Locating sites for new algae cultivation facilities is a complex task. The climate must support high growth rates, and cultivation ponds require appropriate land and water resources as well as transportation and utility infrastructure.

In a study recently published in Environmental Science and Technology, a group of scientists employ a spatiotemporal Biomass Assessment Tool (BAT) to select promising locations based on the open-pond cultivation of Arthrospira sp. and strains of the order Sphaeropleales. 64,000 sites across the southern United States were evaluated. The researchers progressively applied screening criteria and tracked their impact on the number of potential sites, geographic location, and biomass productivity.

Both strains demonstrated maximum productivity along the Gulf of Mexico coast, with the highest values on the Florida peninsula. In contrast, sites meeting all selection criteria for Arthrospira were located along the southern coast of Texas and for Sphaeropleales were located in Louisiana and southern Arkansas. Results were driven mainly by the lack of oil pipeline access in Florida and elevated groundwater salinity in southern Texas.

The requirement for low salinity freshwater (<400 mg L-1) constrained Sphaeropleales locations; siting flexibility is greater for salt-tolerant species like Arthrospira. Combined siting factors can result in significant departures from regions of maximum productivity but are within the expected range of site-specific process improvements, say the scientists.

Scientists in this study included Erik Ray Venteris, Robert C. McBride, Andre M. Coleman, Richard L. Skaggs, and Mark S. Wigmosta.