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Report outlines algae biofuel sustainability issues

A raceway pond used for the cultivation of microalgae. The water is kept in constant motion with a powered paddle wheel. Photo courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.

Water availability, nutrient use seen as key challenges

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Algae-based biofuels have been touted as the next big thing in renewable energy. But based on existing technologies, production on a significant scale — for example enough to supply 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs — would put unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

But those concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, the report concluded, emphasizing that technical innovations could change the equation.

Biofuels derived from algae and cyanobacteria could help the U.S. meet its energy security needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Potential advantages over biofuels made from land plants, including algae’s ability to grow on non-croplands in cultivation ponds of freshwater, salt water, or wastewater. Continue reading

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