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Green Jobs in the Algal Biofuel Field

March 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Algae-Energy-Companies, Algae-Fuel-Research

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Hatcher started exploring biofuel three decades ago. His work was interrupted in the early 1990s when the DOE stopped funding research in alternative fuel. In today’s green-friendly climate, Hatcher thinks the time for this technology has finally come. The Spring Grove pilot project is capable of generating 3,000 gallons of biodiesel a year on one acre of land. “To do this on a large scale,” says Hatcher, “requires a lot of acres and that’s where the jobs are.” A 1,000-acre algal biofuel project would mean roughly 30 to 40 high-tech jobs, each with an annual salary of $50,000 or more, says Hatcher. “It’s not grunt labor. To monitor the algae requires someone who knows something about algae.”

In Blacksburg, JAS Energy is planning to build an algae conversion plant that will be fully automatic, but that doesn’t mean it won’t create jobs, says company President John Verbeck. In one of the more inspired pairings of Virginia’s alternative energy movement, JAS is partnering with ATK (Alliant Techsystems), a defense contractor that operates a TNT manufacturing facility in the New River Valley.

“Our plant will be treating discharged water which is high in nitrates. That’s pretty much the cause of algae blooms that are a problem in the New River Valley, the Chesapeake Bay and the James River.” The JAS plant will use that erstwhile-pollutant to grow algae to convert to fuel, the first step in its vision of a Virginia where every major source of nitrates filters its waste water through an algae “farm.”

This pilot project breaks ground in the New River Valley this fall with hopes of a December startup date. It will take engineers and construction crews to get the plant online. Once running, says Verbeck, “The main jobs that will come from this are plant operators and managers.” Plus hundreds of what he calls “domino jobs”: everything from truckers to cleaning crews.

If the wheels were set in motion today, says Hatcher, 1,000 Virginians could be working in the algal biofuel field in as little as five years. That timetable would require major investors. “Look what happened with ethanol,” says Hatcher. “That developed at blinding speed.

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One Response to “Green Jobs in the Algal Biofuel Field”

  1. Dennis Says:

    If we can learn to optimize the production of algae oil derivatives alongside or in conjunction with wind and solar energy capture methods, we will be a more employed world using a variety of technical skills and abilities in various technical and scientific fields. When oil goes bust, conventional science will do a massive flip into renewable energy.

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