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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

9.26.2007

Solar Powered Pond Scum?

Single-celled pond scum may be the answer. Although “there is no magic-bullet fuel crop that can solve our energy woes without harming the environment, says virtually every scientist studying the issue,” National Geographic Magazine reports this month in its cover story on biofuels that algae may be the closest answer, since it’s growing everywhere.

We’d be glad to contribute lots from our local Tallahassee ponds and lakes.

Evidently a dozen companies are doing research including GreenFuel Technologies Corp. of Massachusetts, founded by a MIT chemist who is doing the research. Previous programs that shut down in the 1990’s due to lack of funding are starting back. Algae not only reduce a plant's global warming gases, but can also devour other pollutants.

The “farm” at Green Fuel is filled with tubes of green stuff—algae, the fastest growing plant in the world, rapidly converting sunlight into energy. According to the Green Fuel website:

“energy is stored inside the cell as lipids and carbohydrates, and can be converted into fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol. Proteins produced by algae make them valuable ingredients for animal feed. Algae can be converted to transportation fuels and feed ingredients or recycled back to a combustion source as biomass for power generation.”

This means industrial facilities could host their own algae farm with systems that require no fertile land or potable water and harvest their crop every day instead of once a year.

Of course, it will come down to numbers. Can algae production costs come in below that of traditional fuel and that of other types of bio-diesel?

“We can't wait generations to screw around with this. We have to do it now.” Ray Hobbs, a senior engineer for the Green Fuel company, is quoted in the magazine article.

The possibilities of biofuels has even reached the United Arab Emirates where, it’s reported that country has launched a 250-million-dollar renewable energy initiative that includes biofuels. Although with all that desert, it’s going to be difficult for them to monopolize the world market on pond scum.


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