Oct 082008
 
Authors: Kayla Huddleston

Former New York Governor George Pataki visited CSU Tuesday to tour and evaluate the university’s efforts to implement clean and renewable energy projects a month after President Larry Penley announced that CSU would be carbon neutral by 2020.

Pataki — a former United Nations delegate appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007 to focus on climate change — said CSU is doing essential work with other companies to reduce carbon emissions by producing clean fuel alternative to petroleum.

“The whole world is looking to find clean, renewable energy that is economical,” Pataki said.

But, while Solix and Pataki are very optimistic about their efforts, Eric Sutherland, a local expert on environmental issues and resource depletion, said there is an enormous amount of challenges to make this process commercially feasible.

While he applauded Solix for their effort, he said it’s not going to be easy to produce commercial results.

“I feel as though it may be rather Pollyannaish to look at algae diesel as a substitute solution for resource depletion,” Sutherland said. “There is never going to be a source of energy that’s as easy to get to as petroleum.”

Pataki — who is listed by ‘BusinessWeek’ as one of the top 20 most influential people in clean energy — started his tour with Solix Biofuels Inc., a company working with CSU to mass-produce biodiesel from algae.

Solix’s main focus is on fuel productivity, commercial feasibility and bringing down production costs.

Their vision “is to unlock the complex secrets of one of the simplest organisms on Earth, microalgae, to create a commercially viable biofuel that will play a vital role in solving climate change and petroleum scarcity, without competing with global food supply,” according to their Web site.

“What [Solix] has done to drive down capital costs is significant,” Pataki said. “This is great. Very impressive.”

Doug Henston, CEO of Solix gave Pataki a tour of their location and an overview of the setup; how the algae works to produce optimal cell growth, oil production, and pre-harvest stabilization and the collaboration the company has with CSU.

“We are extremely collaborative, Henston said. “We know we have to partner with guys to the left and guys to the right.”

Pataki also heard a presentation from Dr. Sunil Cherian, president of Spirae Inc., a small company based out of Fort Collins that focuses on power grid modeling.

“The past 15 years have seen a proliferation of new power technologies; while technically successful, most of them (with the notable exception of large wind) have not been able to gain large-scale market adoption,” Cherian said in his presentation.

Spirae is working to gain the market adoption on a large scale.

“All of our expertise is focused on one goal: developing solutions for large-scale integration of renewables,” according to the Spirae Web site. “[Also] demanding response into a seamless system that works for system operators, utilities and end users.”

Representatives from the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory provided Pataki with an opportunity to learn about other unique projects spearheaded by CSU.

With the global demand for energy rising and the production of petroleum on the decline, the CSU EECL is confronting global energy through their own innovative research.

Through research, their mission is to “create innovative energy solutions and entrepreneurial models which benefit the human condition and achieve global impact.”

By inviting Pataki to CSU, the EECL was “trying to make sure we are connecting the dots between the projects and the capital,” Morgan DeFoort, associate director of EECL said. “The key is finding the investment money to take these ideas to the market.”

Staff writer Kayla Huddleston can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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