05/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Algae From Canals to Supply Half of Venice's Power Needs

For a long time now, the abundance of algae in Venice, Italy's canals has been causing problems for boats and the city's gondolas. Not anymore - these same algal species heretofore viewed as a problem will become Venice's source of renewable energy soon. The algae species Sargassum muticum and Undaria pinnatifida brought to Venice by ships hailing from the Sargassi Sea and Japan respectively will be used in a US$266 million power plant project. Algae will be harvested from the canals and used as feedstock in a power plant that will be the first of its kind in Italy. According to Ecoworldly, the plants will be sent to laboratories to be cultivated and then placed in plastic cylinders, fed with water and carbon dioxide, and exposed to sunlight in order to induce photosynthesis. 1

Editor's Note: This occasional series looks at powerful ideas - some existing, some futuristic - for fueling and electrifying modern life. Algae come in all sizes and shapes: from single-celled microbes in pond scum to 100-foot-long seaweeds in kelp forests. The speed at which algae grow can overwhelm marine habitats and fish tanks, but that same productivity could make these organisms the best choice for supplying biofuels. 2
  1. Algae From Canals to Supply Half of Venice's Power Needs (Good Clean Tech)
  2. Powerful Ideas: Wringing Oil From Algae (Live Science)