All Power Labs is a Berkeley, CA based company that designs, engineers, and manufactures compact biomass gasifiers. Their current core product is the Power Pallet.
The Power Pallet’s pioneering reactor design and thermal relationship management have received multiple international patents. They can operate on a wide range of waste agricultural biomass products like wood chips, nut shells or corn cobs, with no pelletising or briquetting of fuels required, and without the large purification tanks and toxic byproducts of other designs.
The fully-assembled 18kW unit is easily transported by ordinary pickup truck, requires minimal civil works to install, and can be operated by locally-trained technicians. It combines highly automated, computer controls with an easy to use and maintain gasifier and engine genset. Multiple units can expand generation in modular fashion. All design upgrades are reverse interoperable, and software and best practices upgrades are shared free-of- charge to customers.
Power Pallets can provide three-phase electricity sufficient to power agricultural machinery at less than 1/3 the current cost of diesel. Power can be generated at any time of day or in any season, without need for battery storage. Power Pallets are now in use in over 30 countries, filling the critical gap between household-level solar lighting and charging products and centralised grid power. Power Pallets have optional CHP capacity to also provide heating and drying or motive power. The current list price of the Power Pallet is USD 1.75/watt of capacity, and can produce electricity for little as USD .08/kW/h in direct feedstock and labour costs.
Even before the recent Ebola crisis, Liberia had struggled to regain its footing after two civil wars in recent decades, and an almost complete lack of electricity in rural areas. Grid power is only available in parts of the capital Monrovia, at a rate of USD .57 per kW/h, and off grid power from diesel can be as much as USD .70 per kW/h. While there is plenty of biomass available from expired rubber tree plantations, there was no affordable, community sized way to turn that biomass into energy.
USAID sponsored the installation of a 50kW biomass energy power plant and training center at the Booker Washington Institute, utilising three Power Pallets, as part of the Liberia Energy Sector Support Project (LESSP). The sponsorship also extended to the creation of a Renewable Energy Center, to both House the power plant as well as trained students in the school on their operation, and various renewable technologies. The facility provides on demand energy for half the campus, and the entire surrounding Jambo Village of 200 families.
They operate on wood chips from rubber trees, which no longer have productive use and would otherwise be burned for disposal. The school can now make power reliably, whenever needed, without concern over availability of expensive diesel, and even though the school was closed, throughout the entire Ebola crisis the project was able to continue making power to serve the surrounding community.
The benefits to the environment are three fold. First, the use of biomass allows Booker Washington Institute (BWI) to avoid using almost half their previous diesel consumption. Second, by using rubber trees that would otherwise be burned, they avoid air pollution. And third, using gasification produces biochar, a stable form of carbon that can be sequestered.
USAID paid for the rehabilitation of the Building, installation of a new grid, and a yearlong training and education program. The Power Pallet component cost USD 120,000. Including labour and the purchase of biomass, the cost of energy produced at BWI is less than USD 0.20 per kW/h.
The power plant continues to operate all day; every day school is open. Due to the availability of reliable power, classes in woodworking, auto repair, welding, and other energy intensive activities are able to take place. The waste biochar produced by the Power Pallets is provided free of charge to classrooms at the school for reblacking their chalkboards. Student operators who have been trained at the facility are now able to find private sector jobs operating similar projects, and commercial power sales in Kakata are expected to begin in June, 2015.