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How Algae Got a Boost from the Fiscal Cliff Deal

Colorado State University

Wind isn’t the only alternative energy industry to get a boost from the Fiscal Cliff deal. Also included is a tax credit for algae growers encouraging biofuel production that could one day power cars and boats.

According to Biofuels Digest, the new tax credit would work out to about $59 million over 10 years for producers of algae biofuels.

That’s a boost for an industry that is struggling right now to translate technology that works on a small scale to large commercial production. In October, the U.S. National Research Council concluded that Algal biofuels could not be made right now without unsustainable amounts of energy.

“It’s an important foot in the door,” said Ken Reardon, a professor at Colorado State University who studies the technology. Reardon and CSU are part of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products. In Colorado, CSU collaborates with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels for research. Reardon said incentives are key right now to encouraging businesses in the industry to invest in larger build outs.

“It’s moved to the point where people are doing demonstration-scale projects. It’s by no means in the lab anymore,” he said. “But to build out like that we need help from the government and developing the infrastructure.”

One business—Solix—has spun off using technology developed at Colorado State University. That company opened up at 150,000 liter algae demonstration plant in southwestern Colorado in 2009.

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