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7/18/12 - Energy conference to discuss paths toward sustainability

Next month's inaugural Southeast Biofuels and Renewable Energy Conference in Jackson will offer education and networking opportunities for suppliers, producers, consumers, researchers, and students.

Taking place Aug. 8 and 9 at the downtown Marriott Hotel, the public event is co-sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Research Center at Mississippi State University, along with the Ridgeland-based Mississippi Biomass and Renewable Energy Council.

Early bird registration through July 24 is $199; afterwards, $249.

A pre-conference workshop will take place Aug. 7 at the Mississippi Technology Alliance offices in Ridgeland. This program, called the Renewable Energy Venture Development Academy, will provide comprehensive training on methodologies for screening, developing and/ or coaching innovation-based renewable energy ventures. The course will provide an overview of energy market drivers, as well as the rigorous process of developing a technology-based venture.

Complete details on conference and workshop registration and the meeting schedule are available at

"This event promises to be an important occasion for the discussion and dissemination of information related to the areas of biofuels and renewable energy that will appeal to a wide audience," said Rafael Hernandez, SERC's associate director.

Hernandez, holder of the Texas Olefins Professorship in MSU's Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, said that Mississippi has an abundance of biomass resources.

"Research and development efforts at state universities and the strong commitment of state officials to support the renewable energy industry are expected to blossom into new business, career opportunities, and economic growth," he explained.

"The Southeast Biofuels and Renewable Energy Conference is an opportunity for legislators, state officials, academics, farmers, fuel producers, industrial managers, forest managers, and many other stakeholders to visualize their role in this new economy," Hernandez added.

Presentations will be organized into five clusters, with each focus area hearing speakers from academia, industry and government. Current technology, commercialization progress, and government policies and priorities for funding will be highlighted.

The meeting also will help demonstrate the importance of integrating agricultural practices, chemical processing, fuel standards, energy policy, and environmental regulations on the production of biofuels and bioproducts.

As examples, Hernandez said MSU "has established that domestic and industrial wastewaters and their treatment infrastructure could be key to the production of large quantities of biodiesel. This MSU model of biofuel production requires a working network of wastewater treatment managers, chemical and environmental engineers, biodiesel industry operators, equipment manufacturers, students, and academics."

He said the conference should serve as an incubator of ideas for these groups to apply and commercialize technologies for biofuel production using creative multidisciplinary approaches.

One conference cluster will be devoted to solar energy, featuring perspectives on solar industry development, integration with biofuels, and the place of solar in the world of energy generation.

Joseph Linton, economic analyst with the Mississippi Technology Alliance, said solar power has become increasingly widespread in Mississippi over the past few years, with solar panels being utilized at small businesses, in agricultural operations, and on homes across the state. Additionally, new and cutting-edge solar panel manufacturing is taking place in the state, providing jobs and economic opportunities.

"Solar power has exhibited a wide range of applications for Mississippians from a variety of geographical and industry sectors," Linton said.

Other focus areas will include biofuels created from wastewater produced by pulp and paper operations; biodiesel from algae at a power facility, non-fuel bioproducts from biomass, and biofuels from Mississippi resources.

Randy Rousseau, associate extension and research professor with MSU's Forestry and Wildlife Research Center and vice president of the Mississippi Biomass and Renewable Energy Council, said forests are among the Magnolia State's most abundant renewable natural resources, with systems already in place for traditional forest products to easily transfer to the renewable energy field.

Forest material is useful as a feedstock, and research in fast growth dedicated energy plantations is examining year-round sources of wood for production of biofuels or co-generation of biofuels, the associate extension and research professor said.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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