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Algae Farming


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#1 aburo

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 10:26 AM

I remember that tax incentives for algal biofuels wasn't a very popular affirmative case during the high school energy topic. Recently, several companies have started algae farm projects on privately-owned ponds and lakes in Florida, Texas, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana. If we were to debate energy again, would this be a more popular case now that algae farms are starting to be built around the country? If so, what kinds of things can the federal government do to help the algae industry prosper? Also, why do these farms prop up in some states but not others?

I know that these questions can probably be answered by experts on the issue much more easily, but I figured that since some of us debated the topic several years ago, we might be able to get a good discussion going.
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#2 Ankur

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 12:11 PM

I remember that tax incentives for algal biofuels wasn't a very popular affirmative case during the high school energy topic. Recently, several companies have started algae farm projects on privately-owned ponds and lakes in Florida, Texas, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana. If we were to debate energy again, would this be a more popular case now that algae farms are starting to be built around the country? If so, what kinds of things can the federal government do to help the algae industry prosper? Also, why do these farms prop up in some states but not others?

I know that these questions can probably be answered by experts on the issue much more easily, but I figured that since some of us debated the topic several years ago, we might be able to get a good discussion going.


If I had to guess, based on what I remember from biology class more than 10 years ago, I would think that algae doesnt thrive well in colder climates, making the northern states less suitable for year round algae farming. Although, I suppose you could develop temperature controlled greenhouse environments, but I would think that would reduce efficiency and increase cost making it far less economical.
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#3 nathan_debate

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 01:34 AM

Florida, Texas, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana.


I think its no coincidence that these are all southern states (virginia being a border state).

Although, perhaps at least during the summer--northern states could have algae farms (or does it require year round growth?)

I imagine its also pretty land intensive.
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#4 Ankur

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 07:08 AM

I think its no coincidence that these are all southern states (virginia being a border state).

Although, perhaps at least during the summer--northern states could have algae farms (or does it require year round growth?)

I imagine its also pretty land intensive.


Actually, algae farms can go vertical to a degree. I have seen pictures of a plant where they grow the algae in what looks like large bubble wrap and its hung on rotating machines kinda like a tie rack

One could have the farms in the north in the summer, but thats rather inefficient for an energy source that isnt remotely competitive now.
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#5 MrMarantz

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 07:34 PM

I'm no expert, but I ran algae during the energy topic, so hopefully I can provide some background. From the lit I read, it appears that the ideal locations for algae plants are in warm climates (natch) near power plants. They can be cultivated vertically (cutting down on land use) and are grown in either "open" or "closed" farms. "Open" farms are basically huge, outdoor ponds of algae (which use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for growth), and "closed" farms are the "bubble-wrap/tie-rack" type that utilize carbon emissions from power plants. According to Michael Briggs (in 2006, keep in mind), if we grew 15,000 acres of algae (12.5% of the area of the Sonora desert), we could replace all of the petroleum in the United States with algae. http://www.consumere...ernative-fuels/

The drawbacks? Many. We were lucky that there was basically only one neg author back in 08-09 (Krassen Dmitrov), but there have been more studies and the conclusions are basically:
1) It's nowhere near economically feasible (absent government subsidies)
2) Only a small minority of American drivers use diesel engines.
3) Further studies have proven that the thermal energy production from algae is much lower than originally projected.
4) Full-scale production is at least 10 years away.
http://www.consumere...act-or-fiction/

But still, it's the best option for biofuels overall, because it doesn't use food or crucial plants (the algae is cultivated from relatively small samples that have no effect on the food chain).

That's my input, keep in mind I'm no expert, so this is by no means definitive. Just thought I'd try to help encourage the conversation.
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#6 vladlock

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 04:38 PM

Hasn't Exxon been trying to farm algae for a while now?
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