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Water and energy requirements for outdoor algal cultivation in panel and raceway photobioreactors

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Recognition of algae as a “Fit for Purpose” biomass and its potential as an energy and bio-product resource remains relatively obscure. This is due to the absence of tailored and unified production information necessary to overcome several barriers for commercial

Recognition of algae as a “Fit for Purpose” biomass and its potential as an energy and bio-product resource remains relatively obscure. This is due to the absence of tailored and unified production information necessary to overcome several barriers for commercial viability and environmental sustainability. The purpose of this research was to provide experimentally verifiable estimates for direct energy and water demand for the algal cultivation stage which yields algal biomass for biofuels and other bio-products. Algal biomass productivity was evaluated using different cultivation methods in conjunction with assessment for potential reduction in energy and water consumption for production of fuel and feed. Direct water and energy demands are the major focal sustainability metrics in hot and arid climates and are influenced by environmental and operational variables connected with selected algal cultivation technologies. Evaporation is a key component of direct water demand for algal cultivation and directly related to variations in temperature and relative humidity. Temperature control strategies relative to design and operational variables were necessary to mitigate overheating of the outdoor algae culture in panel photobioreactors and sub-optimal cultivation temperature in open pond raceways. Mixing in cultivation systems was a major component in direct energy demand that was provided by aeration in panel bioreactors and paddlewheels in open pond raceways. Management of aeration time to meet required biological interactions provides opportunities for reduced direct energy demand in panel photobioreactors. However, the potential for reduction in direct energy demand in raceway ponds is limited to hydraulics and head loss. Algal cultivation systems were reviewed for potential integration into dairy facilities in order to determine direct energy demand and nutrient requirements for algal biomass production for animal feed. The direct energy assessment was also evaluated for key components of related energy and design parameters for conventional raceway ponds and a gravity fed system. The results of this research provide a platform for selecting appropriate production scenarios with respect to resource use and to ensure a cost effective product with the least environmental burden.

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2015