Monday, June 30, 2008

Ireland and New Zealand: Seaweed Leaders?

Island nations, Ireland and New Zealand, are located almost precisely diagonally half a world apart from each other--both North and South, and East and West. Interestingly, both Ireland and New Zealand are looking at ways of making a common natural resource--seaweed--an increasingly profitable enterprise. Seaweed is a type of multi-cellular algae that can be quite prolific in areas where other plant life is scarce.
'Compared to other bioenergy crops (eg rapeseed, canola, peanut, oil palm) there are a number of species of algae that have higher areal productivities, higher oil content and that can grow in saline waters.

'These apparently very favourable properties have generated a frenzy of interest and activities in the field of energy production using algae, both microalgae and seaweeds.'

He continued, 'For biofuel production the algal biomass needs to be produced at a cost of around $US1 or less per kg. In order to achieve this ambitious goal there is the need for year-round reliable high productivity algal culture and all factors (eg, algae strains, algae culture, harvesting and further downstream processing) need to be optimised and efficiently integrated.'

Ireland boasts 16 commercially useful seaweed species, with additional species being added as more research is carried out. Ireland's location off Western Europe, surrounded by clean seas, is a major selling point to the world market. __BioenergyCheckBiotech
New Zealand also has a long tradition of seaweed cultivation, and Air New Zealand is one of the airlines looking at seaweed, algae, and oil seeds to fuel their fleet.

Most likely, to replace petro-fuels with biofuels, it will be necessary to use significant areas of both land and ocean for growing fuel crops--until advanced synthetic biology finds ways to boost bio-production far beyond current known limits.

Japan, Korea, and China are other countries making use of extensive seaweed cultivation. But coastlines alone may not be enough. As discussed previously, artificial islands or seasteads may become important "ocean farms" for production of bio-energy--turning vast regions of mid-ocean "deserts" into scattered oasis, teeming with useful life.

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