By Lisa Zahner
FELLSMERE — When Congressman Bill Posey loads up a van of staffers and local media representatives Tuesday, Aug. 18, to visit alternative energy sites throughout District 15, the PetroAlgae research and development facility west of Fellsmere will be the southernmost stop on the energy tour.
It is the home to the only full size, open pond commercial bioreactors in the world. Each bioreactor produces approximately 141 metric tons of biomass per hectare per year — making our technology the world’s leader in biomass production.
That algae is used to make fuel and 15 times the amount of this raw material can be grown in the ponds as on the cornfields.
The North County facility is on a 20-acre parcel, five acres of research and development complex and 15 acres of open space.
Also at the complex are two demonstration scale bioreactors, two pilot scale bioreactors, a number of inoculation tanks, a lab trailer, marketing facility, and a production facility.
“PetroAlgae is the first renewable energy company to commercialize a drop-in replacement for fossil fuels,” said Andrew Beck, vice president of public affairs. “The company licenses an innovative commercial micro-crop technology that enables the large-scale production of green fuels as well as a high-value protein co-product.”
The company’s fuels are identical in fuction to petroleum-based fuels. That’s what Beck refers to as “drop-in,” meaning the fuels use existing infrastructure.
After leaving PetroAlgae, the tour will stop at Advance Magnet Lab in Palm Bay and Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa.
George Cecala, spokesman Congressman Posey, said this energy tour is important, both to get the word out about the sometimes-hidden technology that’s happening right in our community and for Posey to refer back to when considering pertinent legislation.
“This is an opportunity for folks to see firsthand the progress that is being made by the developers of clean energy technology because it’s the foundation of what will be going on in the future,” Cecala said. “As these issues are being discussed, it’s important to know what’s going on in your district and what’s going on nationally.”
Similar facilities will soon be built in China, as PetroAlgae licenses its micro-crop technology to large global groups in the energy and food industries. This way of producing biomass not only offers the large-scale production of renewable fuels, but the process also leaves a residual high-value protein co-product that can be used in livestock feed and potentially for human consumption.
Beck said PetroAlgae is negotiating with potential customers in India, Europe, South America, Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, and the United States.
“You can’t just shut off the fossil fuels overnight – where would you be the next day?” Cecala said.
But he added that, by investigating and investing in a variety of renewable energy technologies – some which would work better in Florida and some that would be better suited for other climes and terrains, that eventually the U.S. can reduce its dependence on petroleum.
“We’re going to need all kinds of sources of renewable energy,” Cecala said.