CNET reports a growing number of startups are trying to commercialize algae-based biodiesel. This fuel has the benefit that it grows fast and doesn't compete with food as algae don't require arable land.
Melbourne, Fla.-based PetroAlgae says that it hopes to test a commercial system as early as next year.
The company licensed strains of freshwater algae bred by Arizona State University and is developing the bioreactors and harvesting methods to grow the algae at large scale, said Fred Tennant, PetroAlgae's vice president of business development.
The algae harvested from open-pond farms can be converted to oil that can be refined into biodiesel. The remaining material can be sold as high-protein animal feed, Tennant said.
Because algae needs a source of carbon dioxide to grow, PetroAlgae is seeking to set up joint ventures with electric utilities looking to reduce their carbon emissions.
"The laws that are being debated right now will change a power company's life. They will have to have a lot more renewable energy and get rid of CO2," Tennant said. "Any power company in the world will be happy to pay us to take their CO2 away."