University of Hawaii to receive $6M to support biofuel initiative

By University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources | June 05, 2012

The University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources will receive $6 million to continue efforts to convert grass and other biomass into sustainable, commercial biofuel, announced U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, and U.S. Reps. Mazie K. Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa June 1.

The money comes from a grant administered by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

CTAHR will use the funds to help pay for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a project designed to convert napiergrass, sugarcane, energycane, sweet sorgum and other plant products into sustainable, economically viable biofuel.

“Continuing to invest in a sustainable energy future is vital to the health of our environment and our economy,” said Inouye. “At this time, fuel used for air, sea, and land transportation accounts for more than 60 percent of the oil imported into Hawaii. These funds will help convert various species of grass and plants into clean fuel. Hawaii is at the forefront of clean energy research and development and the projects and initiatives underway in our islands are helping to lessen our dependence on imported oil and moving us toward a time when the majority of our power is generated from clean, sustainable sources.”

"Biofuels offer much promise for our economy and environment since they can be locally produced and have the potential to significantly reduce pollution,” Akaka said. “The University of Hawaii is a leader in renewable energy technologies, including biomass-to-biofuels research, and I look forward to continued advancements being made at CTAHR.”

Longtime program support Hirono, who recently released an energy sustainability plan, said, "Part of our challenge when it comes to making our state energy independent is determining how Hawaii’s unique climate and year-round growing season affect things like crop yields for biomass. Research conducted on the mainland doesn’t take those factors into account. That’s why investments like this help us learn the types of yields we can expect or the requirements we’d need to plan for when growing various biomass crops. That information is essential for companies and potential investors interested in developing alternative energy projects. I congratulate the University of Hawaii for winning this important investment that will help Hawaii create more of our own energy."

“Hawaii is the ideal laboratory for developing biofuel because our climate allows a diverse array of plant species to grow in the quantities necessary to test and convert to energy” said Hanabusa, a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Investing in and promoting renewable energy initiatives helps lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels, protects our environment and creates jobs. I would like to thank the administration for their continued support of Hawaii’s renewable energy industries.”