National University of Ireland Galway partners in EnAlgae project
National University of Ireland Galway recently announced that researchers within its Ryan Institute are participating in a €14 million ($18.5 million) European algae initiative. The program, known as the Energetic Algae—or EnAlgae—project, was announced in 2011 and is led by Swansea University. The four-year program, which celebrated its inauguration in November, is a strategic initiative funded by the INTERREG IVB North West Europe Programme.
According to NUI Galway, as partner in the project its researchers will be responsible for the initial step of producing some of the biomass required for conversion into biofuel. Specifically, NUI Galway will cultivate macroalgae, or seaweed, at sea in a one-hectare pilot plot.
The university stated that its component of the program will focus on the cultivation of kelp species native to Ireland. Growth of the seaweed crop occurs in two phases, said NUI Galway in a press release, with the first stage being carried out at the Ryan Institute’s Carna Research Station Co. Galway. Maeve Edwards, a research scientist at the facility, said the initial stage includes culturing the kelp and spraying the microscopic growth onto ropes. “Once the seaweed has been ‘seeded’ onto hundreds of [meters] of rope, they are deployed at sea in the one-hectare experimental plot in Ventry Harbour, Co. Kerry,” he said. Seaweed for the EnAlgae project will also be cultivated in Northern Ireland and Brittany, France.
The EnAlgae program currently includes 19 partners and 13 observers across eight EU member states, including France, Belgium, the U.K., Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Additional information published on the EnAlgae initiative notes that the program is designed to allow expert centers across Northwest Europe to form an integrated pilot network to accelerate the development of new algal-based technologies. The project also aims to develop best practices that will influence European policies on algal biomass production and related technologies, helping to derisk and accelerate commercialization in the sector.