Enough with the corn already

Not all biofuels are made equal, and while the debate continues about the benefits and drawbacks to making everything out of corn (or hemp or sugarcane), biofuel company Solanzyme is working on plans to build a new plant with the goal of producing “millions of gallons” of biodiesel within three years.

Instead of the traditional plants used in biofuels, Solanzyme uses algae. And though they aren’t the only company creating biodiesel from algae, they have a different take on how to create the tons of green needed to make it a competitive fuel source.

Rather than growing the algae in open-air ponds or glass containers exposed to sunlight, Solanzyme developed a process based on existing industrial processes for fermentation and oil extraction–the company grows algae in huge dark containers, feeding it with plants, then ferments it and extracts the oil.

Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson said that many algae-fuel companies are overly optimistic on the amount of land that’s required for fuel production.

“It’s our perspective that most numbers (on algae yield) are far in excess of reality, some are beyond theoretical…you’re not going to see 100,00 gallons per acre any time soon.”