27 June 2007

US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest up to $375 million in three new Bioenergy Research Centers that will be located in Oak Ridge, TN; Madison, WI; and near Berkeley, CA. The Centers are intended to accelerate basic research in the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, advancing President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative, which seeks to reduce US gasoline consumption by 20% within ten years.

A major focus of the research will be on understanding how to reengineer biological processes to develop new, more efficient methods for converting cellulose in plant material into ethanol or other biofuels. Biofuels feedstocks more diverse than corn are considered, including cellulosic material from agricultural residues, grasses, poplar trees, inedible plants, and non-edible portions of crops.

The Centers will bring together teams of researchers from 18 universities, 7 DOE national laboratories, a nonprofit organization, and from private companies. All three Centers are located in geographically distinct areas and will use different plants both for laboratory research and for improving feedstock crops.

The three Bioenergy Research Centers will include:

  • The DOE BioEnergy Science Center led by the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN.
  • The DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center will be led by the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI, in close collaboration with Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.
  • The DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute will be led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Subject to the finalization of contract terms and congressional appropriations, the Centers are expected to begin work in 2008, consistent with President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request, and would be fully operational by 2009. The DOE plans to fund the Centers for the first five years of operation (Fiscal Years 2008-2013).

DOE’s Office of Science issued a competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement in August 2006 to solicit applications. The three Centers were chosen following a merit-based, competitive review process.

Source: US DOE