Friday, April 10, 2009

Venice to Use Algae for 50% of Its Electricity

The city of Venice has announced a plan to utilize algae in a different way than we're used to hearing about. The Italian city plans to produce 50 percent of its electricity needs from an algae-based power plant instead of fossil fuels.

“Sargassum muticum” and “Undaria pinnatifida” are the names of two kinds of algae brought by the ships coming from Japan and the Sargassi sea. The algea grows over the seaport of Venice, causing problems for gondolas and ferry boats.

But today it could be turned into a resource.
Italy recently announced a 200 million euro eco-friendly project to harvest the prolific seaweed that lines Venice’s canals and transform it into emissions-free energy. The idea is to set up a power plant fuelled by algae, the first facility of its kind in Italy.

The plant, to be built in collaboration with renewable energy services company Enalg, will be operative in two years and will produce 40 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to half of the energy required by the entire city centre of Venice.

The algae will be cultivated in laboratories and put in plastic cylinders where water, carbon dioxide, and sunshine can trigger photosynthesis. The resulting biomass will be treated further to produce a fuel to turn turbines. The carbon dioxide produced in the process will be fed back to the algae, resulting in zero emissions from the plant. “Venice could represent the beginning of a global revolution of energy and renewable resources. Our goals are to achieve the energetic self-sufficiency for the seaport and to reduce CO2 emissions, including those one produced by the docked ships”, says the president of the seaport of Venice Authority, Paolo Costa.

The idea sounds good and seems to open great possibilities for zero emission energy production; Venice could represent the first step of a real innovative evolution even if there are still some doubts about the huge amount of money required for this project and the authorization needed to built the plant.

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