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Originally published April 12 2009

Seaweed Farms Could Grow Biofuels Without Using Water or Land

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Seaweed could be a valuable source of biofuels that does not compete with food for land or require fresh water to grow, according to a report commissioned by The Crown Estate and conducted by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SMAS).

"Given Scotland's rugged western coastline and island groups, and relatively clean seas, it is sensible to examine the farming of seaweeds and sustainable harvesting of natural supplies as a source of energy, to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles," said Mike Cowling, science and research manager for The Crown Estate, which manages land holdings for the British monarchy.

"Heating and transport make up around three quarters of our energy use, so it's vital that we find new ways of meeting that demand. Extracting energy from seaweed is a particularly efficient and reliable method of producing green energy," he said.

Prior research has suggested that chopped or ground seaweed is a more effective source of methane and than land plants, because it contains very little cellulose and no lignin. Brown seaweed, such as kelp, is easier to process than green or red varieties. Kelp also holds potential as a feedstock for ethanol, because it sugars are easily extracted when the plant is milled.

The report recommends that several 2.5-acre kelp farms be established off the coast of Scotland in order to test their productivity and give researchers an idea how the farms could best be managed. The estimated cost of setting up such a farm is $3,800, but the facility could produce approximately 130 wet metric tons of kelp per year.

Extensive kelp forests already exist naturally off the coast of Scotland. The largest and most productive stands 500 miles and 56,000 acres off the coast of the island of Orkney, and is estimated to hold more than one million metric tons of kelp.

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