Can Jim Mason solve the developing world’s power problems with a temperamental machine that runs on garbage?
It is a challenge just to find the door to All Power Labs, an upstart alternative-energy concern in the industrial wastelands of far west Berkeley, California, and it’s not unusual for visitors to circle the block several times before realizing that the only way in is through a rolling gate with a small sign. Beyond that is what appears to be a scrap yard filled with old shipping containers and rusty hunks of metal. Welding torches spark and flare; walnut fragments litter the ground. And all around are iterations of APL’s main product, the Power Pallet, a contraption consisting of a large silver barrel on top of various other metal parts, all connected with pipes and hoses. It looks like something you’d use to cook meth. In reality, the Power Pallet is a small refinery, which converts biomass (nutshells, wood chips, corncobs) to hydrogen-rich gas, attached to a four-cylinder engine, which burns the gas to generate electricity. The weirdest part: It is, potentially, the most important and transformative energy product that no one has heard of.