Joule Biotechnologies Secures Site for Solar Fuel Pilot

Joule Biotechnologies, Inc. has signed a lease agreement to build its first pilot plant in Leander, Texas, where the company will further develop and test its system for the production of renewable solar fuels.

Powered by sunlight and free of costly feedstocks or processing steps, the system is being engineered to eclipse the productivities, scale, and cost efficiencies of biomass-dependent approaches. The site was chosen in part for its high solar insolation and logistically convenient location. The plant will be operational within the first half of 2010.

“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,” said Bill Sims, president and chief executive officer. “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 toward our productivity targets while also demonstrating the ease with which our system can scale up.”

Joule’s process achieves a high net energy balance while avoiding the depletion of arable land, fresh water, or crops through its Helioculture™ technology, which leverages abundant solar energy and genome-engineered organisms to convert waste carbon dioxide directly into multiple solar fuels and chemicals. The continuous production process requires no biomass intermediates, removing resource limitations and costly processing from the equation.

Joule’s facility in Leander will be equipped to test multiple end products, beginning with ethanol. This is a key advantage of the company’s SolarConverter™ system, which incorporates product-specific organisms to produce solar fuels and chemicals via the same process. Joule has produced 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.

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