by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator
A new kind of biofuel is getting a boost from an ancient culture, and the story is deeply rooted in Fort Collins and Colorado. For us at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, it’s a story with all our favorite ingredients: science, stewardship, innovation, history, culture, and local connections.
Solix Biofuels is a alternative energy start-up company that sprang from work done by researchers at Colorado State University. Housed at CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory on North College Avenue in Fort Collins, Solix is working on a way to convert algae to vegetable oil, which then can be used to make biodiesel fuel.
When Solix went looking for investors for the project, the Southern Ute tribe came into the picture. On the lookout for business opportunities that made sense for the tribe — both economically and culturally — the Southern Utes decided that the Solix project was a good fit. “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” according to the tribe’s chairman, Matthew J. Box. The Coyote Gulch Algae Biofuels Pilot Plant was dedicated on July 29, 2009 on Southern Ute tribal lands in southwestern Colorado and is moving toward full-scale commercial operation.
Although the contemporary Ute nations are confined to reservations in southwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah, the Ute people can trace their ancestry back 10,000 years across a huge area of the Rocky Mountain West, including northern Colorado and the Fort Collins area, where Solix Biofuels is located. That the Southern Ute tribe has extended a financial helping hand to Solix and their new technology seems like a fitting way to close the circle and move ahead into the future.
This is hopefully just the beginning of an exciting and fascinating story. I encourage you to read more about it:
A New Test for Business and Biofuel, NY Times
Southern Utes’ Innovation Fuels Colorado’s New Energy Economy, Indian Country Today
An Algae Alternative, The Durango Herald
This post is part of Blog Action Day 2009. Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day, with the goal of raising awareness and triggering a global discussion. The theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is climate change; past years have focused on poverty and on the environment.