College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources receives $6 million

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Feb 8, 2011

UH Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) was recently awarded $6 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to increase Hawai‘i’s energy security using locally produced renewable energy.
The project will seek to develop high-yielding biofuel feedstocks that are economically viable and sustainable. Establishing local biofuel production for transportation fuel can have a tremendous impact in improving Hawai‘i’s environment, helping the economy, and reducing dependence on foreign oil. Currently air, sea, and land transportation fuel alone accounts for 63 percent of the oil imported into the state.
As a first step toward this goal, the project will examine the use of tropical grasses such as banagrass, energy sorghum, and energy cane for biofuel production, and develop ways to assess the sustainability of renewable energy production in Hawai‘i.
Says Andrew Hashimoto, project leader and professor of molecular biosciences and bioengineering at CTAHR, “We will investigate the conversion of the feedstocks into usable energy and other valuable co-products by testing several processes to produce biofuels and co-products that enhance the conversion economics.”
The project will also assess the environmental impacts of growing bioenergy crops, such as air and water quality and carbon sequestration.
Finally, the project will study the economic, environmental and community impacts of a hydro-electric system on a rural community. It will determine the overall sustainability of potential bioenergy production systems, and is expected to aid other communities in making decisions on investing in renewable energy.
CTAHR faculty from the departments of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, and the Center on the Family are involved in the project. CTAHR, along with project partners Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute, Hamakua Springs Water and Hawai‘i Commercial & Sugar, expect this important project to provide Hawai‘i and other tropical/sub-tropical regions with information vital to developing sustainable renewable energy.  The Office of Naval Research is also funding a companion project led by the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARS, at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar plantation on Maui.