Clean Energy Innovation Depends on a Good Pitch
by Kari Lydersen (Midwestern Energy News) Purdue University associate professor Richard Meilan is striving to develop a poplar tree that grows more quickly and can be more easily converted to biofuel than the average member of the genus Populus. It also must be able to reproduce vegetatively – growing roots from a fragment of trunk – and it must not reproduce sexually, with seeds and flowers.
Meilan’s quest is one of many complicated steps being taken by researchers nationwide in hopes of developing profitable second-generation biofuels.
Meilan was among the scientists pitching projects last week at a “Tech Showcase” sponsored by the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago. The presenters were floating pitches meant to attract venture capital funding or other investors for complicated undertakings which they say will be key to developing advanced biofuels, batteries, and other innovations.
…It normally takes about three to five years for poplars to start reproducing. Meilan’s trial group is in its third year, so he will find out soon whether he’s succeeded. If things go as hoped, the transgenic trees could be a big step forward in biofuel production. They have about half the energy content of coal, and might be used for cleaner aviation fuel.
Among other things, Meilan is part of the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI) partnership between Boeing, United Airlines, the Chicago Department of Aviation and other entities.
…A running theme in the business pitches at the Clean Energy Trust event was the likelihood that technologies potentially crucial to the clean energy sector could also be lucrative for other industries, meaning they could attract investors interested in other, more-established realms. Meilan’s transgenic poplar trees would also be attractive to the paper and lumber industries, he said, since they grow so fast – up to 90 feet tall in six years. READ MORE