Aug 162009
Authors: Madeline Novey

During their first tour of CSU’s Engines and Energy Conservation Lab Thursday afternoon Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Michael Bennet got a look at alternative fuels and engine emissions research currently underway.

Ritter said the lab’s work is part of a “21st century energy economy” and imperative in the state and nation’s quest to reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency.

“(This lab) is making a meaningful difference around the world,” Ritter said in the lab’s parking lot after the tour.

Bryan Willson, director of CSU’s Clean Energy Supercluster, of which the EEC lab is a part of, highlighted several major projects including the creation and distribution of clean cookstoves in developing nations.

Started in 2007, the non-profit company Envirofit International, one of several companies connected with the EEC lab, has sold more than 60,000 clean cookstoves to rural villages in India.

The company plans to sell the cookstoves in Africa in November or December and South America next year, said Nathan Lorenz, vice president of engineering at Envirofit.

The cookstoves are a response to the growing global problem of indoor air pollution, which kills 1.5 million people each year, according to Envirofit’s Web site.

The wood burning stoves, which stand about two feet off the ground and use a combustion chamber made from alloy metals, reduce emissions up to 80 percent, use up to 60 percent less fuel and reduce cooking time by up to 50 percent.

Willson showed Ritter and Bennet Envirofit’s newest model of the cookstove, which can be modified to use charcoal, an abundant fuel in some urban African areas, in place of wood.

This model will not be distributed in India until next month.

Lorenz said he is “very proud with what the company has done” since its opening but said there is work to be done to outfit the millions of families in need of a healthier, more efficient cooking system.

Additionally, Willson showed the group, made up of more than a dozen CSU administrators, press and the two politicians, an engine that is started with lasers rather than spark plugs to increase efficiency and reduce overall emissions.

Outside on lab grounds, the group viewed a photo bio-reactor, a 60-foot pool that housed tubes circulating greenhouse-grown algae. When processed, scientists are able to harvest the algae — which is made up of one-third carbohydrates, one-third proteins and one-third oil — and make biofuel.

The 17-year-old lab’s major projects and research are listed on its Web site at:

News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at

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