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Algae are emerging to be one of the most promising long-term, sustainable sources of biomass and oils for fuel, food, feed, and other co-products. What makes them so attractive are the large number and wide variety of benefits associated with how and where they grow.
Nearly all these benefits stem from the fact that these plants have evolved over billions of years to produce and store energy in the form of oil, and they do this more efficiently than any other known natural or engineered process.
Here are 10 reasons why algae are a promising new source of fuel and other products:
1) Algae Grow Fast
Algae can double their numbers every few hours, can be harvested daily, and have the potential to produce a volume of biomass and biofuel many times greater than that of our most productive crops.
2) Algae Can Have High Biofuel Yields
Algae store energy in the form of oils and carbohydrates, which, combined with their high productivity, means they can produce from 2,000 to as many as 5,000 gallons of biofuels per acre per year.
3) Algae Consume CO2
Like any other plant, algae, when grown using sunlight, consume (or absorb) carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow, releasing oxygen (O2) for the rest of us to breathe. For high productivity, algae require more CO2, which can be supplied by emissions sources such as power plants, ethanol facilities, and other sources.
4) Algae Do Not Compete With Agriculture
Algae cultivation uses both land that in many cases is unsuitable for traditional agriculture, as well as water sources that are not useable for other crops, such as sea-, brackish- and wastewater. As such, algae-based fuels complement biofuels made from traditional agricultural processes.
5) Microalgal Biomass Can Be Used for Fuel, Feed and Food
Microalgae can be cultivated to have a high protein and oil content, for example, which can be used to produce either biofuels or animal feeds, or both. In addition, microalgal biomass, which is rich in micronutrients, is already used for dietary supplements to advance human health.
6) Macroalgae Can Be Grown in the Sea
Macroalgae (seaweeds) are grown in the sea, or even on land with seawater, and their sugars can be converted into biofuels and chemicals.
7) Algae Can Purify Wastewaters
Algae thrive in nutrient-rich waters like municipal waste waters (sewage), animal wastes and some industrial effluents, at the same time purifying these wastes while producing a biomass suitable for biofuels production.
8) Algal Biomass Can Be Used as an Energy Source
After oil extraction, the remaining algal biomass can be dried and “pelletized” and used as fuel that is burned in industrial boilers and other power generation sources.
9) Algae Can Be Used to Produce Many Useful Products
Algae can be cultivated to produce a variety of products for large to small markets: plastics, chemical feedstocks, lubricants, fertilizers, and even cosmetics. See other products algae is used for here.
10) The Algae Industry is a Job Creation Engine
Algae can grow in a wide variety of climates in a multitude of production methods, from ponds to photobioreactors to fermenters, and thus will create a wide variety of jobs throughout the United States, from research to engineering, from construction to farming, from marketing to financial services. The Algal Biomass Organization projects the potential for creation of 220,000 jobs in this sector by 2020.
From an industry CEO: Phycal’s Kevin Burner on benefits of algae
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