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Home / Articles / Santa Fe Guides / Local Economy /  The New Algae Economy
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The New Algae Economy

Santa Fe Community College trains its students for a renewable energy future

March 14, 2012, 12:00 am

The person: Randy Grissom, the dean of economic and workforce development at Santa Fe Community College and director of the college’s Sustainable Technologies Center, was one of the first three full time instructors at SFCC. Living in and out of Santa Fe since 1983, Grissom first helped develop the occupational and vocational programs at SFCC, and then worked with the manufacturing extension program, which eventually spread to Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii. After a stint as SFCC’s vice president of finance and administration, Grissom spent nearly four years working for a Hawaiian company that used pineapples for sustainability projects. Now, he’s back in Santa Fe to help the college develop a jobs-oriented biofuels program.


The plan: Teach Santa Fe students about the growing industry of biofuels.


How it works: “You can get fuel from algae. You’re basically short-circuiting millions of years of evolution,” Grissom tells SFR. SFCC was recently tapped to lead the statewide Center of Excellence in Biofuels under a New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions State Energy Sector Partnership grant. The grant provides over $1 million to the center to pay for new equipment, new instructors and new students. 


“For those who qualify and meet the criteria the grant was written for, their costs are covered,” Grissom says. The credit certification is 32 credit hours and can be accomplished in only two semesters. “We’re working with companies who have potential for placing our students; a few around the state are looking for 15-20 students to run their plants,” Grissom says. 


Grissom highlights Eldorado Biofuels, headquartered in Santa Fe, as a company that is currently involved in a project funded through Los Alamos National Laboratory. “They’re taking used water from the oil and gas industry and using it to grow algae; they’re actually cleaning up the water before re-injecting it,” Grissom says. 


The DWS’ sub-industry council, which oversees the Biofuels Center, has a goal of training 150 people over the year and then placing about 90 in jobs.


Bottom line: Last year, the US Navy and Air Force publicized goals to use more biofuels in the coming decade. “The DoD is very interested, from a national security standpoint,” Grissom points out. “Our biofuels program is designed to be a program that is sparking innovation.” Given the large number of underground, brine water aquifers in New Mexico that are ideal for algae growth, Grissom’s program could be sparking our engines very soon as well.

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