Harvesting Sunshine


Harvesting Sunshine; Energy from Photosynthetic Algae, The oldest and Most Essential Organisms on Earth

Iceland is home to plentiful resources of water that is naturally filtered through layers of volcanic rock and sterile from its source. With more fresh water per capita then any other nation, and an environment free of contaminants and pollutants, Iceland is the perfect environment for algae to cultivate*. When I first arrived here, I was proudly told that Icelandic tap water is so clean that the only thing that grows in the water is fresh water algae. 

Due to the cold climate and restricted growing seasons in Iceland, produce is limited to root crops such as potatoes and carrots, along with hot crops grown in green houses heated by the abundant, natural geothermal energy. Looking at the natural landscape of East Iceland, home to green and ochre, mountainous fjords sculpted by numerous waterfalls and streams, foraging for food is tied to water-sources; powerful waterfalls running down the mountains to the sea. 

By harvesting algae, which grows naturally and plentifully in the freshwater streams of Eastern Iceland, clean energy can be harvested from sunlight to produces organic materials. Iceland was named the premier location for algae biomass production*, a potential solution to world hunger and a opportunity for green, renewable energy. In such a way, a naturally nutrient and energy dense product can be harvested by the natural resources of the land. *

Nutritional benefits of Algae:

The oils from algae have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega 3, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid as well as vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Algae is also rich in antioxidants and fibre. 

Advantages of Biodiesel produced by Algae:

This naturally produced material reduces carbon emissions and domestic production, resulting in an increased independence from imported fossil fuels and energies*. The production of such energy is unique to Iceland due to the energy-saving light emitting diode technology and access to geothermal energy, making it possible to produce biodiesel (as well as biogas, bioethanol and biobutanol) from large algae*.