Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hawaii May Take Lead in Algae Energy Research

Hawaii May Take Lead in Algae Energy Research

It seems Hawaii may be the next algae “hot spot” in the United States. According to an article in Sunday's Honolulu Advertiser, “Hawaii has a longstanding tradition of agricultural research. In plantation days, we were clever enough to get 25 percent to 50 percent of our power from bagasse, or sugarcane fiber, and we have a history of generating power from plants. Growing algae now is back to the future.”

What they have been able to achieve is quite impressive but the technology is still in its infancy there, even with some of the world's top research teams. Hawaii currently has no field sites and no processing plants capable of turning algae into biodiesel. Because of this, they have no commercial algae biodiesel, and this does not look as though it will change soon.

It should be mentioned that Hawaii is not without its share of projects that did not come to fruition or were utter failures. For instance, “last summer, Blue Earth planned to build a processing plant to make biodiesel from algae grown on nearby A&B land. MECO was going to burn that fuel in its Ma'alaea generating plant and pass CO2waste back to A&B as fertilizer to grow more algae. But Blue Earth and MECO are in a contract dispute and nothing is happening.”

There is nothing to say this plant will not someday be generating fuel. However, it does not currently do so. It would seem, though, that Hawaii has a vested interest in using algae for more complex operations such as high-protein fish and cattle feed. The state is confident algae will play a huge role in its under-construction energy ecosystem.

They seem more dedicated to finding new answers to old problems than the rest of the United States and it would seem they are on a great path to doing so very soon.
However, it would seem there needs to be greater public acceptance of algae and its many uses in our world and less bureaucratic involvement keeping it from being used to its full potential. The possibilities are limitless once that happens.

This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the best online school [http://www.bestuniversities.com/]. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com.


dug said...

"There is nothing to say this plant will not someday be generating fuel."
Actually, there is quite a bit to say this - all to do with the lack of economic feasibility of algae oil production. Unless someone makes a very significant break through in extracting oil from algae that takes less energy than the algae produces - it may never happen. To date I haven't seen anyone who can produce algae oil under about $18/gal. - more than 10 times the cost of petro diesel. Algae oil research isn't so short of technology - so much as it's short of basic economic (both energy budgets and financial) analysis.

ggmeyers3899 said...

I'm currently doing some on-line research re photobioreactors (PBR) and found a google reference to a algae-based joint venture (Cellana)on the Big Island between HR Biopetroleum and Royal Dutch Shell . Does anyone out there know if their progress to date matches their hype?