Alt power from art to business.

Author:Doherty, Brian
Position::All Power Labs, Berkeley, California - Follow-Up

In 2008 reason reported on the troubles that the regulatory authorities of the city of Berkeley, California, brought to bear on a machine artist named Jim Mason and his crew at a build space called the Shipyard ("Power From the People," May 2008). Mason and his team thought they were conducting interesting artistic experiments with fire and destructive machinery and repurposing old shipping containers as live/work spaces. Berkeley officials didn't see it that way: They just saw shenanigans that might be dangerous and didn't fit their existing bureaucratic standards for entertainment, living, and building.

The feud eventually led the city to shut off Mason's electricity. To power themselves--and their Burning Man art projects--he and his crew experimented with "gasification." This process creates essentially carbon neutral energy via "burning" carbon-based refuse (like coffee grounds, corn husks, or nut shells) in a low oxygen environment to produce gases burnable in an engine.

As Mason's interest in gasification techniques grew, the art project morphed into a business called All Power Labs which is still running out of that same Berkeley property. It is now a 40-employee, patent-holding company pulling in about $5 million a year selling gasifier products such as "Power Pallets" and "Power Cubes" to anyone with access to burnable biomass waste, including in...

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