Marine BioEnergy, Inc. is collaborating with a research team at the University of Southern California, Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.  With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), this team is conducting proof-of-concept testing. Wrigley Institute has a research facility on Catalina Island, about 25 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  Catalina Island is renowned for natural kelp beds and clear water.

The key test is: does a fast-growing kelp thrive when depth-cycled at night to absorb nutrients and surfaced during the day to absorb sunlight?

The first tests will depth-cycle kelps near-shore to measure resilience to pressure changes.  The target kelp is Macrocystis.  If Macrocystis does not thrive, an alternate native species will be tested.

Juvenile kelps will be attached to an anchored buoy system which will surface the kelps during the day and submerge them at night.  Marine Biologist will monitor the kelps and the water nutrients regularly.  The biomass will be weighed at the end of multiple experiments and compared to biomass from a group of controls.

The second set of tests will be anchored in deeper water where the conditions will closely replicate the open ocean environment.  In the open ocean, the top layer is nutrient deplete and the kelp must absorb deep water nutrients to continue to produce biomass.  The biomass will be weighed at the end of the 90-day growing/harvest cycle and compared to biomass from a group of controls.

As part of this effort, the Wrigley Institute will be developing a kelp nursery to grow sporeling on artificial substrate (long lines).  The nursery long lines will be subjected to depth-cycling and are part of the preparation for commercial deployment.

For more on USC, Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island: