Can New Algae Panels Beat Solar Panels?July 14, 2022
Solar panels are extremely popular because they can harvest clean solar energy, but a startup wants to introduce an algae panel that not only generates electricity but absorbs CO2 while doing so.
The idea sounds incredible, but the process is relatively convoluted. It starts with a water-filled panel with some algae in it. CO2 gas is introduced into the liquid to ‘feed’ the algae’s growth, which is powered by sunlight (photosynthesis).
Supposedly, the CO2 is harvested from somewhere, reducing the carbon footprint of another CO2 source. In theory, the algae can absorb twice its weight in C02.
The more sun there is, the faster/bigger the algae grow. When the panel is full, the algae must be partially emptied, and you can restart the whole cycle. That is how C02 is absorbed.
Electricity is produced from heat transfer. As the panel is exposed to sunlight, it absorbs heat which is then transferred by the water to a thermoelectric generator (which converts heat to electricity).
This technology is made by greenfluidics, a Mexico-based startup. The company claims its Biopanel can generate 328 KWh/m2 per year, comparable to solar panels. However, I find this surprising because thermoelectric generators are typically less efficient than photovoltaic panels.
That said, Green Fluidics probably includes that biomass is converted to fuel in a separate process and by another facility. If not, we would need a breakdown of the energy produced.
Additionally, the algae panel requires regular maintenance as you need to at least empty the biomass from time to time. I like the idea very much, but it seems like something more suited for industrial than consumer use.
Perhaps certain types of facilities could use this successfully, especially if the building is designed for it from the ground up. Finally, the C02 removal could be exciting as it would be easy to quantify and could create/earn carbon credits too.
Can New Algae Panels Beat Solar Panels?