may have a great potential for both waste mitigation and lipid production. Every human community that necessitates renewable fuel production and waste treatment should investigate the local waste floras for naturally adapted algae and methanogens. Each waste in this study varied tremendously, even within the narrow margins by which we evaluated them, leading to the conclusion that for every waste there may be a specific algal and methanogen community, which has a naturally adapted capacity to utilize that abundant resource. Utilizing waste resources before discharging them into the environment will result in significant reductions in harmful algal blooms, fish kills, and dead zones so prevalent in today's anthropogenically degraded water bodies. In addition to improving water quality, fuels produced by algae and methanogens are clean burning and renewable, reducing harmful air emissions and providing long term solutions to our energy needs.

Proposed Phase II Objectives and Strategies:

To build upon our Phase I successes and overcome remaining challenges, we propose the following as key strategies for successfully developing and implementing this technology through Phase II and beyond:

  1. Further develop and implement the Eco-Energy concept in a self-sufficient pilot-scale research and demonstration unit: the Solar-powered, Waste-treating, Anaerobic-digesting, Nutrient-capturing, Kitchen-demonstration Yurt (SWANKY) pilot-plant.
  2. Focus on optimization of the anaerobic digestion of food waste.
  3. Further integrate the Eco-Energy model utilizing algae to purify biogas to biomethane quality.
  4. Advance our phycological studies of the dynamic algal assemblages that colonize the benthic algal treatment slopes.
  5. Develop algal biofuel and anaerobic digestion teaching modules for undergraduate and K-12 education.


Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

alternative energy, renewable energy, waste to energy, biogas, biomethane, animal waste gasification, wastewater treatment, agricultural byproducts, biobased feedstocks, renewable feedstocks, waste to value, sustainable waste management, biodegradation, resource recovery, closed-loop recycling, pollution mitigation, air emissions reduction, conservation, design for the environment, holistic design, model for sustainability, ecological sustainability, carbon sequestration, eutrophication, TMDL, hypoxia, harmful algal blooms,

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