Venice to Become First Algae-Powered City

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The green waters of Venice could be a renewable energy boon to the city of canals. (Photo: Nataliia Gr/Shutterstock)

When you visit Venice, Italy, the breathtaking 'City of Light' you will notice a couple of things once you have acclimated a bit to the sheer beauty of its meandering canals and Renaissance bridges.

The water is green, really green. And depending upon the time of year, it can stink to high heaven.

Many attribute the smell to the less than modern sewage system. Though that does contribute, the real culprit is Venice's overpopulation of algae. Several species of algae give the Venice canals their characteristic deep green hue (and scent) and can wreck havoc on the city's fleet of ferry boats.

But where once city leaders saw a problem in the algae muck, they now see an asset.

In partnership with renewable energy company Enalg, Venice plans to build a $270 million facility which will cultivate the well-adapted water flora to capture methane and fuel a biomass-powered steam generator that could supply 40 megawatts, or 50 percent of the city's energy demand.

According to the Venice Port Authority, the plant could be ready in two years. Biomass energy has been making great strides in the past two years thanks to massive investment in the private sector, but the technology has been beset with implementation problems. So it will be interesting to see if Enalg can pull it off as quickly as they say.

It bodes well that a major city would be considering renewable energy as a primary source of its energy supply. Biomass is considered a carbon neutral source of energy, as the CO2 produced during production is fed back to the algae, which in turn produce more energy.

Venice seems to be on the path towards carbon neutrality. In addition to the proposed algae plant, the city has also been considering a solar photovoltaic park which could provide an additional 32 MW of power to light up the 'City of Light.'