Rising temperatures and growing population have scientists, corporations, and governing bodies searching for ways to alleviate the consequences of human activity on the earth. As a result, alternative methods of energy have been sourced by using solar panels, turbines, plants, and more. While giant kelp is technically not a plant, it’s proving to be an excellent source of biofuel as scientists and companies alike realize the multiple benefits of this macroalgae.
Kelp is a type of seaweed and is classified as algae because it lacks the vascular structure that plants have. It also cannot form roots, flowers or branches the way plants do. Kelp can grow up to 145 feet underwater and in certain conditions can gain 18 inches a day in height. Such growth rates make kelp a great candidate for a replenishable energy source. The marine-based alga grows best in cold, shallow waters and can be found thriving off the coast.
It is particularly prevalent in the southern Californian coast. Kelp grows by attaching itself to the ocean floor and grows upwards until it reaches the surface, using the sun as a nutrient. Because kelp grows in forests, it makes the perfect home for many other types of marine life. Some even call it the “Sequoia of the Sea.”
How does kelp offer a role in combating climate change exactly? Thankfully, there are a handful of possible solutions giant kelp offers. To start, kelp forests are considered carbon sinks, meaning more carbon dioxide is absorbed by them than is released. Kelp’s ability to absorb carbon emissions can also be done without the competition for land space, which is always a concern for forests and other agriculture above ground. They also have the potential to create renewable plastics and serve as an alternative protein to meat. Perhaps one of the most intriguing possibilities of kelp is its potential as a biofuel which would help wean human dependence on oil. Because kelp-based biofuel is still a developing concept, many may not be aware of what this biofuel would look like in use. Fortunately, there is plenty of research currently in progress to learn more about kelp’s role in carbon reduction.