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Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On Modern Alchemy: The Conversion of Anergy to Exergy

In a NewScientist article, 20,000 megawatts under the sea: Oceanic steam engines, Luis Vega of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii says a 100-megwatt plant would cost about $790 million to build and would produce electricity at around 18 US cents per kilowatt hour. This is for a design based on a cold water pipe. One builder who uses a heat pipe design offered four years ago to build a 100 megawatt plant for $400 million.

One might include however the cost of not producing energy this way.  By one estimate that could be a high as $60 trillion.

March 5, 2014    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus: A New Project on the Energy Collective

Thanks again Roger. I agree the warming hiatus cannot be made indefinite. By supplanting FF with OTEC however you reduce the atmospheric CO2 level thus the equilibration will not take place over and above the radiative forcing. The study by the University of Calgary and the Solomon study also seem to indicate this equilibration will take at least 1000 years, more I suspect if the heat is moved deeply enough, which allows time for adaptation and atmospheric heat dissipation.

I am also still a little confused about the stranded power. I think the Hydrogen Economy analogy is valid and that this is a pretty big market.

I also refer to Tom Garven's response to Ryan, waste heat is an important issue. OTEC is the conversion of  damaging waste heat to work as well as the movement of a lot more of it to a less fraught location.

For the moment, I couldn't ask for more than serious consideration, so again thank you.


February 26, 2014    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus: A New Project on the Energy Collective

The recent study by Matthew England points to the fact that the movement of surface ocean heat to a depth of at least 300 meters is the likely cause of the recent atmospheric warming hiatus. Moving this heat with a heat pipe constantly to a depth of 1000 meters, where the coefficient of expansion is half that of the tropical surface, is an even greater benefit, this is done with latent heat as you describe. Over such a span a wick would not be sufficient to return the condensed working fluid back to the surface to complete the cycle, pumping would be required. If you bring cold water to the surface it releases CO2 into the atmosphere with the reduction in pressure. It contains nutrients that are beneficial in the shortrun for phytoplankton but most likely these blooms will lead to eutrophication and dead zones. Heat moved with the heat pipe to the depths would produce convection that would be more beneficial to marine life. In view of your work on the Hydrogen Economy I am a surprised at your notion of this power being stranded. To my mind,creating a perpetual warming hiatus is a compelling reason for generating as much hydrogen as we can for the benefit of the Hydrogen Economy. 

February 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus: A New Project on the Energy Collective

Thanks Roger, high capital cost is a problem. One of the main drivers is the cold water pipe, which moves the large masses of water. Paul Curto, former Chief Technologist with NASA, points out that with the heat pipe design the Carnot efficiency approaches 85% vs. about 70% with a cold water pipe. And the parasitic losses could be reduced as much as 50% and the complexity, mass (and cost) of the system reduced by at least 30%.

"The vast reduction in operating costs and environmental impacts would be worth investigation alone."

As to the offshore problem, Mid East oil is transported large distances, as would the hydrogen, ammonia or methanol energy carriers that could be produce to get OTEC power to market. Further Asia is one of the greatest developing energy markets and OTEC power produced in the western Pacific, is the closest source of power to that market.

I and my partners would be happy for the moment just to be able to demonstrate the potential of our unconventional design and prove its cost savings.

Ultimately it will take thousands of large OTEC plants but the objective is to get them below a billion a piece or get that much more output from the billion. Designs are on the drawing board for 1 gigawatt plants. Juxtapose to this is the potential for $60 trillion in environmental damage that none of the options Shalk is considering will do much to avert. 

February 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus: A New Project on the Energy Collective

Robert a team from your university were amazed by the potential base load supply available from the ocean with OTEC. To some extent I agree that the current conventional approach, which relies on massive cold water pipes, is a technological dead end but that is not the only way. A deep water condenser, or heat pipe design would produce the same atmospheric warming hiatus as is currently being experienced due to increased trade winds, whether or not you used the system to produce power. Geoengineering if you like, but it also can produces between 14 and 30 TW of primary energy even as it mitigates damage from sea level rise and storm surge. Looking at the problem through the filter of an energy professional is not necessarlily the only, let alone the best, approach the problem.   

