Empowering Rural Industry

ALIenergy is pioneering integration of renewable electricity generation with variable useful loads to give added value to local communities and develop rural industry e.g. algal bioproduction, in the Algal Solution for Local Energy Economy (ASLEE) – Energy and the Bioeconomy (ENBIO) projects.  

As founder and secretariat of the Argyll Woodfuel Forum, ALIenergy was aware of the biomass and renewable energy technologies deployed on the Ardnamurchan Estate, West Coast of Scotland and the frustration as further developments could not progress due to local electricity grid constraints. ALIenergy, with technical partner Xanthella, developed the ASLEE-ENBIO concept to solve these issues and create multiple additional local benefits. The model overcomes grid constraints by using the renewable energy at source – when and where it is generated - for a useful, income generating purpose suited to unpredictable energy supply. ASLEE-ENBIO uses renewable energy to power  submerged lightsheets in photobioreactors (PBRs), growing microalgae (a high-value end product), whilst also providing demand side management/grid balancing services. The microalgal PBRs operate using innovative LED technology controlled by a sophisticated Zeus II controller™ that enables specific light, temperature and culturing conditions. The PBRs are modular and can be scaled for use with different renewable generation.  The bioproduction system presents a solution for a quicker return on renewable energy schemes by creating multiple income streams and enables waste products from other local industries e.g. CO2 from distillery, to be reused as valuable resources contributing to the circular economy.

A pilot site for renewable powered algal biomanufacturing has been established on the Ardnamurchan Estate. This is the first of its kind in the UK, giving Scotland, and in particular the Highlands and Islands, a valuable technical lead in this field. The facility provides use for surplus power from the newly installed 210 kW CHP plant, fuelled by the locally available stranded timber resource, thereby converting the bioenergy into power and an added value product, whilst simultaneously reducing the carbon impact of other local enterprises. On site, the PBRs will use the excess power capability of the CHP and prevent it being curtailed.  The new CHP plant and bioproduction facility has also resulted in new employment, leading to greater resilience in this remote, fragile economic area. In addition the new biomanufacturing Global sales of micro-algae are growing. Light is the largest feedstock but high costs of electricity means that using artificial light is confined to the production of high-value algal products. Using micro-algal manufacturing as a transactive load for renewable intermittency and grid balancing, the feedstock cost can be lowered, creating both a new income stream and greatly reducing production costs. The added value of the algal products will allow the estate to maximize the return on the investment for the power generation, whilst providing less expensive power to the local community. The production system is a demonstrator of a smart, integrated energy approach and can be proposed for other areas with potential for renewable energies that are not fully exploited, or areas with existing renewables that are curtailed.