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Scotland Invests $8 Million in Seaweed and Algae Biofuels

seaweed biofuelThe BioMara research project investigating the feasibility of using microalgae and seaweed to produce biofuels was launched on Friday by Scotland’s Energy Minister, Jim Mather.

“Effectively, seaweed harvested off a beach in the Outer Isles could be heating a crofter’s kettle for their cup of tea the next morning.” – Laila Sadler, spokesperson for BioMara

Funded by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Crown Estate, Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government, the project falls right in line with the call for 10% of transport fuels from renewables by 2020.

“Conventional biofuel crops compete for land and fresh water with farming and nature. What we need is fast-growing, easily utilised plants which thrive in environments not used for agriculture or conservation Marine algae could be part of the solution. Seaweeds grow rapidly, harness carbon dioxide and have simple structures which make them easily converted to fuel.” – Dr Michele Stanley, lead scientist

The challenge of biofuels is finding fast-growing, easily utilized plants which thrive in places not used for agriculture or conservation, so a seaweed/algae biofuels industry could be a big jump for the UK. Scotland also has a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind energy resource, so it clearly has a competitive advantage in developing other offshore renewable energy sources as well.

“Much research and development is needed to unleash the potential for algal biofuels. As well as seaweeds, we will investigate which strains of microalgae are most suitable for oil production and cultivation on an industrial scale. BioMara will investigate every part of the energy-supply chain, from cultivation of the algae to fuel utilisation in remote communities.” – Stanley

The $8 million (€6 million) project will pursue biofuel production and utilization in remote, rural communities.


Image: Ryan McD at Flickr under CC License

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Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!


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