Algal Fuels Projects Getting Funded
Solix has already achieved production of 1,500 gallons an acre per year at a test plot in Fort Collins, and the company is expecting yields of 2,500 to 3,000 gallons an acre per year, said Mr. Henston.It is the huge potential fuel yields of algae that keep investors coming. Algae can take the CO2 effluent from a coal plant, and turn it into clean biofuel in abundant quantities. The various processes for producing algal fuels are still far from ready to compete in the marketplace, but dozens of well-financed efforts are underway and at various stages of progress. Solix plans to begin building its first commercial algae farm next year, on a reservation of Ute N.A. Indians.
In contrast, soybeans, the main source of biodiesel used in this country, yields 50 to 70 gallons per acre.
Investors include on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, on whose reservation, near Durango, the farm will be located; Valero Energy Corporation., the refinery operator; and Infield Capital, an investment fund.Solix is just one among many of competing algal energy companies. Consider it a "race within a race." Algal bioenergy itself is just one of many competing approaches to microbial bioenergy to replace fossil fuel energy. And microbial bioenergy is just one of many approaches to sustainable, clean bioenergy.
Algae has held special appeal for renewable energy researchers — and some investors — because the organism readily converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into a hydrocarbon fuel, producing an oil that can harvested for use as biodiesel. And the more CO2 present, the faster the algae grows. _NYT
Algae companies are breeding faster than algae itself, it seems. Over 50 companies have been formed in the past few years that have crafted business plans to turn pond scum into fuel and/or oil, Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs for the Sapphire Energy, told Greentech Media a few weeks ago (see Inside Sapphire's Algae-Fuel Plans).Society at large will be a winner if even a few of the competitors strike it rich in the algal energy business. Because where one or a few succeed, others will follow with even better financing, standing on the progress of those who preceded them. Algal fuel is simply renewable oil--the best refutation to peak oil conceivable.
Algae insiders and some analysts, however, note that only a few of these companies –Sapphire, Solazyme, GreenFuel Technologies and LiveFuels – have engaged in the kind of bio-engineering and fuel processing to actually produce oils (see The Iconoclasts of Algae). Who will win? Who knows. Solazyme and a few others say they will have oil in commercial production in about three years. Solazyme has already produced several industrial-sized barrels of oil. _GTM