Technology is being created everyday to not only reduce emissions that contribute to worsening climate change, but reverse it. One of the most promising technologies is carbon capture. Through various methods from filtering factory emissions to repopulating harvested forestland, carbon capture has emerged as one of the key ways humanity can help combat the seeming inevitability of climate change. One such company, called Brilliant Planet, found a way to use algae to sequester carbon by the gigaton.
Founded in 2013, Brilliant Planet grew from a tiny experiment on the shores of St. Helena, South Africa, of three square meters to a 30,000-square-meter production facility in Morocco. They are the world’s largest algae growth pond. Brilliant Planet is backed by top investors in climate technologies, and is now expanding to take this carbon capture technology mainstream.
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Algae is an affordable way to capture carbon at scale. Brilliant Planet’s sequestering process works like this. They grow large quantities of microalgae in open-air ponds on coastal desert land in Morocco. This can be done without using freshwater. The startup’s system is super efficient in using natural seawater, plus nutrients and CO2 to help the algae grow.
“We’re different from conventional algae systems,” Brilliant Planet said. “We don’t scale up an artificial test tube with artificial seawater and pumped in carbon dioxide… [Our] natural process deacidifies seawater, enhancing local ecosystems, and also enables paradigm-shifting levels of affordability.”
Governmental and industry action on climate change have been delayed to the point of no return. However, carbon capture technology could change that by removing carbon from the atmosphere at a scale that previously wasn’t possible.
Specifically, algae have the scalability and affordability to make a measurable difference. By mimicking the natural process of seasonal ocean algae blooms on land, Brilliant Planet can turn desert areas near coasts into carbon sequestering mega factories that sequester carbon on the gigaton scale. Brilliant Planet has been in the research phase for eight years followed by three years of pilot programs. Now, they’re creating that scalable production platform that can be deployed all over the world.
“Algae are found on every continent on earth. We can work on any coast, from Chile to Morocco to Namibia to Australia,” Brilliant Planet said. “We have chosen to operate at coastal deserts because these vast areas allow for maximum additionality: We create biological productivity where almost none existed before. By operating in deserts we also bring economic opportunity to underserved areas without disrupting any other land uses.”
If you’re wondering if this is some genetically-modified super algae that will escape into the wild and cause nasty blooms, they already thought of that. Instead, they focus the efficiency on using the latest sensor technologies, high-frequency satellite monitoring and industrial automation tools. In addition, they use technology to optimize the algae growth and measure the results. Astonishingly, AI predicts the best conditions and best ways in which to grow the algae to harness the greatest carbon capture potential of nature.
Images via Brilliant Planet