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Large-scale Algae-to-Biofuel Research Project in Nevada

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The first real-world, demonstration-scale project in Nevada for turning algae into biofuel has successfully completed the initial stage of research at the University of Nevada, Reno. The project is on track to show the process is an economical, commercially viable renewable energy source in Nevada.

University researchers have harvested their first outdoor cold-weather crop of algae as part of their collaborative algae-to-biofuels project with their industry partners Enegis, LLC and Bebout and Associates.


University researchers have harvested their first outdoor cold-weather crop of algae as part of their collaborative algae-to-biofuels project Photo provided by Mark Lemos.

The project, using one of two 5,000-gallon ponds at the University’s greenhouse complex on Valley Road in Reno, produced several hundred gallons of concentrated algal slurry. The algae thrived in the outdoor pond despite nighttime temperatures that fell into the low 20s.

“We’ll be analyzing the algae for starches and lipids, the components that can be used for fuel,” said Professor John Cushman, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

Nevada researchers and energy producers are uniquely enabled to leverage the geothermal, high solar radiation, ample land area, and salt basins to produce algae in a scalable and economically viable manner. Use of the uncovered ponds demonstrates that algae can be grown in commercial quantities year-round, even in a temperate climate. This will preclude the need for capital-intensive bioreactors or covered ponds.

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