Algae-derived biofuels could replace 17% of imported transportation oil in the US, according to a study by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
While concerns have been raised about the potentially large amounts of water required to grow algae, the research shows that choosing the right location can minimise that amount.
The study, published in peer-reviewed journal Water Resources Research, finds that the sunniest and most humid regions of the US, such as the Gulf Coast, Southeastern Seaboard and Great Lakes, are the most suitable.
Algae has other advantages, it can produce 80 times more oil per hectare a year than corn and is not a food crop. It is also a CO2-consuming organism with the potential to provide a truly ‘carbon-neutral’ energy source.
“Algae could be part of the solution to the nation’s energy puzzle – if we’re smart about where we place growth ponds and the technical challenges to achieving commercial-scale algal biofuel production are met,” says researcher Mark S. Wigmosta.
Water is – and will be even more so – an important consideration when it comes to choosing a biofuel feedstock and Wigmosta and his colleagues now plan the examine the potential of non-freshwater sources like salt and waste water for algae production.
For further information:
Mark S. Wigmosta, Andre M. Coleman, Richard J. Skaggs, Michael H. Huesemann, Leonard J. Lane. National Microalgae Biofuel Production Potential and Resource Demand. Water Resources Research. (April 13), 2011
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14 April 2011