Event Dates: November 6, 2015 – 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Jonathan D. Trent, OMEGA Global Initiative and NASA-AMES research Center, OMEGA: An energy, water, food life-support system for spaceship earth

OMEGA emerged from NASA’s Advanced Life Support research that allows us to contemplate human exploration of Mars and helps us address looming problems with energy, water, and food here on Earth. OMEGA, an acronym for “Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae,” began as a project to grow microalgae for biofuels and evolved into an ecosystem of technologies that generates sustainable energy, turns wastewater into drinking water, and provides food without using land.
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 (hybrid) solar panels that produce electricity and heat. The electricity powers 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 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 an OMEGA process that turns wastewater into drinkable water—at a fraction of the cost of desalination methods for seawater. Add the use of OMEGA’s floating infrastructure by aquaculture farmers to cultivate oysters, crabs, fish, or whatever is an appropriate crop for the location, and the OMEGA system makes a valuable contribution to local food production. Thus OMEGA provides energy, water, and food, while creating a diversity of jobs that support a sustainable “green” economy.

We will discuss the $10.8 million OMEGA feasibility study supported by NASA and the CA Energy Commission from 2010 to 2013 and the OMEGA Global Initiative (OGI), a recently founded nonprofit corporation 501(c)(3) to identify OMEGA sites, mobilize local OMEGA developers, mitigate developmental risks, and facilitate successful OMEGA implementation,
operation, and, ultimately, commercialization globally.

Trent, JD, 2015. Food, water, and energy from alpha to omega. TEDx Academy talk, Athens Greece:
Trent, JD, 2013. OMEGA Final Report to the California Energy Commission.

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