Energy efficiency of an outdoor microalgal photobioreactor sited at mid-temperate latitude

Bioresour Technol. 2011 Jun;102(12):6687-95. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2011.03.098. Epub 2011 Apr 2.


This work examined the energetic performance of a 6-month semi-continuous cultivation of Scenedesmus obliquus in an outdoor photobioreactor at mid-temperate latitude, without temperature control. By measuring the seasonal biomass production (mean 11.31, range 1.39-23.67 g m(-2)d(-1)), higher heating value (22.94 kJ g(-1)) and solar irradiance, the mean seasonally-averaged photosynthetic efficiency (2.18%) and gross energy productivity (0.27 MJ m(-2) d(-1)) was calculated. When comparing the solar energy conversion efficiency to the energy investment for culture circulation, significant improvements in reactor energy input must be made to make the system viable. Using the data collected to model the energetic performance of a substitute photobioreactor design, we conclude that sustainable photobioreactor cultivation of microalgae in similar temperate climates requires a short light path and low power input, only reasonably obtained by flat-panel systems. However, temperature control was not necessary for effective long-term cultivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Bioreactors*
  • Climate
  • Geography
  • Microalgae / growth & development
  • Microalgae / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Scenedesmus / growth & development
  • Scenedesmus / metabolism*
  • Seasons
  • Solar Energy


  • Oxygen