OMEGA, “Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae,” began as a NASA Advanced Life Support research project to grow algae for biofuels and evolved into an ecosystem of technologies that generate sustainable energy, turn wastewater into drinking water, and provide food without using land.
How OMEGA Works
OMEGA combines and optimizes new and emerging technologies for energy production, wastewater purification, and aquaculture. In protected ocean bays, OMEGA’s floating platforms are covered with water-cooled solar panels that produce electricity and heat. The electricity runs pumps that circulate nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich wastewater through a network of clear, flexible, plastic tubes to grow oil-rich algae, which are harvested and processed into biofuels. In addition to making all-important liquid biofuels, the algae capture CO2 that would otherwise be in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. And they remove nutrients and contaminants from the wastewater as a first step in a unique OMEGA process that turns wastewater into drinkable water—at a fraction of the cost of standard desalination technologies.
Add the use of OMEGA’s floating infrastructure by aquaculture farmers to cultivate oysters, crabs, fish, or whatever is an appropriate crop for the site, and the OMEGA system makes a valuable contribution to local food production. And as the OMEGA ecosystem of technologies provides energy, water, and food, it creates a diversity of interesting jobs that support a sustainable economy.
From OMEGA to OGI
After four years of experimentation and $10.8 million of research support from NASA and the California Energy Commission, we are now ready to deploy the first integrated OMEGA systems in protected bays around the world. To this end we have formed the OGI as a nonprofit corporation 501(c)(3). OGI is assembling a technical and business staff, a board of advisors, and rallying local experts and educators called “OMEGA Activists.” The OGI team will evaluate, socialize, implement, and operate OMEGA systems following an 8-phase, step-bystep plan that mitigates developmental risks, and facilitate successful OMEGA implantation, operation, and commercialization.
OGI introduces and helps local OMEGA developers and entrepreneurs implement this floating “ecosystem” of technologies that will usher in an era of offshore, integrated, sustainable industries that capture solar energy, recycle wastewater as potable water, and produce food from aquaculture. OGI redefines what people now consider “wastes” and changes our relationship to offshore environments. OGI helps the world realize the benefits of OMEGA.
By 2025 OGI will deploy OMEGA systems in coastal communities worldwide, greatly increasing the generation of offshore solar energy for electricity, heat, and biofuels; revolutionizing the use of wastewater for the production of both biomass and potable water; and enhancing local food production from aquaculture. OMEGA will be a new offshore hub for the energy, water, food nexus that will take advantage of sea-level rise and support sustainable economies globally.