The Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) Framework; Establishment of a National Network of Testbed Sites to Support Sustainable Algae Production

Eric Knoshaug, Lieve Laurens, Philip Pienkos, Edward Wolfrum, John McGowen, Thomas Dempster, Valerie Harmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus Citations


Well-controlled experiments that directly compare seasonal algal productivities across geographically distinct locations have not been reported before. To fill this gap, six cultivation testbed facilities were chosen across the United States to evaluate different climatic zones with respect to algal biomass productivity potential. The geographical locations and climates were as follows: Southwest, desert; Western, coastal; Southeast, inland; Southeast, coastal; Pacific, tropical; and Midwest, greenhouse. The testbed facilities were equipped with identical systems for inoculum production and open pond operation and methods were standardized across all testbeds to ensure accurate measurement of physical and biological variables. The ability of the testbed sites to culture and analyze the same algal species, Nannochloropsis oceanica KA32, using identical pond operational and data collection procedures was evaluated during the same seasonal timeframe. This manuscript describes the results of a first-of-its-kind coordinated testbed validation field study while providing critical details on how geographical variations in temperature, light, and weather variables influenced algal productivity, nitrate consumption, and biomass composition. We found distinct differences in growth characteristics due to the geographic location and the resulting climatic and seasonal conditions across the sites, with the highest productivities observed at the desert Southwest and tropical Pacific regions, followed by the Western coastal region. The lowest productivities were observed at the Southeast inland and Midwest greenhouse locations. These differences in productivities among the sites correlated with the differences in pond water temperature and available solar radiation. In addition two sites, the tropical Pacific and Southeast inland experienced unusual events, spontaneous flocculation, and unusually cold and wet (rainfall) conditions respectively, that negatively affected outdoor algal growth. In addition, minor variability in productivity was observed between the different experimental treatments at each site, much smaller compared to differences due to geographic location. Finally, the successful demonstration of the coordinated and standardized operation of the testbed sites established a rigorous basis for future validation of algal strains and operational conditions and protocols across a geographically diverse testbed network.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)168-177
Number of pages10
JournalAlgal Research
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-68726


  • Algae
  • Biomass
  • Carbohydrates
  • Geographic variability
  • Lipids
  • Standardization


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