Biggest UK algae factory set to bloom in Ardnamurchan

[UK] A pioneering project to establish the UK’s largest micro-algae manufacturing facility in remote Ardnamurchan has received a £500,000 cash boost.

The £2million project could see a new industry flourish while also ensuring it is powered by local sources of renewable energy.

The Algal Solutions for Local Energy Economy (Aslee) project has been awarded the cash from the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund to fund the first year of feasibility studies.

The project is being led by Dr Douglas McKenzie, chief executive at Xanthella, a firm which has designed a range of photobioreactors used to cultivate microalgae and which is based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science’s laboratory at Dunstaffnage.

He said: “Microalgae are a hugely versatile industrial product. We already use them in local aquaculture but actually fly them in from Japan and the USA rather than manufacture them locally.

“This project has the potential to allow us to develop renewable production in our remote and rural areas much faster than we are currently doing and to make algal production much cheaper.

“All of this means more jobs and a better economy for some of the most remote and vulnerable areas in Scotland”.

If it goes ahead, the manufacturing facility will be powered by a range of renewable energy production methods – including wind, hydro, biomass and wave generators – available through the Ardndamuchan Estate’s Woodlands Renewables division.

The pilot project will allow the group behind the scheme to research the effects of intermittency of electrical supply on algae production. This fits the wider theme of the project’s funders, to determine new uses for renewable energy in remote areas such as the Ardnamurchan peninsula that are “grid constrained” – where it is difficult to bring in revenue by supplying energy to the grid.

Mr McKenzie said: “Scotland has massive potential for expanding its use of renewable energy but problems with our electrical grid structure mean that much of this potential cannot be used.
“If we had new uses for the electricity near where the renewable electricity is produced then we could remove this constraint.”

The two-year project is led by Xanthella in partnership with agency Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Energy (ALIenergy), grid services firm VCharge, the University of the West of Scotland, marine research group FAI Aquaculture, renewable energy consultancy Sgurr Energy, the Ardnamurchan Estate’s Woodland Renewables and the University of Stirling’s Marine Environment Research Laboratory at Machrihanish.

 

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