September 23, 2009

Wiki helps developers identify issues in establishing algae-to-biofuel businesses

The Law of Algae wiki, launched at the end of August, serves as a guide to establishing an algae-to-biofuel project, highlighting legal and business issues a developer would face. Wikis are Web sites that allow for easy creation and editing from site users.

Stoel Rives LLP published the work, fully available on the wiki, and has done several other “Law of” books, such as “The Law of Wind” and “The Law of Building Green.” This is, however, the first time the law firm has published a book via a wiki. The format allows for continuous updates and changes. “So the document is always fresh,” said Mark Hanson, partner at the firm. “Algae in particular seems to be susceptible to a lot of change.” The firm will launch wikis for some of its past books, he added, and will stick with the format for future works.

Different considerations come along with different projects from the development perspective, so the books pinpoint specific issues that are common and apply to specific types of projects, Hanson said. “The ‘Law of’ books are intended to highlight various resources and issues as they move forward in their projects,” he said.

Algae is the most recent focus area because of the increasingly high interest in its biofuel production capabilities. “There are lots of new investments and tremendous efforts in the commercialization of algae to biofuel,” Hanson said. Unlike other commodities, such as corn, it does not compete with food production and is not subject to fluctuating prices. It also is an easily controlled feedstock, as it only requires sunlight, water, a harvesting strategy and a process for oil extraction, he added.

The wiki outlines elements of projects such as financing, intellectual property issues, technology issues and contracts, among others. It has attracted quite a bit of interest in its first month, Hanson said, as site visitors are appreciative of the new wiki format and the wide array of topics it addresses.

The firms’ attorneys compile the “Law of” works, Hanson said, drawing from their experience and expertise, which put them in a good position to identify issues developers will need to be aware of.

1 comment:

Chriswaterguy said...

Good to see people getting into wikis for important subjects like this. One important issue: The wiki seems to be copyright, rather than a Creative Commons license.

CC-BY-SA or CC-BY would be good options. CC-BY-SA is the option I'd suggest (no restrictions on derivatives or commercial use) as it would allow for sharing both ways with significant people and communities doing open content, such as the sustainability wiki, Appropedia.