La Plata County’s billion-dollar tribe is looking to the future of energy to keep its wealth secure.“This is not going to pay us back next week or next year,” said Bob Zahradnik, director of the tribe’s far-reaching business arm, the Growth Fund.
About 93 percent of the tribe’s annual wealth and profits each year comes from “conventional energy,” or natural gas and oil, he said. But as the nation sets its sights on cleaner, greener energy for the future, so is the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
One of four major investors in Solix Biofuels, a company focused on developing algae-based energy production systems, the Southern Utes, tribal officials said, are investing in technologies they hope will change life economically and environmentally for their “grandkids,” Zahradnik said.
Diving into a new cutting-edge technology means longer wait times to see profits on investments…
Recent industry advances have led to successful refining of algae oil and the first plane flight using an algae-blended fuel, but Solix officials said algae fuel has not yet successfully been put into cars, and it is a long way from being an affordable solution for consumer use.
“We are really making an effort to see what else we can do with those algaes,” said Lewis Abrams, business development manager for Solix.
They have narrowed their focus for now to an algae strain that is found off the northern coast of Scotland that so far seems to thrive in the sunny but erratic Southwest Colorado climate at the Solix facility on the Southern Ute reservation, he said.
“This strain seemed to overcome our obstacles here,” Abrams said.
Animal feed, food and vitamin supplements and agricultural products are among the most promising and potentially profitable uses for the algae strain they’re growing, Abrams said.
They also have positioned the company to bring in revenue through the sales of multiple algae-development systems that other energy entrepreneurs, researchers and colleges can use to conduct their work in algae technologies…
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