The sunny San Diego region, home to several world class research universities and institutes as well more than 500 biotechnology companies, is on its way to becoming a major center for renewable energy development, especially in the area of biofuels. Biofuel’s are a natural extension that compliments San Diego’s already vibrant life science cluster.

This regional potential was given a boost with the establishment of the new the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, or “SD-CAB.” The primary goal of the center will be to create a national facility capable of developing and implementing innovative research solutions for the commercialization of fuel production from algae.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders today joined UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox to announce their support for the virtual research center. The SD-CAB was founded by scientists from UC San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute and other local research institutions along with their industry counterparts and is intended to be a broad-scale research effort to develop advanced transportation fuels from algae. By working together and pooling their efforts, the SD-CAB hopes to attract much-needed money from federal and state governments to foster commercialization of algal fuel and other products.

“By sharing and facilitating the interactions of these multiple researchers through this center, we hope to make sustainable algae-based fuel production and carbon dioxide abatement a reality within the next five to ten years,” said Chancellor Fox. “This consortium will strengthen our ability to obtain grants and attract resources to the area. Algal biofuels will allow us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and other economies, and will provide opportunities for a new economy and workforce.”

“San Diego has a unique combination of life science research institutions, biotechnology companies and venture capital support to lead the nation in the development of this environmentally friendly source of transportation fuel,” said Mayor Sanders. “As the algal biofuel industry develops, we are confident that San Diego will become a major center for renewable energy development.”

This effort, which will mean more jobs and economic activity in San Diego, is already having a positive impact on the region’s economy. Research on algal biofuels now employs 272 scientists and other workers in San Diego and provides nearly $16.5 million in payroll and $33 million in economic activity for the region, according to an economic assessment completed last week by the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, Service Bureau.

Direct spending on algal biofuels, combined with the additional jobs and spending in related service industries this spending generates, is currently responsible for 513 jobs, $25.4 million in wages and $63.5 million in economic output in the San Diego region, according to the SANDAG study.

This sector has the potential to grow into a very large business sector, said Lisa Bicker, President and CEO of CleanTECH San Diego, “As research and other spending on algae grows, we expect to transform what is now over $30 million in economic activity into a several billion dollar economic machine.”

In the Imperial Valley, where SD-CAB scientists will grow large quantities of algae and which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, the algal biofuels effort is expected to generate additional jobs and economic activity.

”Algae and biofuels have been identified as one of the key emerging industries in the region,” said Timothy Kelley, President and CEO of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation. “We feel that the addition of Imperial Valley will allow the algae industry to attain full production earlier than expected. With the combination of our natural resources and available land, the Imperial Valley is the ideal location for algae as an industry.”

© 2009, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.