Algaculture – Can Algae Really Solve our Energy and Pollution Problems?

The demand for energy in the modern world is causing much concern around the globe. Fossil fuels are increasingly being tied to environmental degradation and global warming. Many of the alternative fuel sources are in their early stages of growth and development, but still provide evidence of great potential. The vast wind farms across large swathes of the globe and giant solar panel fields are a testament to the growing popularity of alternative energy. One of the latest breakthroughs in the renewable energy industry is the use of algaculture to create algal fuel. This process is still considered to be time consuming and not cost effective, but the practice of algaculture in general is popular for many other reasons as well.

Farming Algae for Consumption

Source Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuchodi/185082578/

Although we may not know it, algae is everywhere. There are many species and types and a large number of these naturally found organisms can be used for human consumption. For example, many types of algae are cultivated and harvested for the purpose of providing nutrition to the human body. Several cultures partake in eating algae in a variety of sources and vital omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both extracted for human consumption as well. Technology and science is allowing humans to discover new methods of cultivation for edible algae, but this is not the only and in no way the most important use for these microorganisms. The algaculture that exists today is still in its infancy, but perhaps in time can help to stop some of the nutrient deficiencies in the world population.

Algaculture for Pollution and Energy Production

Given the current geo-political atmosphere regarding the environment and energy, it is important to recognize the achievements and potential for algaculture. Today, one of the main causes for pollution in the world is carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions are eroding the ozone layer and making it easier for the planet to heat to unsafe levels. However, algae systems feed off of carbon dioxide in order to grow. If enough space is dedicated to funneling the carbon dioxide into algae product, it is possible to remove the pollutants from the air. This is a scalable procedure, but enough investment has to be made into the closed algae systems and the space itself in order for an impact to be made. Bio fuels from algae could revolutinise our energy demands, as unlike the way that fossil fuels provide energy for many modern technologies, algal bio fuel can be used without the environmental impact. More importantly, the large closed algae systems used to remove pollutants from the air can actually be converted into this fuel as well.

The Future of Algaculture

Right now, the future of algaculture is largely unknown. As a food source, it remains a very low percentage of calories for any particular group. Increasing the algae production for nutrition is not considered to be a viable option from a business perspective. Nonetheless, the future for algae in the pollution and energy sectors are both very bright. The Algal Biomass Organization has made it clear that tax credits from rich governments will allow algal fuel to reach a similar price point to oil and other fossil fuels by the year 2018. While this might seem farfetched to some, it is true that only a small percentage of land can enable countries to replace as much fossil fuel as they are currently using. From a financial perspective, algaculture cannot compare to many of the readily available food and energy supplies that are harvested today. Still, there are many advantages for using both and in the realm of environmentally friendly, sustainable energy, algae is perhaps the best.

 

If algaculture can continue receiving funding through governments, it will be an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.

Filed in: Bioenergy, Others, Renewable Energies

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