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Industrial Algae Plant Configuration Face Problems

January 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Biodiesel, Algae-CO2-Capture, Algae-Cultivation

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Algae developers are riding a wave of interest due to the single-celled plant’s ability to grow rapidly and produce valuable products that can be used to make biodiesel. How industrial algae plants will be configured is yet unknown, but producers will face the same problems as other alternative energy producers—where to put the facility and how to get government permission to build it.

The illustration shows a future algae farm surrounding an integrated fossil carbon input plant and an algal biomass conversion plant.

It is hard work getting an industrial plant built. Developers need to find a site with easy access to infrastructure for water, power and transportation yet not too close to residential or commercial areas that may object to noise, traffic, odor or any number of other inconveniences. They must then contend with a thicket of agencies, starting with local zoning boards and state pollution control agencies and sometimes even needing federal approvals before they can start pushing dirt and laying foundations. Even then, community residents and outsiders, who may believe they weren’t consulted properly can still swoop in and cause more headaches with lawsuits and media campaigns designed to delay or stop a project.

These problems can be magnified when a project is a “first-of-its-kind” facility for what promises to be a booming industry in the future. Algae production for biofuels, biomass, chemicals and other products faces these challenges. Companies pursuing algae production could learn from previous generations of alternative energy production, says Peter Mostow, a partner with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm that works with many clean technology and renewable energy firms.

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