A different timeline for commercializing second-gen biofuels

In the NYT:
With the twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, a start-up company co-founded by a Colorado State University professor recently introduced a strain of algae that loves carbon dioxide into a water tank next to a natural gas processing plant. The water is already green-tinged with life.

The Southern Utes, one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian communities thanks to its energy and real-estate investments, is a major investor in the professor’s company. It hopes to gain a toehold in what tribal leaders believe could be the next billion-dollar energy boom.
Long-heralded as the innovation around the corner which will make biofuels actually good for the earth, second-generation biofuels have struggled to make the jump from demonstration plants to commercial scale. Among the difficult hurdles is the return that private investors would have to expect to justify a large capital expenditure with a high degree of associated risk. One potential solution? Find capital from partners with different metrics and timelines:
The Colorado State professor, Bryan Willson, who teaches mechanical engineering and is a co-founder of the three-year-old company Solix Biofuels, said working with the Southern Utes on their land afforded his company advantages that would have been impossible in mainstream corporate America. The tribe contributed almost one-third of the $20 million in capital raised by Solix, free use of land and more than $1 million in equipment.

“If you’re going with strict venture capital, they’re looking for a blistering return on capital in three to five years,” Dr. Willson said. “The Utes have a very long economic view. They’re making decisions now for future generations as opposed to the next quarter, and that is just fundamentally different.”
In theory this is the perfect match, and this sounds very promising. The hard part will of course be finding other chunks of capital which aren't looking for what those crazy business folks consider to be a good return on investment.

No comments:

Post a Comment