The greatest restraint for bio-fuel as an alternative source of energy is the land it occupies. However, seaweeds can be planted at sea.
Bio-fuel has hardly taken-off the ground due the massive land that it will require. It would produce social and environmental cost as deforestation would be one its hindrances for success. The price of nutrition and food would increase and further putting people at the verge of relative poverty.
UK-based Royal Society, conducted a study in 2008 stating that the option to produce biomass at sea has not been envisaged. Using the sea to produce biomass would enlarge our prospect enormously. Ocean covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface and is usually more exposed to the sun.
According to Agriculturalists, the sea is significantly underused. It is an area having both sunshine and water. It is only recently, that sea cultivation has become common and it is more widely termed as mariculture and aquaculture.
In 2004 around 60 million tonnes of products were produced from mariculture having a worth of around $ 92 million, which was mostly from the Pacific and Asia. Moreover, the potential bio-fuel, seaweeds are mainly from China, Japan and Korea.
Seaweeds a possible bio-fuel
Seaweeds are mostly esteemed for being food, fertiliser as well as animal food. Moreover, research is making it a possible bio-fuel.
Seaweeds or simply macro-algae that are grown at sea, has great advantage. They do not require soil and have a limitless supply of water. In agriculture the ocean is the most abundant resource.
Having an agricultural model where massive natural land would be required for bio-energy to be produced would be detrimental. It would potentially evoke deforestation, habitat loss and greenhouse gases.
There are already two countries that are generating electricity through seaweeds. In Japan and Costa Rica a biomass is burnt to produce energy. However, it is important to evaluate the capacity potential of sea-agriculture. If less than 3 percent of the world’s ocean would be used, it would represent around 20 percent of land that are actually utilized for agriculture. This would practically make it possible to substitute fossil fuel for bio-energy. Only a fraction of the sea area is enough to make bio-energy a key source of renewable energy.
A contemporary model of cultivating land biomass would reduce carbon dioxide emission as less fossil fuel will be used. It has also been shown that burning on bio-fuel (fuel generated from photosynthesis) does not produce CO2 emission once burned. Fossil fuel is generated from ancient photosynthesis and releases greenhouse gases.
To make farming possible at large-scale, fertilizers would be essential. Domestic wastewater is a source of nutrition that is wrongly used nowadays. It is dumped into the sea. However, using nutrition form wastewater to grow seaweeds would maximise environmental treatment as seaweeds would clean wastewater in the process.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and other US institutions have already tested the possibility of growing seaweeds in human wastewater. The result was favourable.
Going towards mariculture would give us back a large portion of our land. It would be a feasible solution for our environment and to assure food supply to our people. The amount of bio-energy potential from sea agriculture is huge.