Biodiesel production goes to school

Biodiesel may sometimes seem like cleantech’s ugly step-child, receiving less attention and less funding than other up-and-coming renewable energies like solar and wind.

Even here at EarthTechling, a quick search of our archives turns up way more stories dedicated to solar power than biofuels. 

But Springboard Biodiesel is hoping to boost the profile of biodiesel by bringing small-scale biodiesel production to hundreds of college campuses across the nation.

Springboard, based in Chico, Calif., says it has developed a way to produce cleaner-burning biodiesel for less than $1 a gallon. The company’s processes are automated and produce biodiesel that can be used to run vehicles from a number of sources, including old cooking oil. Springboard’s process are currently used around the world, including on dozens of college campuses.

The company has just teamed up with Pinnacle Capital to help expand their reach in the educational realm. The partnership is a program that will allow more public and private educational institutions to be able  to produce biodiesel on their campuses by providing them financing options.

The system would work like this: Used cooking oil would go from the kitchen and  into the biodiesel processing system. What would come out would be high-quality biodiesel that would be used to run school buses, trucks and other campus vehicles. 

Springboard says this would save the schools money and reduce their carbon footprint. The financing from Pinnacle is intended to help schools afford the initial upfront costs of leasing the equipment needed for the biofuel conversion.

“We have 59 colleges and universities enthusiastically using our equipment to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel. They are saving money, reducing their carbon footprint and, in many cases, incorporating the system into their sustainability curriculums,” Springboard Biodiesel CEO Mark Roberts said in a statement.

“This really is a no brainer, and with this financing option now available, we are excited that virtually any academic institution that feeds its students can benefit from a campus biodiesel program.”

Springboard’s processing equipment can cost between $10,000 and nearly $25,000, depending on the system. Now, with the help of a dedicated financing program, the two companies are hoping to make biofuels a little more accessible.

“We hope that by assisting in the initial purchase, via our financing program, we can both help U.S. educational institutions to continue to grow their sustainability programs as well as assist a US cleantech manufacturing company that has designed and built a really compelling product,” Brian Shaw, vice president at Pinnacle Capital, explained.

And, just so you know we at EarthTechling – well, maybe not all of us –  like biofuels just as much as solar power, here’s a little statistic for you to chew on. Biofuel and biomaterial startup companies received $1.04 billion in venture capital in 2011, not too far behind solar, which came in at $1.81 billion.

Kristy Hessman, EarthTechling