Renewable energy, aerospace top agenda for Polis trip to Japan

Matt Whittaker
A rendering of Denver-based Starfire Energy's Rapid Ramp ammonia synthesis system.Photo byCourtesy Starfire Energy.

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Ammonia isn’t just a cleaning product. The molecule is also a fuel source that emits no carbon dioxide because it only contains nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. The fuel, which is cheaper to transport and store than pure hydrogen, holds promise for decarbonizing the global shipping industry.

That’s one of the reasons the CEO of Denver-based Starfire Energy is in Japan with Gov. Jared Polis and a delegation hoping to drum up investment that benefits Colorado renewable energy and aerospace businesses.

The green ammonia company is talking with firms including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which builds ships and other industrial products, in hopes of selling the Japanese multinational its technology that can make ammonia in a relatively small system using only renewable power.

“We are looking to be the primary manufacturer of our customers' clean fuel synthesis systems,” said Starfire chief operating officer Jennifer Beach, whose husband, CEO Joe Beach, is part of the delegation visiting Tokyo and Osaka to explore investment opportunities.

Landing business like that would be a boon to Starfire and Colorado’s economy, which in 2021 counted Japan as the state’s sixth largest export trade partner. Last year, Colorado saw $182 million in imports from Japan.

"The governor is in Japan … to promote foreign direct investment into Colorado and help Colorado companies become more globally competitive,” spokesman Conor Cahill said. “The investment mission has engagements focused on sustainable aviation fuels, green transformation and hydrogen.”

In addition to the governor and Colorado economic development officials, the trade mission includes nearly two dozen representatives from Colorado companies and universities.

Cahill said the governor and all but two delegates paid for the trip themselves. The two delegates who didn’t were funded through an advanced industries program within the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Massimo Ruzzene, vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, represented the school on the trip.

He said the delegation met with Japanese organizations to talk about sustainable aviation fuels, renewables, and battery technologies.

The group also visited GSSG Solar, a Denver-based renewable energy investment manager that has invested in more than 500 megawatts of solar projects, primarily located in Japan.

“The trip has been of great value in terms of exploring potential collaboration opportunities with potential investors in our start-up ecosystem, as well as in terms of academic collaborations, and research opportunities,” Ruzzene said.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

Lakewood, CO

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