Posted By RichC on October 20, 2009
An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal highlighted algae based biodiesel as one of the “Five Technologies That Change Everything” recognizing that a new generation of biofuel made from nonfood crops is one of the more promising sources of energy.
Researchers are devising ways to turn lumber and crop wastes, garbage and inedible perennials like switchgrass into competitively priced fuels. But the most promising next-generation biofuel comes from algae.
Algae grow by taking in CO2, solar energy and other nutrients. They produce an oil that can be extracted and added into existing refining plants to make diesel, gasoline substitutes and other products.
Algae grow fast, consume carbon dioxide and can generate more than 5,000 gallons a year per acre of biofuel, compared with 350 gallons a year for corn-based ethanol. Algae-based fuel can be added directly into existing refining and distribution systems; in theory, the U.S. could produce enough of it to meet all of the nation’s transportation needs.
But it’s early. Dozens of companies have begun pilot projects and small-scale production. But producing algae biofuels in quantity means finding reliable sources of inexpensive nutrients and water, managing pathogens that could reduce yield, and developing and cultivating the most productive algae strains.