The College of William and Mary is a supporter of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science program to create a more environmentally friendly form of fuel. The goal of the research project is to convert wild algae into fuel. This unique and intriguing project offers for the College an exciting opportunity to become involved with breakthroughs in biofuel.
The Chesapeake Algae Project collects algae from three locations: the York River, the Chesapeake Bay and our very own Lake Matoaka — where students from the College are conducting their own ChAP-related research. As part of the program, the College experiments with different methods of extracting algae to find which is most cost-effective. Although the purpose is not to eliminate the need for fossil fuels completely — that would be overly ambitious — the algae conversion will help combat pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, caused by fertilizer runoff. The pollution also contributes to the dead ocean problem in the bay. Most Virginia residents are aware of the worsening condition of the bay. The pollution and dead algae could be put to a stop with research obtained by ChAP.
The Department of Energy and Statoil, a Norwegian energy company, are currently funding the project. Unfortunately, ChAP will run out of funding this May if the project continues at its current place. This will halt research to eliminate the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and the College will lose any recognition it may have received.
The College is a traditional liberal arts college, but with this program, it has the opportunity to become more. If ChAP continues to operate, the sciences at the College could gain publicity and see an increase in funding.
It is exciting to see the College and VIMS working to find solutions for the growing problem both globally, by reducing dependency on oil — and locally — by reducing the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. We hope funding comes through for the program, and we hope students both become aware of and this research. ChAP has great potential, but it must have the opportunity to fulfill this potential.