Algae: The New Biofuel, 12°

B C.

Algae is a renewable fuel, does not affect the food channel and eats C02. Algae oil can be converted into fuels such as jet fuel, biodiesel, and biogasoline

10 replies

Charles M. 110°

It depends on where you grow it. Algae is a very important part of the food chain and is a great input for fish farming or as a fertiliser.

So where would you put the algae farms?

Written in January 2009

David R. 10°

Haven't you seen this video?

They say that if we built enough of these farms to cover an area 1/10th the size of New Mexico, we could fuel the whole country!

Written in January 2009

David R. 10°

OOPS! Should have checked the link first. lol
Try this one.


Written in January 2009

Charles M. 110°

So 30,000-odd square km Make that 30,000 square miles once you've added all the infrastructure (roads, canals,...).

So where are you going to put this thing? Even deserts are living places.

Got any idea what is costs to build something of that magnitude?

While it might be all nice and clean/grean once it is operating, the environmental cost of building and running a plant like this is just unbelievable.

Written in January 2009

Why do we gravitate to powering our country form tradition central locations that then have to be dispersed. A more sustainable way to power the world is through local sources that do not have to transmitted over long distances, losing power all along the way.

We need to ask can algae technology be a home generated source of power such as solar and wind can be. We do not need to have big algae farms we all need to take responsibility for the energy we use by generating it ourself.

Written in January 2009

Charles M. 110°

I'm all for "small is beautiful" and micro-generation where it makes sense. Unfortunately quite often it does not.

Making the algae farms smaller does not reduce the total size or the total cost. If anything, a lot of smaller farms would cost a lot more and take up more space because of the duplication of infrastructure (tanks, pumps, etc). There is actually efficiency in centralization of many of these functions. Small is not always beautiful.

The algae farm output is primarily limited by how much light it receives (so you can't put one in your basement). The amount of light you get from the sun is primarily determined by location and the amount of are it covers.

An area a tenth the size of New Mexico is approximately 30,000 square km. That's 30,000 million square metres. or about 100 square meters (approx 1000 square feet) per person in USA. Consider for a moment a family of 4. To make their share of algae, they'd need 4000 sq ft of algae plant. That's much bigger than their house!. Sure, you could grow some on the roof. Apartment dwellers just don't stand a chance!

Photovoltaic generation does seem pretty well suited to small scale use. It would be really neat if they made roofing shingles out of the stuff so that the roof was your solar panel.

Wind generation is definitely not suited to rooftop generation in most circumstances. Wind power is proportional to the cube of wind speed: double the wind speed and the power increases by a factor of 8! Or, put the other way: reduce the wind speed by 50% and you reduce the wind power by 85%. Typical rooftops and urban areas are horrible places for wind power because all the turbulence and wind resistance from ground, trees, houses etc slows down the wind dramatically thus robbing the power. In most cases it would be far better for a community to pool their wind power money and put it into a larger wind turbine place on a hill.

Written in January 2009

Algae farms have their place in a total repowering of America. But where are we going to find 30,000 square KM without people or wildlife. I am sure that we will have many smaller algae farms. Local generation like your windmill on the hill is the great choice for a sustainable future, along with solar and algae farms. I'd also like to see us get away from the internal combustion engine.

Written in January 2009

David R. 10°

Being concerned about damage to location is honorable. Being more concerned about the elimination of worse evils is prudent. It is my guess that other than the footprint this operation is very innocuous.

As far as your numbers of 30,000 sq. km, I am not sure where you get that from. That may be the total area necessary to provide the entire country's liquid fuel needs, but it doesn't have to be all in one place. That would reduce the number of related roads, and the overall impact. (why do you need canals?)

It is not likely to be feasible to do this at home. I would guess it would be an economy of scale thing. Of course even economies of scale can suffer from peter principal.

Written in January 2009

C Robb W. 429°

I'd rather see these plants go into "marginal" city land than deserts which I don't consider marginal, Detroit has been largely depopulated, let's put it there, or perhaps some other more southerly city. This seems like a more valuable use of land than casinos. How about Las Vegas? The other issue is feedstock, is it just water? oops that rules out LV. It would need to be coastal in order to get plenty of brackish water. Are willing to commit large areas of prime coastal real estate, which will be underwater in the next 100 years anyway, to creating fuel for what is essentially the result of bad design. Our use of motor fuel is based on faulty urban and commerce design. Far better to re-localize economy, re-vitalize the rail and bus network, increase efficiency, get out of our cars and use solar to power, what small needs that remain. Plans that emphasize business as usual are doomed to failure. Business as usual is the problem.

Written in January 2009

Charles M. 110°

The 30,000 sqare km number comes from your number of 1/10th the size of New Mexico.

Google "size of New Mexico". Divide by 10.

I don't think anyone suggests putting it in one place. However you can't just stuff plants like these into small areas (eg. micro plants in your back garden) because it just leads to nightmare levels of duplicate infrastructure and having to cart the stuff to a community processing plant (though I guess everyone could use their own backyard equipment.

It is not just the space, it is also all the equipment that a plant like this needs. Those itty-bitty plastic growing vessels need good protection (green house or whatever). They won't handle being in the open and getting frozen or smacked by hail/snow. Heck they would not even handle a good wind.

Basically we're talking building infrastucture orders of magnitude larger than anything ever built for energy production (oil refineries, coal/nuke power plants...). The energy density out of one of these is just so low.

Placement is quite important. We're talking huge capital outlay, so the plants would have to be in productive areas (ie. lots of sun and warm enough to produce for most of the year). Pointless putting one of these in Detroit as much as we might like the idea of covering Detroit in green mush.

The feedstock should be minimal, I'd have thought. Oils (well petroleums) are basically carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and those can be achieved from CO2 and water. Sure the algae need other nutrients but those should be recycled after the oils have been harvested.

In short, neat idea when you do it at a lab scale, but it just does not work out when you try to scale it up to national production levels.

As Rob says, replace Mega Oil Corp with Mega Algae Corp and you still have Mega Corp which is the biggest problem.

The easiest way to achieve an alternative energy program is to first reduce energy usage. I don't mean mitigating the carbon with credits (the rich boy cop out), but by reducing actual usage. Halve or quarter energy usage and you've immediately halved or quartered the problem making alternative energy sources more viable.

Written in January 2009

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