DOE opens funding opportunity for algae biofuel development

By Erin Voegele | September 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy has opened a $25 million funding opportunity for algae biofuels. The initiative aims to reduce the cost of algae biofuel to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. The DOE has set a goal to achieve a cost of $3 per gge by 2030.

The funding opportunity aims to overcome two key barriers to algae biofuel commercialization: the high costs of producing algae and the low yield of target feedstock produced from the algae. To help overcome both these obstacles, funding will be awarded under two separate topic areas.

According to the DOE, between one and three awards are expected to be made in Topic Area 1, which focuses on the development of algae cultures that produce valuable bioproducts in addition to fuels, increasing the overall value of the algae biomass. Awards under the first topic area are expected to range from $5 million to $10 million.

Examples of eligible Topic Area 1 research routes offered by DOE include, but are not limited to, the coproduction of specific molecules that have downstream applications as petrochemical replacements. In addition, routes focused on the redirection of carbon flux to a metabolic pathway that results in the production of a valuable chemical or that improve an algae strain to make a valuable protein fall into the first topic area.  

The DOE also expects to make between three and seven awards under Topic Area 2, which focuses on the development of crop production or carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost biomass productivity, leading to higher algae yields. Each award under the topic area is expected to range in value from $500,000 to $1 million.

Examples of Topic Area 2 research include, but are not limited to, the development of rapid detection systems that enhance preventative treatments to ponds. In addition, projects focused on biological systems and/or engineering to increase resilience of culture are also considered eligible for funding under the second topic area, along with the development of novel chemical treatment protocols that are scalable, environmentally acceptable and economically feasible.

The DOE plans to hold an informational webinar on the funding opportunity announcement on Oct. 8. Those interested in applying for the funding must submit concept papers by Oct. 30. Full applications are due Dec. 15. Additional information on the webinar, funding opportunity and application process is available on the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Funding Opportunity Exchange website under DE-FOA-0001162: Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB).