This post from the CalFinder blog says Sundrop Fuels has developed the world’s first hybrid solar-biomass refinery that uses concentrated solar power (CSP) to heat plant scraps and wood chips to create biofuel:
The use of solar power to reduce consumption of biomass at the refinery should considerably improve their product’s energy balance, i.e. energy put into production versus energy pulled out. Sundrop’s SurroundSun reactor technology is similar to relatively new Power Tower tech now used to create solar thermal electricity. In fact, Sundrop has licensed CSP technology from well-known start-up eSolar to make their prototype biorefinery a reality.
Instead of using mirrors to reflect sunlight and to heat water or molten salts in a central tower, Sundrop Fuels’ design will use that solar energy to heat biomass to very high temperatures. The solar heat “blasts organic materials with super high temperatures…tearing apart the materials at the molecular level…which creates a synthetic gas that can be formed into gasoline or diesel,” said Sundrop CEO Wayne Simmons.
Sundrop officials admit they will have to burn some biomass to hit the temps needed, but the process will get about 30 percent of the heat needed from the sun.
The company is hoping to find some investors for a demonstration project and another $100-150 million to build an 8-million-gallon-a-year plant.