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Social and economic indicators can be used to support design of sustainable energy systems. Indicators representing categories of social well-being, energy security, external trade, profitability, resource conservation, and social acceptability have not yet been measured in published sustainability assessments for commercial algal biofuel facilities. We review socioeconomic indicators that have been modeled at the commercial scale or mea-sured at the pilot or laboratory scale, as well as factors that affect them, and discuss additional indicators that should be measured during commercialization to form a more complete picture of socioeconomic sustainability of algal biofuels. Indicators estimated in the scientific literature include the profitability indicators, return on investment (ROI) and net present value (NPV), and the resource conservation indicator, fossil energy return on investment (EROI). These modeled indicators have clear sustainability targets and have been used to design sustainable algal biofuel systems. Factors affecting ROI, NPV, and EROI include infrastructure, process choices, and financial assumptions. The food security indicator, percent change in food price volatility, is probably zero where agricultural lands are not used for production of algae-based biofuels; however, food-related coproducts from algae could enhance food security. The energy security indicators energy security premium and fuel price volatility and external trade indicators terms of trade and trade volume cannot be projected into the future with accuracy prior to commercialization. Together with environmental sustainability indicators, the use of a suite of socioeconomic sustainability indicators should contribute to progress toward sustainability of algal biofuels

Publication Year
Organization
Lab
DOI
10.1111/gcbb.12359
Contact Person
Rebecca A. Efroymson
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Rebecca A. Efroymson , Virginia H. Dale , Matthew H. Langholtz
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

For analyzing sustainability of algal biofuels, we identify 16 environmental indicators that fall into six categories: soil quality, water quality and quantity, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and productivity. Indicators are selected to be practical, widely applicable, predictable in response, anticipatory of future changes, independent of scale, and responsive to management. Major differences between algae and terrestrial plant feedstocks, as well as their supply chains for biofuel, are highlighted, for they influence the choice of appropriate sustainability indicators. Algae strain selection characteristics do not generally affect which indicators are selected. The use of water instead of soil as the growth medium for algae determines the higher priority of water- over soil-related indicators. The proposed set of environmental indicators provides an initial checklist for measures of algal biofuel sustainability but may need to be modified for particular contexts depending on data availability, goals of stakeholders, and financial constraints. Use of these indicators entails defining sustainability goals and targets in relation to stakeholder values in a particular context and can lead to improved management practices.

Contact Phone
Publication Year
Contact Email
efroymsonra@ornl.gov
Contact Person
R. A. Efroymson
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
R. A. Efroymson
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

The framework for National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap was constructed at the Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop, held December 9-10, 2008, at the University of Maryland-College Park. The Workshop was organized by the Biomass Program to discuss and identify the critical challenges currently hindering the development of a domestic, commercial-scale algal biofuels industry. This Roadmap presents information from a scientific, economic, and policy perspectives that can support and guide RD&D investment in algal biofuels. While addressing the potential economic and environmental benefits of using algal biomass for the production of liquid transportation fuels, the Roadmap describes the current status of algae RD&D. In doing so, it lays the groundwork for identifying challenges that likely need to be overcome for algal biomass to be used in the production of economically viable biofuels.

Keywords
Publication Year
Contact Email
daniel.fishman@ee.doe.gov
Contact Person
Daniel Fishman
Contact Organization
Bioenergy Technologies Office
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Department of Energy

The Monitoring and Event Response for Harmful Algal Blooms (MERHAB) Research Program builds capacity along our coasts for enhanced HAB monitoring and response. This helps NOAA and state partners identify when beaches, shellfisheries, and marine animals are at risk from harmful algae, and to make informed decisions that protect public health and safeguard our coastal economies.

Contact Person
Mike Rust
Contact Organization
NOAA
Bioenergy Category

NOAA and other federal agencies administer a variety of financial assistance programs that support sustainable aquaculture in the United States. Funding may address a variety of issues such as environmental monitoring, recirculating aquaculture systems, shellfish farming, alternative feeds for aquaculture, new species research, and offshore aquaculture. The programs below outline NOAA-managed funding opportunities for aquaculture and funding opportunities available through other agencies or venues.

Keywords
Contact Email
mike.rust@noaa.gov
Contact Person
Mike Rust
Contact Organization
NOAA
Bioenergy Category

NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science's (NCCOS's) PCMHAB program funds research to move promising technologies for preventing, controlling, or mitigating HABs and their impacts through development, to demonstration, and, finally application, culminating in wide spread use in the field by end-users. A more detailed description of the program and its projects are available at the link below.

Keywords
Contact Email
mike.rust@noaa.gov
Contact Person
Mike Rust
Contact Organization
NOAA
Bioenergy Category

National biomass feedstock assessments (Perlack et al., 2005; DOE, 2011) have focused on cellulosic biomass resources, and have not included potential algal feedstocks. Recent research (Wigmosta et al., 2011) provides spatially-­‐explicit information on potential algal biomass and oil yields, water use, and facility locations. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Lab are collaborating to integrate terrestrial and algal feedstock resource assessments. This poster describes preliminary results of this research.

Contact Email
langholtzmh@ornl.gov
Contact Person
Matthew Langholtz
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Matthew Langholtz
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Algae feedstocks for alternative fuels production are not economically competitive with fossil fuels at the present time. Furthermore, it has not yet been demonstrated that algae production systems offer improved sustainability characteristics.
Algae does have potential as a feedstock for biofuels. Depending on their composition, different algae species may be suitable for a range of biofuels. Additionally, algal biomass productivity per hectare could eventually be higher than for terrestrial energy crops. Last but not least, algae can be cultivated at sea or on non-arable land, so there is no competition with current food production.
These reasons justify attention to algal biofuels from researchers, industries and (governmental) policy makers. The research that forms the basis of this report leads to the conclusion that the following issues are important to consider in policymaking on algal biofuels:

Algal biofuels are in an early stage of development. Current expectations for the future are based on estimates and extrapolation of small-scale production and results of laboratory work. Progress needs to be demonstrated that higher productivity, commercial scale systems, exhibiting improved economics and sustainability attributes are achievable.

It is too early to select preferred algal fuel pathways and technologies. In practice there will not be one preferred production method for all situations. Different local circumstances, such as climatic conditions, the availability of fresh or salt water, and the proximity of suitable CO2 resources will likely have different optimum solutions.

Algae production will not be possible in quite a few regions of the world. High productivity rates will require good solar irradiance, a narrow and suitable temperature range, good water supply, adequate CO2 resources, and sufficient flat land. The locations where all of the appropriate resources are available need to be identified.

Sustainability criteria must be developed for algal biofuels. Besides the energy, environmental, and ecological issues that are addressed in this report, criteria should be defined on issues not addressed in this report such as economic prosperity and social well-being.

It has been shown that under specific conditions, the algal biofuel production and distribution chain may have a net energy output, but further energy analysis of many different algae fuel chains is needed.

Algal biofuel policies and projects should aim to reduce fossil energy consumption and the environmental burden compared to conventional fuels. In parallel, these efforts should result in acceptable impacts on ecosystems. Therefore, many government agencies that fund pilot projects are requiring a complete sustainability analysis prior to construction and operations. During the execution of the project, energy consumption and emissions should be measured to ensure that actual measurements are consistent with those in the sustainability analysis and to collect inputs for later LCA analyses.

Based on the high level of innovation demonstrated within the algal biofuels industry in just the past decade, it is likely that new, refined, or even breakthrough technologies will continue to be introduced in the future. In fact, the introduction of these innovations will be critical if the sector is ultimately going to achieve commercial success. It is important that industry stakeholders and policymakers remain open to new algal species, processes, and fuels besides the ones that are being considered today.

Bioenergy Category
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