Renewable energy in Colorado-
pond scum and geothermal
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Energy without negative climate impacts is broadly recognized as an imperative. Sir Nicholas Stern, chief economist for the World Bank, said that climate change presents a unique challenge for economics and that it has the potential to be the world`s greatest and widest ranging market failure ever seen.
"Business as usual will result in a five-to six-degree warming of the Earth by 2100," says Stern. "This will result in a five to 10 percent loss in global gross domestic product, having a direct impact on human health and environment."
Source: Cherry Creek News
Solix Biofuels Inc., a startup company based in Boulder, is working with Colorado State University engineers to commercialize technology that can cheaply mass produce oil derived from algae and turn it into biodiesel - an environmentally friendly solution to high gas prices and greenhouse gas emissions.
Solix officials plan to commercialize the technology over the next two years. After ramping up to widespread production, the company expects to eventually compete commercially with the wholesale price of crude petroleum.
"We`re facing two global challenges: depletion of our petroleum reserves and a buildup of greenhouse gases," said Bryan Willson, director of Colorado State`s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, which is helping Colorado State achieve its goal to lead the nation in developing and commercializing environmentally sustainable solutions to global problems. "This process harnesses photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide and energy captured from the sun into an economical petroleum substitute."
"Algae are the fastest growing organisms on the planet, and can produce 100 times more oil per acre than conventional soil-tilled crops that are now being grown for biofuel use," said Solix founder Jim Sears.
Solix officials estimate that widespread construction of its photo-bioreactor system could meet the demand for the U.S. consumption of diesel fuel - about 4 million barrels a day - by growing algae on less than 0.5 percent of the U.S. land area, which is otherwise unused land adjacent to power plants and ethanol plants. The plants produce excess carbon dioxide, which is necessary to turn algae into oil. In addition to producing biodiesel, the process would prevent a large portion of the greenhouse gases produced by coal-burning power plants from being expelled directly into the atmosphere.
"Algae to biofuel technologies are still being developed, yet a strong case can be made for global domestication of algae as an energy crop," said Doug Henston, chief executive officer of Solix. "We want to manage this technology to create a business that will serve current and future energy stakeholders."
Colorado State and Solix officials are collaborating with New Belgium Brewing Co. to use excess carbon dioxide from the brewery`s plant to test the algae-based biodiesel process.
Solix is one of many companies doing business in northern Colorado because of its leadership in attracting clean and renewable energy companies and technology.
Colorado State and Solix participated in the creation of the Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, a clearinghouse that connects entrepreneurs and major power users with researchers and government officials, encouraging innovation, new job creation, and investment in the region.
Colorado State participates in the Clean Energy Collaboratory between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Colorado State, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Colorado. "Commercialization partners such as Solix are critical to the successful transfer of laboratory innovations to the marketplace, and with the tremendous entrepreneurial interest in the Northern Colorado region, we expect to see Colorado State participating in many more startups," said Mark Wdowik, vice president for Technology Transfer at Colorado State University Research Foundation - a private, non-profit foundation.
The Colorado Geological Survey has identified several areas of the state where geothermal energy may be abundant. These locations include areas near Mt. Princeton outside of Buena Vista, the San Juan mountains near Ouray and Rico, and areas of the San Luis Valley near Trinidad.
"Geothermal energy presents an opportunity to expand renewable resources in Colorado that is often overlooked. This opportunity fits perfectly with Governor Ritter`s promise to add a full mix of renewable energies for our state," said Tom Plant, OEMC director, while delivering the conference opening address. "Our hope is to have geothermal energy take a seat at Colorado`s renewable energy table alongside solar and wind power."
The potential of geothermal energy worldwide has been estimated to be 50,000 times the world`s oil and gas reserves. A large portion of the U.S.`s geothermal energy may be located in Colorado.
Geothermal energy could be a key player in helping ease pressure on traditional fossil fuel sources. Unlike other renewables, which depend upon specific conditions to generate electricity, geothermal power plants can provide consistent base load power similar to coal power plants. Geothermal power emits very low or no greenhouse gases. "Geothermal energy is currently used in a few Colorado locations for direct applications, such as heating swimming pools or buildings, but no electricity is being generated," said Plant. "The Workgroup will deliver a Strategic Plan in June."