July 19, 2009
It may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but the fields of algae growing in plastic bags submerged in water in Southern Colorado are a reality and could be the future of biofuels.
Solix Biofuels Inc. launched its first full-scale biofuels demonstration facility, the first of its kind in the world, last week by inoculating its photobioreactor system to start growing algae.
The 2-acre facility, named Coyote Gulch, is southwest of Durango on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The inception of the new plant is a monumental step for the CSU startup company in its quest to deliver biofuels to the masses at an affordable price.
Founded in 2006, Solix is developing low-cost scalable photobioreactors where algae grows inside plastic bags suspended in the sunlight in place of open-pond conditions. The goal is to cheaply mass produce oil derived from algae and convert it to biodiesel that could fuel vehicle and planes.
On Tuesday at Solix's Fort Collins offices at Colorado State University's Engines and Energy Conversions Laboratory, Solix's Chief Financial Officer David Maytubby said the new plant will produce 2,000 gallons per-acre per-year of biofuel in 2009, and expand to about 3,000 gallons per-acre per-year by 2010.
To be commercially viable, Maytubby said the facility would need to produce between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of biofuel per-acre per-year on 150 to 200 acres. He anticipates the Coyote Gulch facility could reach that point within the next three years. Solix broke ground on the site Feb. 18 and begins production this week.
For now, Solix has three large water basins on the plant site, each filled with plastic bags in which the algae grows. The project, dubbed "Gemini Reactors," is 25-times the size of its pilot project outside its Fort Collins' office known as the "Mercury Reactors."
Eventually, Solix intends to expand to commercial capacity at its Southern Colorado facility, which is referred to as the "Apollo Reactor."The process of creating algae biofuel requires land, CO2 and water, something that Solix's partners at the Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC have plenty of. Currently, the facility, which has photobioreactors on one acre and a harvesting plant in the works on another, has surveyed 14-acres and has an additional 180 acres to expand its Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility if Solix meets certain benchmarks.
Read this complete article about Solix and its biofuel innovations here:
Overview: The world's largest algae-to-energy technology development company.
Mission: To be the world's leading producer of algal fuels, algal co-products and production technology systems.
CEO: Doug Henston
Headquarters: Fort Collins
Demonstration facility: Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility in Southwestern Colorado inoculated its first photobioreactor system to start growing algae last week.
Investors: Bohemian Investments, Infield Capital, I2BF, SAIL Ltd., Southern Ute Alternative Energy, Valero Energy Corp.