The initial phase of the world’s first commercial demonstration algae to energy plant is now operational.

After beginning construction on the demonstration plant in Columbus, New Mexico back in 2011 at a cost of $135 million, California-based Sapphire Energy has successfully harvested 21 million gallons of algae biomass from its first ponds that were first seeded with algae in March. Named the Green Crude Farm, the facility covers over 300 acres and consists of some of the largest algae ponds ever built.

“Bringing our Green Crude Farm online is not only an important accomplishment for Sapphire Energy, but a critical step toward a viable alternative energy future,” says Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, chief executive of Sapphire Energy. “What was once a concept is now becoming a reality and model for growing algae to make a renewable crude oil for energy.”

After converting all the harvested biomass into useable oils, the company hopes to be able to produce 10,000 barrels a day of algae-based biofuel by 2018. And while that may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the 19 million barrels per day the U.S. uses of refined petroleum and biofuel products, it’s a good start and it’s only from one facility. Sapphire states that so far, the demonstration plant has exceeded initial projections, providing hope that we can someday produce a large percentage of our fuel needs right here at home from algae biomass.

[via Ecoseed]

Image Credit: Sapphire Energy