Tampa science museum to feature biomass gasifier

By Ryan C. Christiansen
The 74-acre, 300,000-square-foot Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Fla., plans to build a hands-on educational exhibit about energy that will include a 6-megawatt biomass gasification plant that provides power to the museum.

According to Wit Ostrenko, president of the Hillsborough County, Fla.-owned facility, the museum is requesting proposals from developers that might 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 three to five acres of the museum campus. The gasification plant will include an educational component so that visitors can see 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. "We will have a million people a year coming from all over the world to see their power plant." He said the facility will take in 150,000 tons of wood waste per year from Hillsborough County and possibly the city of Tampa.

Ostrenko described the Energy Center as an idea tossed around for 30 years. "The idea has more legs now," he noted. "I don't think anybody is letting go of the fact that by spending even $1.75 on a gallon of gas, a lot of that money is going to other countries."

The museum has a committee dedicated to seeing the Energy Center happen. "We looked at it practically," Ostrenko said. "We consume 1 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.