Production of Biodiesel and Ethanol from Algae; Smart Metering in Charlottesville Feasibility

Pagan, Jack, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, University of Virginia

Production of power has diversified greatly in the last few decades but is still dominated by coal and oil. These non-renewables create greenhouse gases and cannot be sustained indefinitely. Since the environment cannot sustain said productions and the demand for power continues to increase, this is a growing issue. The solution is a diversified and smarter power grid. Technology present in the twenty-first century can produce more sustainable fuels and distribute the power more efficiently. The compositions to follow explore a means of producing fuel from a renewable source and best practices for integrating energy monitoring technology into a community.
The technical thesis outlines the construction of a biodiesel and bioethanol production facility using algae cultivated with wastewater. Algae is a unique organism because it produces both lipids and cellulose from waste sources, such as municipal wastewater. The algae is first cultivated using wastewater, then brought into the facility where the cell matter is separated from the oil. The oil is processed to make biodiesel while the cell mass is converted to simple sugars and then ethanol. From this point both product streams are refined to the level required for each respective fuel. The facility was then put under an economic lens to find that the returns were not high enough to recommend construction.
The STS thesis explores the feasibility of Integrating smart metering technology in Charlottesville. The document first looks at international case studies to determine challenges faced and how they are addressed. From these a framework is developed to gauge how well a community is situated to accept smart metering into their network. This framework brings to light the factors for policy and demographics which are most helpful. Using this we can see the possible improvements to give the best chances of success. Documentation for Virginia, specifically Charlottesville, that discusses smart metering is distilled down to the most prevalent policies and factors. The framework developed with international case studies is then applied to Charlottesville. It found there are good preliminary measures and offers suggestions on how the city should proceed in order to integrate smart metering technology as efficiently as possible.
The technical thesis certainly achieved what we had hoped to accomplish, until we checked the economics. The bane of renewable energy and beauty of traditional production is in their respective economic efficiencies. The team worked hard as a unit to produce some well engineered design, but it was disheartening to see how poorly the economics turned out. The team would recommend that if further work is done, that it be more focused on one path of production and simplified, if possible. The STS thesis was certainly a learning experience as I have never done literary analysis at this level. The project did produce a framework to look at other communities, but I feel the evidence for Charlottesville is lacking to make robust claims. If more work is to be done on this topic there has to be more manifestation of the concept phase projects proposed for Virginia.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
biodiesel , ethanol, Charlottesville, smart meter, metering, renewable, international, normalization, transesterification, algae, fermentation, resistance, technology
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