Museum to feature biomass gasifier in energy center

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Dec. 5, 2008 at 10:51 a.m. CST

The 74-acre, 300,000-square-foot Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Fla., is planning to build a new hands-on educational exhibit about energy that will feature renewable energies and be built around a proposed six-megawatt biomass gasification plant to provide power for the museum.

According to Wit Ostrenko, president of the Hillsborough County, Fla.-owned MOSI, the museum plans to submit a request for proposals from developers who would be interested in building a gasification plant at the proposed $14 million Energy Center exhibit which will occupy a 10,000-square-foot building on 3 to 5 acres on the museum campus. The gasification plant will include an educational component so that visitors can see and understand how the gasification plant works and how biomass gasification is more beneficial than burning fossil fuels.

"We're looking for a company that needs to demonstrate that they have the technology to do this," Ostrenko said, "and then we have a million people a year coming here from all over the world coming to see their power plant." Ostrenko said the feedstock for the plant will be 150,000 tons of waste wood per year supplied by Hillsborough County and possibly the City of Tampa.

Ostrenko said the Energy Center is an idea that has been tossed around for 30 years. "In 1976-77, we started doing alternative renewable energy projects at the science center in Miami and it was doing really well," he said, "until the bubble burst-and the energy crisis went away. There was no longer any interest in doing that." However, the idea "has got a lot more legs now," Ostrenko said. "I don't think anybody is letting go of the fact that even spending $1.75 on a gallon of gas, a lot of that money is going to other countries."

MOSI has a committee that is dedicated to seeing the Energy Center happen. "We looked at it practically," he said. "We consume one megawatt of power that costs us almost $700,000 per year. So how can we get rid of that $700,000 per year bill?"

Other plans for the Energy Center include tapping methane gas from a nearby landfill, Ostrenko added.