By: Hannah Jeon, Lance Penny, & Jaylon Wells

How It Works...

To many people, the most familiar forms of renewable energy are the wind and the sun. But biomass (plant material and animal waste) is the oldest source of renewable energy, used since our ancestors learned the secret of fire. Until recently, biomass supplied far more renewable electricity—or “biopower”—than wind and solar power combined. If developed properly, biomass can and should supply increasing amounts of biopower. In fact, in numerous analyses of how America can transition to a clean energy future, sustainable biomass is a critical renewable resource Sustainable, low-carbon biomass can provide a significant fraction of the new renewable energy we need to reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide to levels that scientists say will avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Without sustainable, low-carbon biopower, it will likely be more expensive and take longer to transform to a clean energy economy. But like all our energy sources, biopower has environmental risks that need to be mitigated. If not managed carefully, biomass for energy can be harvested at unsustainable rates, damage ecosystems, produce harmful air pollution, consume large amounts of water, and produce net greenhouse emissions.
By: Union of Concerned Scientists; October 29, 2010

Current Event : Arizona State University

The U.S. DOE has selected the Arizona State University-led Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) for a $15 million award for its Advancements in Sustainable Algal Production opportunity.

“This algae national testbed will provide high quality data and a network of sites that will speed the pace of innovation,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3 and ASU LightWorks, the university initiative that pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework. “This network will support companies and research institutions as they work to meet the nation’s energy challenges.”

The ATP3 partnership is led by the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) housed at ASU’s Polytechnic campus with support from national labs and academic and industrial partners including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Cellana LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory, SRS Energy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Commercial Algae Management.

“This is a critical step for DOE’s support of the growing algal biofuel industry,” said Philip Pienkos, principal manager of the applied biology group at NREL and director of integration for ATP3. “The productivity data generated by the ATP3 testbeds will flow into techno-economic and lifecycle assessment models and provide a basis for tracking progress toward goals in production economics and sustainability. By making high quality testbed capabilities available to researchers and technology developers, they will allow rapid testing of novel concepts at scale and greatly accelerate commercialization. NREL is proud to play a key role in the establishment and operation of the ATP3 testbed in a manner that will allow DOE to achieve its long term goals towards production of advanced biofuels.”

ATP3 will function as a testing facility for the algal research community supporting the operation of existing outdoor algae cultivation systems and allowing researchers access to real-world conditions for algal biomass production for biofuel. Testbed facilities for the partnership are physically located in Arizona, Hawaii, California, Ohio, and Georgia.

DOE’s investment from its Biomass Program in ATP3 means companies and research institutes will now have access to facilities and data from long-term algal cultivation trials for use in establishing a realistic and coherent state of technology for algal biofuels.

“This multi-regional testbed will address a major gap currently hindering the scale-up of algal biofuels,” said Blake Simmons, the biomass program manager for Sandia. “This partnership will provide validated data on algal growth and biofuel production across multiple sites in the USA, and will provide essential data related to the scale-up and commercialization of algal biofuels.”

AzCATI was created by grants from Science Foundation Arizona and its President and CEO William Harris. AzCATI and algae research and development also benefited from the strong support of Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer.

Two new algae-related bills passed in Arizona classify algae as agriculture and allow for growth and harvest of algae on state trust lands. These advancements in the state create a more attractive environment for industry. Arizona is poised to be a preferred destination for algae-based companies to form and flourish.


By: Arizona State University; September 12, 2012