Specialized energy crops on low rent land key to biofuels viability

April 21, 2011 |

At the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference, Ceres CEO Richard Hamilton said that “feedstock is the #1 cost in bioenergy, and to drive results, we need to drive yield.”

Hamilton told the 450 conference delegates that companies must look to low-rent land for opportunities to produce sustainable biofuels, noting that, for example, salt-intruded fields in represented the most economically advantaged and environmentally sustainable options for producing biomass at scale. Hamilton noted that most projects varied only in choosing between high-rent land and mid-rent land because of limits in the development of new energy crops to date, but said that the new generation of energy crops were making it possible to access low-rent land, that is typically not now in food, feed, fiber or fuel production.

Hamilton said that advances in energy crop breeding that focused on soluble sugar concentration, nitrogen efficiency, water efficiency, and salt tolerance would have the most impact on expanding the land opportunities. Hamilton noted that driving yields and growing more biomass per acre increased project size and lowered capital costs per gallon. He also said that advanced energy crops are being bred that will reduce enzyme loads for biorefineries, thereby also reducing a major component of operating costs.

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