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Algae - energy of the future ?
Another fascinating topic related to renewable energy.

There was an article somewhere about Volkswagen and Shell pushing biofuels strategy in EU. Topic is highly controversial, some people claim that biofuels have low efficiency, and need precious arable land. Some people even claim the carbon footprint of biofuel production per kWh is higher than that of fossil fuels (may be true, but it's CO2 removed from atmosphere by photosynthesis recently and not millions years ago).

Out of the curiosity I did some research and came to some articles promoting algae as biofuels. There is some interesting advantages:
  • Algae grows in both liquid environment both salt/fresh water or in soil, even one not suitable for farming, like desserts. Hence, no arrable land required.
  • Over 50% of algae biomass is oil. Over 30x more oil per land area than any other fuel plants (e.g. soybeans, corn). Hence, high energy capacity.
  • Most effiecient photoreceptors of all plants. Hence, quick charging.
  • Arid zones (desserts) are ideal because of high solar exposure.
  • United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2), which is only 0.42% of the U.S. map,[11] or about half of the land area of Maine. This is less than 1⁄7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000

Algae photosynthesis efficiency is around 3.2%, a far cry from today's photovoltaic cells that are 20%, but:
  • How expensive is it to manufacture a square mile of photovoltaic cells vs grow square mile of algae ?
  • What is the ecological footprint of manufacturing and recycling of photovoltaic cells and energy storage batteries ?
  • Plants are self-regenerating whereas photovoltaic cells are not.

No, I am not going to grow algae Smile But I find this subject extremely interesting.

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