Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

I take your point about reserves but as to wether OTEC works, in 1993, a 250kw was designed and constructed by the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii and the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research. It operated for six years and produced a maximum output of 255kw.

Although this plant successfully completed all of its tests it was shutdown and demolished in 1999. At the time, January, oil prices were $16/bbl.

August 8, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

This is an excellent point Schalk and one I am trying to bridge.

The right typically supports adaptation to climate change, free enterprise and argues for strong national defense programs.

The left is more incline to mitigation, involving arresting carbon emissions, and advocates a significant roll for government in the solution.

My proposal attempts to bridge the divide by solving not only the CO2 problem, but the greatest likely threat to the territorial integrity of most nations as well -sea level rise - and envisions a strong military roll.

Calls have been made for the military to evolve to sustainable energy sources.

The best option for the Navy is to derive its fuel in its own environment with water as the only byproduct of that fuel’s consumption.

OTEC can provide this fuel concurrently to addressing the sea level and storm surge problems.

Hydrogen was used in Germany’s first turbine engine in the 30s, the Russians proposed a liquid hydrogen version of the Tu-160V bomber and the US Navy broke its own endurance record by keeping a fuel cell powered drone in the air over 48 hours by using a cryogenic tank for the liquefied hydrogen fuel.  

OTEC also provides a new mission for the world's Navies, protecting the vital infrastructure.





August 7, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy


CH4 + H2OCO + 3 H2
CO + H2OCO2 + H2
Fuel to the fire.
August 7, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

Schalk in your diagram the largest non-intermittent renewable is OTEC.  Rather than 11 TW, the latest work done by Krishnakumar Rajagopalan and Gérard C. Nihous points to an estimated maximum annual OTEC net power production of about 30 TW. They qualify this by saying environmental impacts that effect the Thermohaline and cool the oceans surface over time might limit this to half as much or about what we are currently getting from all primary sources. It is my belief and it was the intention for the development of the counter-current heat flow system for OTEC that these drawbacks could be overcome by capturing the latent heat of condensation of the working fluid for return to the surface.

As to cost the following is a projection for the production of hydrogen from OTEC that is competitive with gas at current pump prices in British Columbia – $1.39/liter or $5.26/US gallon.

The cost of a 100MW OTEC plant with electrolyzer is estimated a $500 million.

It takes 50kw to produce a kilogram of hydrogen, which in turn is twice as efficient as a gallon of gas. A 100MW plant produces 2000 kilograms of hydrogen/hr.

The producer of gas gets about half the $5.26, so this would equate to hydrogen at $5.26/kilogram.

 There is a conversion efficiency and storage efficiency penalty to produce hydrogen by electrolysis of  30 and 10 percent respectively so effectively you get 1260 kilograms per hour.

 The design life of a plant is 60 years so you get 662,256,000 kilograms of hydrogen out of the plant at $5.26/kilogram or $ 3,476,844,000 or close to 7 times your investment.

I submit therefore that it is economically viable to replace oil with hydrogen from OTEC and probably desirable to do so considering it is estimated oil will run out shortly after the turn of the mid-century in any case.


August 6, 2013    View Comment    

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

No doubt all forms of energy were at a conceptual stage at some point.


August 6, 2013    View Comment    

On The Right Use of Carbon Tax Revenue? Sorry, There Isn't One

Mark, British Columbia could have all of the jobs and tax revenue it ever needed without a carbon tax simply by capitalizing on its own homegrown technology to produce close to twice the renewable energy as the world currently uses in total. Though local waters aren't conducive to ocean thermal energy conversion, we have invested heavily in the Hydrogen Economy and OTEC facilitates this because an energy carrier is required to bring mid-ocean generated power to shore.

The current biggest impediment to hydrogen is the cost of production. Currently the cheapest method is steam reforming of hydrocarbons but the only reason this is true is because there is no accounting for the CO2 that is the byproduct.

The following is a recent analysis I did for electrolysis with OTEC. The cost of the infrastructure is twice the cost of a 100MW plant without electrolyzers, the energy conversion is twice as efficient as gasoline and it takes 50kilowatts to produce a kilogram of hydrogen. The return of $5.47/kilogram for hydrogen equates to $2.73/gallon for gas or about 74 cents a liter - taxes and transportation costs out.


Cost $Capacity EfficiencyHrsDaysYearsRate/KWhrTotal ReturnEROI         1,000,000,000200090.00%2436560            5.47        5,175,057,6005.17         1,000,000,000200090.00%24365100            5.47     8,625,096,0008.62                          

(The table doesn't translate well but the ROI's for 60 and 100 year plant life is 5.17 and 8.62 respectively.)

As Geoffrey Styles, recently posted the return on investment for oil wells in the Bakken field is 3.

For British Columbians a comparison with the Site C dam is revealing. This 900 MW dam is currently projected to cost $7.9 billion or $877 million per 100MW and would operate for about 100 years.

