The airline industry has traditionally been wary of adopting alternative fuels, and it’s fair to say, with good reason. An electric car that travels less than its advertised range could create some inconvenience and would ultimately send engineers back to the drawing board. But no one wants to even think about a plane running on anything other than a fuel that is 100% reliable.
That’s why this week’s agreement between Solena Fuels and a group of major U.S. air carriers is every bit the landmark deal it’s being billed as. Solena, a Washington D.C. company, uses biomass to make fuels. Its facility in California makes the “Green Sky California” fuel that a group of airlines – including Alaska Airlines, FedEx, JetBlue, Southwest, U.S. Airways, Frontier Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa – have agreed to use in flights out of the San Francisco Bay Area. The company, which says it is producing the renewable fuel from “recycled agriculture and urban waste,” says it will have the capacity to produce up to 16 million gallons of jet fuel a year.
John Heimlich, Chief Economist of the Air Transport Association believes, “this LOI with Solena is another example affirming airlines’ commitment to reducing their economic impact while ensuring they are able to reduce their dependence on oil. Part of the hope here is that by announcing this project and moving down the football field with Solena, we can spur greater interest from investors and government agencies, demonstrate that the commitment is real, and that there IS an opportunity here.”
Solena enjoyed a lot of buzz at the recent Paris Air Show, where there was serious talk about zero-emission aircraft – a concept that not too long ago seemed more like fiction than science. The company also has an extensive international presence and has worked with partners to build “bio-power plants” in India, among other places. Its recent breakthrough in green jet fuel underscores the massive potential of the biofuels sector and the multitude of ways we can recycle “waste.”