Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On Mitigation Talk Vs. Mitigation Cost

Roger, If CO2 emissions are the problem?

That is the question.

I have believed for sometime now that it is at best half  the problem and that heat accumulation in the oceans is the more important half.

James Lovelock now seems to concure.

When asked recently whether he thought climate change would be less extreme than he previously thought? He replied, "We shouldn’t have forgotten that the system has a lot of inertia and we’re not going to shift it very quickly. The thing we’ve all forgotten is the heat storage of the ocean — it’s a thousand times greater than the atmosphere and the surface. You can’t change that very rapidly."

You can however change it for the better by converting some of that stored heat to electricity - perhaps as much energy as we currently derive from fossil fuels - and moving more heat to the relative safety of deep water.


April 22, 2014    View Comment    

On What is the Greenest Source of Electricity?

One codicil to this comment, it would only be true of OTEC with a deep water condenser design because upwelling through a cold water pipe has the potential to release CO2 due to the reduction of pressure.

April 15, 2014    View Comment    

On What is the Greenest Source of Electricity?

A 2010 paper Economics of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC): An Update by Luis Vega puts the cost at less than 0.18 $/kWh or about mid range of your previous study of electricity prices around the world.

This cost is based on a design using a cold water pipe. The deep water condenser design has the potential to shrink this by about 30 percent due to the reduction in the size of piping and supporting infrastructure.

And these costs are for first of kind efforts.

April 14, 2014    View Comment    

On What is the Greenest Source of Electricity?

Lindsay, . the University of California, San Diego Physics department puts the economically feasibile  hydro capacity at 1.0–1.4 TW.   Prof. Gerard Nihous, Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, University of Hawaii puts the maximum steady-state OTEC electrical potential at about 14 TW.  

Since 14TW will replace all fossil fuels the logical answer to your question is OTEC.



April 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy With Benefits

Thank you for this Jeff. OTEC operates pretty much the same as Enbridge's Turboexpander. Excpept that ocean surface heat that is and will be doing the damage of global waming boils a working to fluid to produce the vapor that drives the turbine that produces electricity. This in turn electrolyzes water to produce H2 rather than getting it from natural gas where you get 1 CO2 molecule for every 4 H2.  When you electrolyze water at a depth of 1000 meters, hydrogen arrives at the surface at a pressure of 100 atmospheres or about one third the 350 needed to compress the gas sufficiently to get a reasonable volume for most transportation applications.  In moving the surface heat to deep water to produce the necessary power you starve tropical storms of their power and limit sea level rise.  You also rein in atmospheric warming as witnessed by the hiatus of the past 15 years that has been brought about by mixing due to stronger than normal trade winds. When you produce hydrogen with OTEC you start with water and end with water, whereas with natural gas you start with a greenhouse gas and endup with another. Other than that Enbridge gets the benefit of hydrogen pretty much right on in their video.

It would be nice if they could be convinced to produce it in the most environmental beneficial way possible. And of course if they want to market energy to the Asian market, hydrogen can be produced on their doorstep.

Severin Borenstein points out in his article It’s Time to Refocus California's Climate Strategy, "The primary goal of California climate policy should be to invent and develop the technologies that can replace fossil fuels, allowing the poorer nations of the world – where most of the world’s population lives – to achieve low-carbon economic growth.  If we can do that, we can avert the fundamental risk of climate change.  If we don’t do that, reducing California’s carbon footprint won’t matter."

I think OTEC presents greater opportunities for California than your examples.


April 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Powering to Climate Mitigation

Robert, agreed it will take decades. Waste heat is not however a byproduct of OTEC. The thermodynamics are precisely the reverse, the conversion of heat to work. For every TW of energy produced you have an instantaneous 3 TW benefit over nuclear and instantaneous conversion of heat to power. Over a century this would be a conversion of 1,400 TWh with OTEC an addition of 2,800 Twh with nuclear.

A 2010 NOAA study found that during the 16 year period  1993 to 2008 the ocean stored enough heat to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet. I make this to be 330TW so whether you are adding 28 more a year or subtracting 14 and moving the rest to the deep, seems to me to be a pretty significant difference.

April 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Powering to Climate Mitigation

Robert, for the 14 TWs referenced in the article, nuclear would produce 28 TW of waste heat most of which would end up in the oceans which are already storing the equivalent of 4 Hiroshima bombs worth a second.

OTEC would convert 14TW worth of this heat to energy and move about  300 more to the relative safety of the deep ocean.

I think the greater environmental benefit offered by OTEC over nuclear is self evident.

I would welcome your assessment however of how nuclear instantaneously rolls back the risks cited in the IPCC paper. 

April 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Is A Super El Niño Coming That Will Shatter Extreme Weather And Global Temperature Records?

Max, there doubtlessly would be thorough investigation before OTEC was implemented on any kind of scale that could have significant impact. So far though it is seems like the only rationale way we can produce energy that undoes the effects of global warming. So far there is no investigation going on in relation to the deep water condenser design, which would produce the benefits I am convinced could be forthcoming and this, to my mind, is troubling.

April 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Is A Super El Niño Coming That Will Shatter Extreme Weather And Global Temperature Records?

Max, the method I propose does not upwell cold water. It takes the surface heat to the depths the same way the air conditioning system in your car removes heat to the exterior. See recent post here. This can rein in global warming as has been demonstrated by the recent hiatus, which was brought about when strong trade winds moved heat to between 100 and 300 meters in the Eastern Pacific. OTEC would move the heat at least 3 times as deep and therefore would keep it there long enough for atmospheric CO2 levels to decline. This is a positive outcome we in Canada should be promoting but of course that is not the case.

March 31, 2014    View Comment    

On Global Warming: It Ought to Be Illegal

Jim, I tried to make this point in the post previous to this.

John A. “Skip” Laitner, a visiting fellow of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, says in his paper Linking Energy Efficiency to Economic Productivity: Recommendations for Improving the Robustness of the U.S. Economy, “it turns out that the U.S. economy converted only 14 percent of the total energy consumed in 2010.

For some reason it is exceedingly hard to put this point across.

OTEC converts a small fraction of the waste heat accumulating in the ocean to work and moves about 20 times more to the safety of the deep ocean.

March 30, 2014    View Comment    

On Global Warming: It Ought to Be Illegal

Keith, a lot of the cost, corrosion and environmental problems are addressed by a heat pipe design which reduces the piping size by one order of magnitude. Condensation takes place in deep cold water with such a system and thus the biofouling problem is mostly overcome. As the MIT paper shows movement of heat to the deep stalls global warming and would also stall sea level rise due to the fact the coefficient of expansion of sea water at 4C and 100 atmospheres is half that of the tropical surface water. 

Most estimates I have seen show plant life of 60 years, which is at least as good as nuclear.

I believe that the environmental and economic benefit of massive implementation more than compensate for the capital costs, which are about the same as nuclear and of course the fuel cost subsequently are free.

The correct way to account for energy is to include the externalities and give credit for the environmental benefits.




March 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Is A Super El Niño Coming That Will Shatter Extreme Weather And Global Temperature Records?

Upper-Ocean heat is moved to depths of as much as 1000 meters by ocean thermal energy conversion using a heat pipe or deep water condenser design. As the MIT article, How the ocean reins in global warming, points out, this would delay long-term global warming, even as it could produce as much energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels.

March 28, 2014    View Comment