Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Algae as biofuel development

Algae is being further developed as a source of biofuel in several parts of the world: Iranian scientists have cultivated 70 tons of microalgae as part of a pilot project, and in Thailand, Loxley is spending 2 million USD for a pilot plant.

In the UK, a new report from the Algal Bioenergy Special Interest Group highlights the benefits of cultivating both macroalgae and microalgae for commercial use, and the substantial market opportunities algae can provide, even outside the biofuel sector.

However, questions remain concerning the possible environmental consequences of large-scale algae cultivation.

Scale-up is still a problem that needs to be addressed in this industry, and recent progress has been made at the Ben Gurion University, with the creation of innovative photobioreactors producing superior biomass yields.

Interest in algae is also illustrated by the launch of Elseviers’ Algal Research, a new journal on microalgae, macroalgae and cyanobacteria and their applications.

As regards marine energies, Swedish power company Vattenfall has shed light on its plans to open the world’s first marine renewables services company, Nautimus. Aegir, a joint venture between Vatenfall and Scottish wave turbine manufacturer Pelamis, is supposed to be its first client.

Also in the UK, Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, has warned that due to the economic crisis, green issues are sliding down the political agenda despite being among the most important challenges. 

In the US, the slow growth in marine energy markets has proven a determinant factor for changes in strategies of big companies such as Gamesa, who will install its prototype offshore wind turbine off the Canary Islands instead of Virginia.

Nevertheless, national operators are still making progress on this market, with for instance a mobile wave-energy testing platform scheduled for deployment this summer for use by small firms to test their devices.

Google-backed $5bn offshore wind project is also making progress, with the Interior Department allowing the Atlantic Wind Connection underwater power line to move forward knowing it is likely to secure a federal right of way. Construction should start in 2014.

Amélie Fargue, Thalocea: The Blue Business

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