Round Up Daily: NMSU algae cultivation testbed studies algae as a source of fuel

By:  John Paul Schmidt

United States Senator Martin Heinrich toured New Mexico State University’s Algae Cultivation Testbed facility Wednesday to get a look into research being conducted at the school.

Pete Lammers, one of the leaders of the algae research project, said the main goal of the endeavor is “taking the view of something that’s seen as waste into something ultimately profitable.”

The algae grown at the testbeds are used to research more eco-friendly fuel sources. The algae is grown in a long, outdoor pool in which the temperature is heated during the winter and cooled during the summer in order to maintain prime conditions for algae growth. The operational temperature is around 10 to 35 degrees Celsius.

Heinrich said: “This process would work best in the Southwest due to the evaporative water and sunshine abundance. I think many good things could come from this.”

Heinrich is a member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and a strong advocate for the use of renewable biofuels and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education and is the only engineer in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, there are just a few bags of algae going in the single pool at the research center. The algae are grown inside long tubular bags that float on top of the pool. These bags allow for high-density cultures of algae. The water is constantly kept moving in order to duplicate the algae’s natural growing conditions.

“With the system we have now, we could run up to four or five more pools,” Lammers said.

According a press release from the office of Heinrich, the testbed “offers both outdoor and greenhouse facilities designed specifically for research and development around optimizing algal biofuel production, including algae-based aviation fuels.”

The NMSU Algae Cultivation Testbed has been in operation since 2010 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The testbed is located at the Fabian Garcia Agricultural Science Station.