California gets new bioenergy research center

California will get one of the three new bioenergy research centers proposed by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

DOE will invest up to $375 million in the three centers. One will be located in California Bay area.

The California DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute will be led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The institute director will be Jay Keasling, and collaborators include: Sandia National Laboratories; DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; University of California - Berkeley; University of California - Davis; and Stanford University in Stanford, California.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is located on a 200-acre site in the hills above the University of California, Berkeley campus. It is the oldest of the DOE's national laboratories. The Lab is managed by the University of California, Berkeley, operating with an annual budget of more than $500 million and a staff of about 3,800 employees, including more than 500 students.

The threee centers are intended to accelerate basic research in the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, advancing President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative, which seeks to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent within 10 years through increased efficiency and diversification of clean energy sources. The department plans to fund the centers for the first five years of operation

“These centers will provide the transformational science needed for bioenergy breakthroughs to advance President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012, and assist in reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years,” Bodman said. “The collaborations of academic, corporate, and national laboratory researchers represented by these centers are truly impressive and I am very encouraged by the potential they hold for advancing America’s energy security.”

To bring the latest tools of the biotechnology revolution to bear to advance clean energy production, the centers will be supported by multidisciplinary teams of top scientists. A major focus will be on understanding how to reengineer biological processes to develop new, more efficient methods for converting the cellulose in plant material into ethanol or other biofuels that serve as a substitute for gasoline. This research is critical because future biofuels production will require the use of feedstocks more diverse than corn, including cellulosic material like agricultural residues, grasses, poplar trees, inedible plants, and non-edible portions of crops.

The centers will bring together diverse teams of researchers from 18 of the nation’s leading universities, seven DOE national laboratories, at least one nonprofit organization, and a range of private companies. All three centers are located in geographically distinct areas and will use different plants both for laboratory research and for improving feedstock crops.

The mission of the centers will lie at the frontier between basic and applied science, and will maintain a focus on bioenergy applications. These centers aim to identify real steps toward practical solutions regarding to the challenge of producing renewable, carbon-neutral energy. At the same time, the centers will be grounded in basic research, pursuing alternative avenues and a range of high-risk, high-return approaches to finding solutions. To some degree, one key to the centers’ success will be their ability to develop the more basic dimensions of their research to a point that can easily transition to applied research.

The other two centers will be at:

--The DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Collaborators include: Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia; DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado; University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia; and the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

-- The DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center will be led by the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, in close collaboration with Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Other collaborators include: DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington; Lucigen Corporation in Middleton, Wisconsin; University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida; DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois; and Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

The centers are expected to be fully operational by 2009. DOE’s Office of Science issued a competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement in August 2006 to solicit applications.

The establishment of the bioenergy research centers culminates a six-year effort by DOE’s Office of Science to lay the foundation for breakthroughs in systems biology for the cost-effective production of renewable energy.

This announcement follows other key funding announcements this year to advance President Bush’s initiative, and to make cellulosic ethanol cost competitive with gasoline by 2012. Earlier, DOE announced up to $385 million for six biorefinery projects that when fully operational are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. In May DOE announced a funding opportunity for $200 million over five years to support the development of small scale bio-refineries that produce liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.