Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Algae Biofuel 101

There has been a great deal of talk lately regarding the potential of algae biofuel.  I think that algae biofuel is one of the most interesting energy developments in recent years. It deals with two problems at once.  The first is obvious.  We now have $5.00 gas on Long Island and we are heavily dependent on foreign oil for our fuel.  We can reduce our dependence on petroleum, particularly imported petroleum, if we find new ways of powering our world.  Algae might just be a great solution.  Plus, algae can be grown pretty much anywhere at the surface of the earth.  The second problem algae fuels can solve is reduction of nutrient pollution of water.    We have a great deal of nutrient pollution entering surface water bodies that can be utilized for algae production.  Can we use the nutrients leaving sewage treatment plants to create algae energy farms?  What about utilizing nutrients in storm water pollution?

The algae also uses carbon dioxide in its production.  Thus, there are some benefits to locating algae production facilities near carbon dioxide emitters.  There are some small operators producing energy right now.  A larger question is how we can scale the production up to be a larger segment of the energy sector.  Might there be some benefit in co-locational energy production near carbon dioxide emitters and sewage treatment plants?

Take a look at the video with Dr. Stephen Mayfield from UC San Diego.  He explains many of the benefits of algae biofuel.

One of the critiques of algae and many of the emerging new energy sources is that they require significant investment to develop industrial scale production.  My only counter to this is that the current energy system we have is heavily subsidized by the government and we do not have a level playing field for many of these emerging technologies.

Regardless of what happens with algae, there is no doubt that we need to quickly move to new energy sources.

No comments: