Joule Biotechnologies announced today that they have signed a lease agreement to build its first pilot plant to be located in Leander, Texas. The plant will be the testing ground to further develop and test its transformative system for the production of renewable solar fuels and is expected to be online within the first half of 2010. The site was selected due to its high solar insolation and logistically convenient location.
The first test product will be ethanol which will be produced, in part with its SolarConverter™ system. This system incorporates product-specific organisms to produce solar fuels and chemicals via the same process. So far, the company has successfully achieved the production of both ethanol and diesel at lab scale, with the former already reaching productivity rates exceeding 6,000 gallons/acre/year. At full-scale production, via future commercial sites, the company estimates the potential to deliver 25,000 gallons/acre/year of ethanol and 15,000 gallons/acre/year of diesel at highly competitive market pricing.
Bill Sims, President and CEO of Joule Biotechnolgoies stated in a news release, “We are excited to take the next step with pilot-scale development of our renewable solar fuels, following our progress in the lab and also in outdoor testing. Our combined advances in genome engineering, bioprocessing and systems engineering have enabled a first-of-its-kind platform for the production of direct solar fuels, including ethanol and diesel. Now we have the opportunity to test and optimize our processes on a larger scale, driving towards our productivity targets while also demonstrating the ease with which our system can scale up.”
According to the company, their process will achieve high net energy balance without the use of fresh water, crops or the depletion of arable land. The company’s secret is their Helioculture™ technology, which leverages abundant solar energy and genome-engineered organisms to convert waste CO2 directly into multiple solar fuels and chemicals. The continuous production process requires no biomass intermediates, removing resource limitations and costly processing from the equation.