Energy and the BioEconomy Model

Energy and the BioEconomy (ENBIO) involves the pioneering integration of renewable electricity generation with large scale microalgal bioproduction to create a new bioindustry providing multiple income streams, reducing carbon emissions and boosting renewable energy generation. The ENBIO approach allows wasted renewable energy potential to be utilised to power unique, submerged LED lightsheets contained in photobioreactors (Pandora PBR™s) producing high-value algal products and bio-based feedstocks that have many potential markets. The novel combination gives value-added to the renewable energy generation and using renewable energy at times of excess means electricity costs for bioproduction are significantly reduced. As the algae are tolerant of light intermittency, the production can provide a base demand using the intermittent renewable energy at source, when and where it is generated, which reduces the impact of grid constraints and curtailment on deployment of renewables and creates income for the local economy. 

The technical innovations within ENBIO are the submersible LED lightsheets and the Zeus II controller™, which are the critical components of the newly developed 1000L Pandora PBR™. The power to the LED lightsheets can be automatically switched off /on and up/down very rapidly using this specially designed control system. The level of control allows the array to be used as a grid frequency balancing tool and prevents intermittent renewables being constrained.

A pilot site for renewable powered algal biomanufacturing has been established on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, West Coast of Scotland. 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 area has an abundance of biomass, which the local estate wanted to use for renewable energy, however progress was hindered due to grid constraints. The ENBIO model was applied to solve the issues whilst simultaneously creating numerous additional local benefits – use of stranded timber resources for CHP; incorporation of waste streams; creation of new industry and jobs; production of valuable, quality controlled end-products with provenance for many potential markets. The facility is a demonstrator for the smart, integrated energy system. The Pandora PBR™ production system can be proposed for other areas with potential for renewable energies which are not fully exploited, or areas with existing renewables which are curtailed.

In addition, the pioneering ENBIO approach targets the use of co-products from whisky distillation (nutrients, CO2) contributing to the low carbon economy and reducing GHG emissions by facilitating renewable energy resources; reducing transport costs; displacing microalgal imports currently air shipped and directly incorporating waste CO2 into the microalgae. Assembled in modular arrays, the resulting facilities can be scaled to the local availability of renewable electricity and other feedstocks (such as CO2). The high-value end-products have many potential uses, including health supplements, aquaculture feed and biofuels.

The innovative ENBIO approach has been recognised in several prestigious awards including Rushlight Awards 2018, Scottish Resources Awards 2018, Scottish Environment Business Awards -VIBES 2018 and HIE- Renewable Energy Awards 2019.