Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bioenergy News

Destiny, Florida, is to be the site of a 41,000 acre farm where sweet sorghum, algae, jatropha, and other staple biofuels crops will be grown under varying conditions, to optimise the yield as far as possible. Finding the best varieties which grow under diverse conditions will be invaluable.

At Purdue University, researchers are learning to play the maize genome like a harmonica.
"Maize has the same genes arranged in the same order and on the same chromosomes as the other grasses," said McCann, an associate professor of biological science. "We'll switch genes on and off as we identify them to see what they do. Once we know the genes and their functions, then we can assess which ones might make good targets for modification for enhanced biomass and sugars for processing into biofuel."

A bioenergy company named AXI is attempting something analogous with algal strains. Using non-genetic aqua-farming methods, AXI will assist algal biofuels makers in optimising the best strains of algae for their purposes.

In New Zealand, government scientists predict that growing pine forests on less than 2.8 hectares of poor quality land will be sufficient to fuel New Zealands highway fleets of the future.

Researchers from Texas A&M are developing drought-tolerant strains of maize. Such strains should allow a broader range of growing regions for the crop.

More on the "food vs. fuel" debate.

While the modern remedy for energy shortages in population dense areas of the world is more nuclear power and judicious use of fossil fuels, in less population dense areas bioenergy will make an increasing impact on energy needs. Over the next 10 to 20 years, bioenergy will grow from its rural and regional bases to displace a larger part of the fossil fuel infrastructures. It will probably take from 2 to 3 decades for bioenergy to substantially displace fossil fuels from high density population areas.

During that entire time, nuclear energy will take on an increasingly important role, as will solar energy (both PV and solar thermal). These electricity producing technologies will work side by side to allow conversion of transportation fleets from a combustion to an electrical basis. At the same time, fuel cells driven by methane, methanol, hydrogen, and other simple fuels (including carbonised biomass) will also begin to drive large proportions of motor vehicles and homes.



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