Plankton Power unveils algae-based biodiesel plans

By Anna Austin
Algae-based biofuel developer Plankton Power and the Regional Technology Development Corp. of Cape Cod, Mass., announced a collaboration to construct a pilot-scale algae-based biodiesel production facility in Bourne, Mass.

Together with the Massachusetts National Guard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory and Cape Cod Commission, the groups recently submitted a $20 million project proposal to the U.S. DOE that would leverage $4 million in private funding to construct the facility.

Curtis Felix, CEO of Plankton Power, told Biomass Magazine the company will provide its own algae growth technology, which is based on cold saltwater algae species grown in closed ponds, and will have substantial ongoing support from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

The Cape Cod Algae Biorefinery will be located on five acres on the Massachusetts Military Reservation in Bourne. Felix said the location is ideal for the project, because of its on-site wastewater treatment plant, which will provide an excellent source of nutrients for the algae, and Massachusetts Military Reservation's close proximity to the Cape Cod Canal, which would provide a convenient source of seawater and a renewable thermal energy source for algal growth and temperature control.

Plankton Power hopes to generate approximately 1 MMgy of biodiesel when the pilot facility is up and running, which may be enough fuel to meet Cape Cod's current biodiesel needs.

A project timeline has been tentatively set, according to Felix. "We are targeting construction for the summer of 2010, but that is subject to a National Environmental Policy Review and some other legal and regulatory approvals, which could accelerate or delay our expected timetable," he said.

-Anna Austin