Pilot project studies algae's viability in food, feed and energy production

Shenandoah, IA – A southwest Iowa ethanol plant is the home of a pilot project that seeks to find out whether algae can be grown on a commercial scale.

The project is housed at an ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa, owned by Omaha-based Green Plains Renewable Energy. It takes the CO2 created in the production of ethanol and links it directly to what's called a photobioreactor. The CO2, water and waste products are used to grow the algae. Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, says the project will happen in phases. Phase one involves studying how much carbon dioxide is needed to grow algae. Once that's determined, Green Plains will explore what's needed to grow algae in a large-scale environment.

Becker says the algae can be harvested to use in biofuels, livestock feed and energy. He says the Shenandoah plant is one of the first in the nation to study the growth of algae on a commercial scale.

More than $4.2 million has been invested in the project so far. Green Plains received a $2.1 million grant from the State of Iowa for the project.