To help meet the federal mandate of quadrupling biofuel use by 2020, a public-private consortium announced plans to construct a new facility on Cape Cod to produce renewable biofuels from algae.
Plankton Power and the Regional Technology Development Corp. (RTDC) of Cape Cod said their Cape Cod Algae Biorefinery will focus on pilot- and commercial-scale manufacturing of the 100% renewable fuel, which is cost-competitive with other biofuels made with petroleum, animal or vegetable-based materials.
The planned biorefinery is proposed for construction on five acres of land on the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) in Bourne, Massachusetts, supported by the Massachusetts National Guard pending legal and regulatory reviews.
The biodiesel from Plankton Power algae is a “drop-in” replacement for home heating oil and petroleum diesel and will be produced for commercial distribution. Beyond advancing energy independence, the initiative will also create local jobs in algae farming and downstream industries and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Plankton Power sees algae as environmentally superior to the current alternatives: The system uses naturally occurring algae species, converts sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce the oil, and uses the waste solids as a nutrient source to feed the algae. The process produces no hazardous materials, employs a green technology to extract oil from the algae, and generates valuable byproducts that can be used in the production of animal feed and nutraceuticals.
The pilot facility would provide the required infrastructure for testing commercial scale-up of this proprietary algae-growth technology resulting from 20 years of cold saltwater species research and production.
The Cape Cod Algae Biorefinery Consortium, under the leadership of Plankton Power, and the RTDC, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and Cape Cod Commission, recently submitted a $20 million proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy that would leverage $4 million in private funding to construct the proposed facility. MassDevelopment, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and Loud Fuel Company are also supporting the initiative, according to the press release.
Beginning in autumn 2010, Plankton Power expects to initiate pilot-scale operations to generate up to one million gallons of biodiesel per year—enough fuel to supply Cape Cod’s current biodiesel usage. The company projects that commercial-scale operations on 100 acres could eventually yield 100 million gallons of biodiesel, which would meet 5% of the demand for diesel and home heating fuel in the state of Massachusetts.
“The MMR location is ideal for this pilot project—the on-site wastewater treatment plant would provide an excellent source of nutrients for the algae, and MMR’s location close to the Cape Cod Canal would provide a convenient source of seawater as well as a renewable thermal energy source for algae growth and temperature control. We acknowledge the National Guard and the state of Massachusetts for providing critical support to this initiative.”
The algae facility’s location near Woods Hole Institute and MBL will provide Plankton’s team access to the exceptional scientific expertise and resources available at the Cape’s world-leading marine research institutions and facilitate a collaborative approach to address the challenges of efficiently producing commercial quantities of biofuel from algae.
Plankton’s fully contained recirculating algae production system uses closed ponds and algae-to-fuel bioreactors allowing for the recycling of much of the nutrient content and virtually all the water used in the production, minimizing environmental impact. Plankton was incorporated in 2007 and is based in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.