The legendary canals of Venice, Italy are known for the majestic scenic views, their historical legacy and their unique appeal to tourists – but soon they could also be known for their ability to produce power.
Venetian researchers have developed a method to harness bio-energy from algae growing in the canal in order to power the city’s entire port. Researchers are are currently studying the canal’s native species of algae in order to grow similar organisms in tanks they will then use for bio-fuel.
“Set to be operational by the end of the year, the experimental tanks will generate 500KW of peak capacity with oil derived from algal pulp,” The Economist wrote of the project. “If successful, the project can be rapidly scaled up to 50MW. The entire port currently consumes 7MW. It is one of a growing number of projects across Europe extracting bio-fuel from algae.”
Biomass energy can be harnessed from a variety of sources. Burning waste or by-products at wood pulp, for example, is a common occurrence in pulp and paper mills. The use of this alternative energy source as a method to produce power is growing in popularity around the globe.
The Venetian researched contend that biomass energy – particularly algal biomass energy has several benefits.
“[The algae] can be harvested as often as once every three days, have higher oil content than alternative biological sources, and, since they can grown in tanks, they reduce the risk of ecosystem damage and do not pinch increasingly scarce arable land as other biomass crops do,” wrote the Economist.
Support for algal biomass energy has been receiving a large amount of support from political bodies across Europe.
“The European Union believes in the algae project,” says Gabriella Chiellino, president of Enave, a public-private partnership which runs the Venice operation with cash from the EU.
The British government has also identified biomass heat and electricity as key cost-effective renewable technologies for the next decade in its Renewables Roadmap.