It is becoming clearer and clearer that algae – more specifically, microalgae – is an incredibly useful natural resource for a potentially post-oil planet. It's two main features in this regard include converting sunlight into energy and sucking up large concentrations of carbon dioxide to give us oxygen.
Recently, a Japanese think tank told The Asahi Shimbun newspaper that a project to mass-produce algae native to Fukushima, a costal prefecture in Northern Japan, is under way. Following an earthquake in 2011, the city suffered a nuclear meltdown and consequentially, a hindrance in energy production.
However, tests have recently shown Fukushima's native algae to be a good alternative biofuel, given its ability to produce natural oil and survive harsh winters. Although practical in theory, algae is not cheap. In Fukushima itself, the cost for a liter of algae oil costs about 300 yen (about $2.50). According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, that number would have to be trimmed down to 100 yen (about 83 cents) per liter to become a viable energy option.
"The algae was able to make it through the winter while being cultivated. We're confident that we will be able to cultivate the algae throughout the year," said Mikihide Demura, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Tsukuba in Tsukuba, part of the group doing the testing.
Even though the research is ongoing, algae-derived energy isn't the only alternative energy source the city can tap into. This past June, Fukushima completed construction of the world's largest floating wind turbine, which is a part of a larger set of plans focusing on wind energy in the area.