[Originally posted on EcoGeek. This is really cool, and seems like a smart convergence of a couple different technologies. Along with Coskata, this could become a significant factor in post-extraction fuels. Synthesizing fuel maintains the advantages of utilizing the current infrastructure. There is still a lot to be said for the greater efficiency of electric drive, but technologies like this can help bridge the gap.]


Concentrated solar energy is most commonly used for electrical power generation. However, a Colorado company, Sundrop Fuels, has a unique approach to the production of biofuel by that marries the mirrors and tower of concentrated solar power with their process for the production of bio-based fuels.

Instead of burning biomass for the energy needed to create biofuel, Sundrop uses concentrated solar as their energy source to gasify a range of feedstocks including agricultural waste, energy crops, and wood waste. The Sundrop process can produce a range of fuels including gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel. Many other biofuel processes produce ethanol which has a lower energy density than other fuels, meaning that more of it must be used for an equal amount of work. (Flex-fuel cars get fewer miles per gallon from ethanol than from gasoline, but the ethanol fuel costs less per gallon, and the ethanol is not derived from petroleum.)

Sundrop uses the high temperatures from the concentrated solar array to vaporize the biomass feedstock and form syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. As with other biofuel processess, the syngas is the basic building block which is turned into useful fuel.

Sundrop’s process has other efficiencies that provide additional benefits. By using solar energy, the process yields 100 to 125 gallons of fuel per ton of biomass, which is more than twice what other biofuel producers obtain. The process also requires far less water, needing only a half gallon of water per gallon of fuel produced, versus 6 or 7 gallons required in other systems. The process also creates electrical power from the waste heat generated in the reaction tower.

One of the only significant drawbacks that the Sundrop process faces is the distance between areas with excellent solar access (and few cloudy days) and ready sources of biomass.

The Sundrop process is expected to be able to create gasoline, without subsidies, for less than $2 per gallon. The company is constructing a pilot plant and aims to have a full, commercial-scale plant with a capacity of 100 million gallons by 2015.

via: Portfolio.com


[Originally posted on EcoGeek.]


There’s more news on the sustainable and renewable energy front in Europe. Not only is wind power nearly on par with natural gas in Europe, but in Sweden now, biomass has passed oil as the top source for energy generation. The most recent figures indicate that biomass energy production reached 115 terrawatt hours in 2009, representing 32% of all energy consumption. At the same time, oil-based fuels were used to produce 112 TWh.  Biofuel use is expected to increase, while fossil fuel use should further decline in the coming years.

Biofueled combined heat and power (CHP) plants generate heat for more than half of the multifamily dwelling units in Sweden, as well as producing electricity. Sweden has a goal to have renewable energy reach 50% of all energy consumed in the country by 2020 and to be independent from imported fossil fuel for all transportation by 2030.

Wood is the source for the vast majority of the fuel used. However, the increased use of wood for energy has led to higher prices for other products requiring logs and paper pulp.

via: EERE Program News

Photo courtesy of: Mattias Hedström, wikipedia commons