November 2, 2011

Be Green 2: Local company turns algae into energy

Companies continue looking for new sources of energy.

One Kona-based company may be on the right track, thanks to a government grant.

The company is called Cellana and it received a $5.5 million grant from the Department of Agriculture to develop algae as an energy AND feed source.

"They grow faster than any other plant on earth. And so they make both oils, that can be used for fuel and the proteins can be used for food or feed supplements for animal feed," said Martin Sabarsky of Cellana.

Along with bio-fuel and animal feed supplements, the algae can also be a source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

"We can use these directly from algae rather than get it from the fish. The fish eat algae which have these Omega-3 fatty acids. But we can actually produce them directly in the algae themselves," Sabarsky says.

The algae grows ten to one hundred times faster than land crops - and that makes a difference in Hawaii where there's obviously a lot more water than land. While the Cellana plant is now in Kona, Sabarsky says an ideal location for a similar project would be next to the power plant in Maui.

"The power plant offers carbon dioxide from their emissions. It's on flat land and it's next to the ocean so we can use the seawater. This is the most sustainable way to grow bio-mass to make fuel or feed because we don't use fresh water," he says.

If Cellana is successful with its Kona venture, Sabarsky believes the technology could be expanded to other parts of the world.

"Asia, other parts of the mainland, the gulf coast, Mexico. There are many places with similar conditions here in Hawaii but there's no place better on earth to grow algae than here in Hawaii," he says.

Along with the multi-million dollar grant from the federal government, Cellana also has agreements with Cornell and other universities to test the effectiveness of the algae project.

"But we need ultimately to get private sources of investment to be able to commercialize this technology and that's what we're doing right now. We're looking at both investors and strategic partners for funding" Sabarsky says.

Original post available here.

No comments: