Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Next Renewable Resources: Algae

Algae are considered as the most promising renewable resources to produce biofuel because a large portion of it is made of oil. CNN article Algae:’ The Ultimate in Renewable Energy’ states “algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil” (Walton, CNN). According to the article, the company, Valcent Products, has built a green house on the outskirts of El Paso and uses a “closed, vertical system, growing the algae in long rows of moving plastic bags. The patented system is called Vertigro, a joint venture with Canadian alternative energy company Global Green Solutions. The companies have invested about $5 million in the Texas facility” (Walton, CNN). The vertical system enables algae to absorb more solar energy since it has more surface area, and they are enclosed in a bag because a pond limits reproduction of algae, leave them hanging vertically in a plastic bag not only increases energy absorption but also increases production.

U.S. government stopped researching algae when the oil price was low, now the government is once again experimenting with algae to due high price of oil. In Oct, 2007, Chevron and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) joined together into a collaborative research to produce transportation fuels using algae. Chevron and NREL scientists believe “using nonfood feedstock sources such algae and cellulose hold the greatest promise to grow the biofuels industry to large scale.” (Chevron Press Release, 2007). With such potential as being the next fuel energy, we hope to see algae grow the biofuels industry to meet the growing energy need.

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