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To tackle the problem of large-scale production of algae for fuels, food, and high-value products, a better understanding of everything from the biology to interfacing with existing petroleum processing plants must be considered.

The big picture of this DOE funded project (4 year, $8M, DE-EE0006269) is to determine how much biomass and lipid can be obtained from algae over time by growing year round in pilot scale outdoor cultivation systems. Four different areas of the country are being used as testbeds: Tucson, AZ; Pecos, TX; Las Cruces, NM, and the Pacific Northwest.

Among the environmental and economic issues to be considered are the cost of mass-producing algal biofuels, the sustainable use of resources such as impaired water sources and nutrient recycle, greenhouse gas emissions, and commercial adaptability to national and global markets.