They will broaden the use of Nature’s potential to achieve a carbon neutral economy
The research to develop biofuels as a replacement for traditional fossil fuels represents one of many attempts to reduce the historical impacts of our energy system upon the environment. Early developments utilised farming products, such as corn or sugar cane as the raw material of first generation biofuels. Their use generated ethical dilemmas, as these products are also used as food. Second generation biofuels are produced using farming products that are not used as food for humans, but the process still requires large stretches of land and a complex technology. However, third generation biofuels are utilising algae as the main source of biofuel. Algae as a raw material for biofuels produce more oil per land area and their growth rate surpasses other land crops. Additionally, such raw material can be genetically modified to increase the efficiency of the process and the capture of CO2, which will be the fourth generation of biofuels.
Such is the importance and need to substitute fossil fuels that the US Department of Energy has recently announced the allocation of 22 million dollars to 18 innovative R&D projects to turn the country into a leading producer of sea algae and in doing so, improve energy security and financial competitiveness. These R&D projects form part of the MARINER programme (Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources) and they require an interdisciplinary effort and collaboration, including specialists in crops, computational modelling or advanced genetic tools, among others. One of these projects that will be carried out by the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the leadership of David Siegel, entails the development of a system to monitor all stages of the production of algal biomass using aerial vehicles, autonomous submarines and permanent sensors. The project will assess the production and growth of the algae, together with environmental factors that influence the health and performance of the farms.
At Norvento we are keeping an eye on the feasibility of algal biofuels, but in the meantime we also commit ourselves to circular recycling of organic waste to produce electricity and heat, helping our clients to move towards their energy independence and to reduce their carbon footprint.