Page last updated at 06:00 GMT, Sunday, 26 October 2008

Seaweed farms 'could fuel future'

Seaweed has already been suggested as a sustainable biofuel source

Pilot seaweed and algae farms are needed to assess Scotland's marine biomass potential, experts have urged.

The recommendation comes in a report on using biomass for heating and fuel while avoiding the use of valuable agricultural land.

Scientists want to see pilot farms and research into the most energy-rich types of seaweed.

The report was carried out by the Scottish Association for Marine Science for The Crown Estate.

Prof Mike Cowling, science and research manager at The Crown Estate, said: "Given Scotland's rugged western coastline and island groups, and relatively clean seas, it is sensible to examine the farming of seaweeds and sustainable harvesting of natural supplies as a source of energy, to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles.

Extracting energy from seaweed is a particularly efficient and reliable method of producing green energy
Prof Mike Cowling
The Crown Estate
"Heating and transport make up around three quarters of our energy use so it's vital that we find new ways of meeting that demand.

"Extracting energy from seaweed is a particularly efficient and reliable method of producing green energy, and the growing of seaweed could have positive impact on local marine biodiversity."

One key advantage of using seaweed is that it avoids the problems associated with agricultural crop biofuels such as pressure on arable land and fresh water.

Dundee University professor of microbiology Geoffrey Codd has also been promoting the idea of using seaweed and other algae as fuel.

He feels the practice could help revive traditional UK industries such as harvesting seaweed and create viable and sustainable biofuel sources.

The Crown Estate owns almost all of the seabed out to 12 nautical miles and has rights on energy development out to 200 nautical miles.

It recently opened up the Pentland Firth seabed for leasing to developers, with interest shown in creating a massive underwater tidal farm.

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