Solix Biofuels, a Fort Collins, Colo.-based alternative energy technology firm focused on algae-based intermediates for fuel and chemical production, today announced it has raised $10.5 million in its first round of outside funding, and has reached an agreement with investors for an additional commitment of $5.0 million, to be used to build an algae biofuel facility near Durango, Colo. The first-of-its-kind project will showcase Solix’s ability to produce biofuel and feedstocks for the chemicals industry at commercially-feasible production levels and costs.
The Series A funding was led by I2BF Venture Capital, a London-based venture capital firm focused on biofuels, and Bohemian Investments, a private investment company based in Fort Collins, Colo. Participating in the round are Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC, an Ignacio, Colo.-based company that manages alternative energy investments for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe; Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO), the largest U.S. oil refinery operator, based in San Antonio, Tex., and Infield Capital, an investment fund focused on emerging "clean tech" companies, based in Boulder, Colo. The funding will support Solix’s development of its fourth-generation technology, including a proprietary closed photo-bioreactor system, which produces biocrude from algae cost-effectively.
The $5.0 million follow-on commitment from the investor group will provide construction financing for the pilot plant, which will be developed jointly by Solix Biofuels and Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC.
"Congratulations to Solix Biofuels and all of the partners involved in this project," Colorado Governor Bill Ritter said. "Colorado is building a New Energy Economy and is leading a renewable-energy revolution thanks to innovative and forward-thinking companies like Solix. In the not-too-distant future, our children and our grandchildren will produce and consume energy in ways that most of us can’t even imagine today. Fortunately, the creative, ingenuous and determined researchers at Solix can not only imagine those ways, they are making them a reality. This is also great news for southwest Colorado, demonstrating that the New Energy Economy is benefiting communities all across the state."
The biofuel plant will be located on a ten-acre site on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Southwest Colorado. It will be built in two phases, with the first to be completed in 12 to 18 months and consisting of four acres of photo-bioreactors for growing algae, and one acre for a lab facility. Upon completion of the first phase, Solix will build an additional five-acre expansion that will allow the pilot facility to produce at commercial scale.
"As the world moves to replace fossil fuels with the clean, renewable energy of the future, we see algae as a highly attractive alternative to agricultural crop feedstocks," said Doug Henston, CEO of Solix. "We secured this investment with energy industry innovators who see the potential for algae to transform our energy economy. Our partners understand Solix Biofuels’ technologies and the potential for large-scale commercialization."
Two new members will join the Solix Biofuels board of directors: Jim Gillingham of Valero Energy; and Rebecca Kauffman, president and chief operating officer of Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC. They join other Solix Biofuels board members including: Brian Klemsz, Bohemian Investments; Tim Lewin, I2BF Management; and Solix CEO Henston.
"We believe algae has great promise as a source of efficient, cost-effective commercial-scale biofuels production, but not all algae companies are created equal," said Rebecca Kauffman, president and chief operating officer of Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC. "We were impressed with the engineering and systems approach taken by Solix and look forward to working with their talented team to help bring these technologies to the marketplace."
Currently, algae grown in photo-bioreactors at Solix headquarters yield more than five times the amount of fuel per acre of land per year than agriculture-based fuels including ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soy and canola, at their current commercial yields. Solix engineers have created systems that automatically adjust for environmental changes such as sunlight and temperature to optimize growing conditions.
Algae cultivation consumes substantial quantities of carbon dioxide, potentially helping to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases believed to contribute to global climate change. The Solix system has the ability to capture emissions directly from power plants and factories.
Solix Biofuels is a spin-off and technology partner of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. Solix seed funds were used to sponsor research by CSU faculty and graduate students to identify algae species with the best potential to grow at large scale and produce high yields of fuel and chemical feedstocks, and to develop technology that can bring the process to commercial scale.
CSU is a national leader in addressing the global challenges related to sustainability, and the university recently launched its School of Global Environmental Sustainability to lead the next generation of research and intellectual capital, benefitting the economic prosperity of Colorado and the nation. Dr. Bryan Willson, professor of mechanical engineering at CSU, serves as chief technology officer for Solix Biofuels and is a co-founder of the company and a former member of its board of directors. Willson also serves as director of the Clean Energy Supercluster, which aims to speed the development of technological innovation – such as the algae-to-oil photo-bioreactor – to the commercial marketplace.
About Solix Biofuels
Solix Biofuels, based in Fort Collins, Colo., is an alternative energy technology company focused on biofuels derived from algae. The three-year-old early-stage company has developed technologies to produce oil derived from algae cost effectively at commercial production levels.
Solix Biofuels is an intellectual descendant of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program, which started in 1978 to explore ways to produce biodiesel from algae. In early 2006, Solix Biofuels was created to continue this work, with a goal of creating a commercially viable biofuel that will help solve climate change and petroleum scarcity, without competing with global food supply.
For more information, visit www.solixbiofuels.com.