A first of kind 100MW OTEC plant - without electrolyzers - can be built for about $500 million and would operate from between 60 and 100 years.

BC hydro's current capacity is 11,000 MW.

OTEC's potential is over two orders of magnitude higher  30 TW.

It is quite the jobs and economic plan that essentially forecloses this option.

August 5, 2013    View Comment    

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

When power density doesn't matter; when you are converting a heat source that is in excess - accumulating 330 terawatts additionally each year - causing thermal expansion, icecap melting, tropical storms and phytoplankton decline, to productive work - ocean thermal energy conversion.

In the right configuration, which limits cost and environmental impacts, close to twice the world's current output of primary energy is available, indefinitely.

August 5, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Risk: No More Blowouts, Dry Holes, or Abandoned Oil Wells

The existing vehicle fleet will be off the road in 15 years. The $64,000 question is what will be driving then?

A lot of bets are being placed on hydogen fuel cell vehicles.

Estimates of the potential for electricity generation from geothermal energy vary, from .035to2TW.

In the right configuration, which overcomes OTEC's envrionmental risks, it can produces as much as 30TW.

August 3, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Risk: No More Blowouts, Dry Holes, or Abandoned Oil Wells

This table doesn't translate well to these pages. The bottom line is however for a 60 year life of the plant there is an investment return of 12.6 times and for 100 years it is 21 times.

Better I think than for the Bakken wells, safer both economically and environmentally as well.

The current conversion rate for electrolysis is between 50 and 80 percent. The most efficient electrolysis is pressurized which is what you get with OTEC.

These plants too can be considered resource plays, no?



August 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Risk: No More Blowouts, Dry Holes, or Abandoned Oil Wells

Geoffrey I worked with Chevron Geophysical as a programmer in the early days of moving from analog to digital seismic processing. Another Calgary guy invented ADCAP - analog to digital computing and processing. We marveled in those days at the results from stacking and looking for a few mil reefs in the Rainbow Area. Today's 3D is a big advance on that - about 50 years ago.

As to OTEC's return on investment I have been giving a lot of thought to this.

Dr. Michael Dale of Stanford estimates in his thesis that the mean EROI for hydro is 84 and for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) it is 4 about the same as the oil sands.

BC Hydro  proposes a 900 MW Site C dam which is currently projected to cost $7.9 billion or $877 million per 100MW and would operate for as long a 100 years.
In a 2003 statement to Congress Robert J. Nicholson, III, of Sea Solar Power International, LLC. Claims they could build a 100MW OTEC plant for $250 million. More recent claims estimates are in the vicinity of $400 million for a heat pipe design. The SSPI designs claims to be 1/8 the cost of the DOE/Lockheed Martin Design because they reduce the size of the cold water pipe from 50 feet to 28 feet. The heat pipe design in turn reduces the size of the deep pipe to about 5 feet.

Far greater amounts of heat can be moved through phase changes of a working fluid than by moving large volumes of water. The working fluid moves in a closed cycle so marine life is not involved. A counter-current flow insures the least amount of transfer of heat from the surface to the depths and the volume of the piping is reduced in size by at least one order of magnitude with a significant saving in overall cost.

According to Gerard Nihous the design life of an OTEC plant is 60 years.

Using $500 million as the cost of a 100MW plant I get:

CostCapacity KWEfficiencyHrsDaysYearsRate/KWhrTotal ReturnEROI
 $ 500,000,000100,00080.00%2436560 $       0.15 $   6,307,200,00012.6144
 $ 500,000,000100,00080.00%24365100 $       0.15 $ 10,512,000,000


August 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Insurance Industry Ill-Prepared for Climate Change Risks and Impacts

David, if a $20 billion investment can offset a $28 trillion liability, you should have no problem making your case.

I wish you well in the effort.


July 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Insurance Industry Ill-Prepared for Climate Change Risks and Impacts

We currently have enough CO2 to support a 69 foot rise in sea level but that does not mean that much rise is inevitable. We can convert ocean heat to work to deminish thermal expansion. OTEC also moves surface heat to the deep where the coefficient of expansion is half what it is at  the surface. We can electrolyze water to produce hydrogen for use on land. We can desalinate water for use on land. We can capture runoff before it reenters the oceans to replenish aquafers that have been pump. Research suggests  nearly 40 percent of the rise seen over the past 50 years is due to aquifer pumping. We can sap the strength of ocean surface water that drives tropical storms that in turn move heat towards the poles to melt the icecaps and permafrost to produce OTEC energy.

I don't believe is lost causes.

Investing high risk premiums in technology that addresses the problem is a win/win for the insurance industry.

As for data to mine, here is some to chew on:

Sea level rise could cost port cities $28 trillion
 World faces US$60-trillion 'economic time-bomb' from Arctic

The same model had previously computed the costs of climate change at $400 trillion by 2200.

July 28, 2013    View Comment