The share of renewable energies is meant to be increased further in the European Union in order to reduce the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, to extend the reach of the traditional fossil fuels, and to improve safety in the domain of energy supply. Among the renewable energies, biomass takes center stage. It delivers the highest share of renewable power supply, and it represents a premium energy source with its excellent storage ability and its versatile usability in the production of fuels, electricity, and heating. In Europe, expansion of energy crop growing is possible but it is increasingly limited due to the extensive already existent land-use. Algae are highly advantageous in comparison to other cultivated biomass. While rape and corn transform only about one percent of the sunlight into chemical energy, algea do up to five percent, however, a rate that can only be reached with sufficient carbon dioxide supply. Additionally, with algae no agriculturally suitable land area is needed as they can be cultivated in technical systems. In this way, the algae biotechnology offers an alternative to the so-called "plate - petrol tank" dilemma. An additional advantage is that algae prosper in salt water, and in brackish waters or even in nutritious waste water. Consequently, they can reduce the competitive pressure on agriculture regarding water resources and fertilizers. The usage of algae for energy production, and for the production of valuable co-products is still at the initial stage, and there is a great need of knowledge-based support in decision making as far as politics and economy are concerned.
Against this background, the INTERREG project Energetic Algae (EnAlgae) aims at supporting, and accelerating the development of a sustainable algae-based biomass production in Northwestern Europe by transnationally pooling the available knowledge. A network of pilot plants adapted to the climatic conditions in Northwestern Europe will be established and operated. A plant registry of the existing, and of the planned pilot plants in Northwestern Europe will be compiled, and operational data will be accumulated in standardized formats which will then be edited and presented to the public. A second focus of the project is the identification of economical, ecological and social opportunities and challenges that lie in the usage of algae biomass in Northwestern Europe. Additionally, information on production systems, industry standards, and sales markets that are suitable for Northwestern Europe have to be made available to politicians, industry, and investors. The gathered information, the experiences, and the knowledge will be used for the implementation of a web-based decision guidance. This guidance will have, among other purposes, the purpose to identify site-specific convenient production methods based on algae, and to work out national, regional and local development strategies.
Under the ageis of ITAS, a sustainability analysis and evaluation for different production procedures based on microalgae and macroalgae will take place while applying the integrative sustainability concept analyzing the material flow, the environment effects - life cycle based -, and the costs. The aim is to identify the most efficient and ecologically, economically, and socially most favorable algae-based process chain as well as suitable sites for the algae cultivation. Additionally, a concept for sustainable algae production has to be developed.
Project website: http://www.enalgae.eu/