February 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus: A New Project on the Energy Collective

"Seeking Consensus", I hardly think that is the case when the third largest renewable energy option, the largest constant renewable option and the only one with the demonstrated capacity to make an impact on the global warming problem is not amongst the mix for consideration.



February 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy and the Environment

The ocean and the atmosphere will eventually equilbrate but the Levitus study makes clear this won't happen anytime soon otherwise we would be toast already. In the meantime it is better that .09C has been accumualting in the ocean rather than 36C in the atmosphere and the climate pause punctuates this point.

Your point on evaporation is also questionable. Kevin Trenberth points out that the water holding capacity of air increases by about 7% for every 1°C warming. This vapour is a strong greenhouse gas and produces strong preciptation events. Again this 1C at the surface would be better as .00somethnig between 500 and 1000 meters.

If we replace fossil fuels with OTEC power over the next century atmospheric CO2 levels will also have a chance to decline.

February 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy and the Environment

Rick all I can do is point you to the diagram that accompanied this article.

If the second law of thermodynamics in wrong, then I am as well. The oceans are the largest warm and cold heat sinks on the planet. The hot sink is causing no end of problems while the cold is available to us with little potential for damage in the movement of heat there. In that process however we can extract work.

I realize lots of us care about the problem. We just aren't getting very far with our efforts to do anything about it.

February 14, 2014    View Comment    

On The Burning Question: Who is Up to the Climate Challenge?

Alistair, the latest study suggests unusually strong trade winds have pushed surface ocean heat into deeper water leading to the perceived atmospheric warming pause of the past fifteen years. We can replicate this effect with OTEC meaning we can obtain the energy we need at the same time as we effectively geoengineer our way to an inhabitable planet.

I hope to have a new post along this line shortly.

I have no problem with anyone reordering the list, it is just what came to my mind.

I agree completely we need to be talking outside this forum but it is one of the few availabe to me. It drives me crazy that my government - Canada - is about to pay some ad agency $22 million dollars to promote the "benefits" of oilsands abroad.For those of us without that kind of money but who nevertheless believe there is a silver bullet, failing to do everything in our power to get the word out is to do the technology and mankind a disservice.

February 13, 2014    View Comment    

On Climatologist: When Souped-Up Ocean Warming Ends, Global Temperatures Look Set To Rise Rapidly

This study ought to be the blueprint for addressing climate change. You can produce as much renewable energy as we currently derive from fossil fuels by moving surface heat into deep water with ocean thermal energy conversion. The coefficient of expansion of ocean water is half that of the tropical surface at a depth of 1000 meters and you would be sapping the power of tropical storms that move heat towards the poles. The oceans have a tremendous capacity to absorb this heat as to a depth of 2000 meters they have only warmed.09C in half a century and they are on average close to twice that depth. It seems to me if we do not learn from natural analogies like this our climate/energy efforts will be costly and ultimately feckless.

February 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Limits to Growth: At Our Doorstep, But not Recognized

The problem is the connection with debt.

Michael Hudson's video may be instructive in this regard.

"The oligarchs would rather annul the bottom 90 percent's right to live than to annual the debts that are due to them."

It wasn't always that way and need not necessarily be that way in future.

"If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem," J. Paul Getty.

If a 100 million owe the bank a dollar and can't pay the bank is in no less difficulty.

February 7, 2014    View Comment    

On What Wood Smoke has Taught Me About Fighting Climate Change

Severin, research is the answer and Nature is providing the analogies as to how the climate problem can be beaten. It takes time however for new technologies to be cost competitive and a great deal of capital to make a dint in the market. The innovation "Valley of Death" is a chasm which market forces alone don't appear to be sufficient to bridge? 

February 4, 2014    View Comment