Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On Where Are Conservatives' Big Ideas About Clean Energy?

Stephen, the right generally makes national security the bedrock of their political platform. Sea level rise is the greatest tangible threat to U.S. sovereign territory. The value of land and infrastructure that will be inundated on the current path is at least three orders of magnitude greater than the damage that was wrought on 9/11 and in the vicinity of the cost of all the wars the country has fought since its inception. To my mind there is a real disconnect between Republican and Conservative (in my country) orthydoxy and their stance on climate change.

May 15, 2014    View Comment    

On How Fossil Fuels Subsidize Us

Robert, I love your squirrel analogy.

I would extend it to global warming. It is essentially heat, or if you will nut trees, growing like weeds in the ocean. If we don't thin out that growth we are going to be overrun, or in our case be parboiled. Even converting a portion of that heat to energy buys us time but some studies indicate there is enough potential there to replace all the fossil fuels you and Dr. Hagens notes we are rapidly depleting. As he points out extraction costs keep escalating but the cost of OTEC should come down with experience and economies of scale and the resource is never going to run out. In fact the more of it we extract the better the our environmental outcome should be.

May 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

Paul, I might have agreed with you 25 years ago. I have had the pleasure of dealing with the industry however and have seen no inclination on their part to deal with their issues. It isn't me though that needs convincing. I think nuclear has a lot further to go to gain a social license to operate that OTEC but again that's only one man's opinion.

As I point out to John above, amongst its other benefits OTEC can buy us precious time to get the problem under control.

May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

John that's the thing with OTEC, it is a twofer. It is carbon free and mitigates storm surge and sea level rise, which are the greatest risks according to the IPCC. Nuclear is at best half a solution and has the waste, safety and proliferation issues to contend with. 

OTEC will also buy use time by moving heat into deep water.

A recent Rutgers study points out, “we may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy. It may buy us some time.”

James Lovelock made a similar allusion recently in Nature.

OTEC is remotely produced energy but ask the Ukranians, Japanesse and those with thermal coal plants in their backyard, I think they might say they would prefer it that way.

May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

Paul, I too take exception. To false information like  "renewables will only be able to meet a small portion of our baseload needs."

Unfortunately Makai and every other current OTEC effort is focused on the cold water pipe design that I too believe is a technological dead end, which isn't to say there aren't better ways to do it. I concur however with Makai that you have to start small to prove the design, which means the platform won't be economically viable.

The thermodynamics demand at least 100 MW to be economic and with a deep water condenser and CO2 as a working fluid there are designs for a gigawatt plant.

And in case you hadn't noticed Nothern hemisphere cold climes have been deriving much of their energy from equatorial regions a half planet away for some time now.

May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

Bill, I recently put up a video that addresses these issues but I will summarize.

The overall themodynamic efficiency of OTEC is low and you do have to move a great deal of heat to the deep but this is an environmental benefit because on the surface this heat drives tropical storms and sea level rise. The recent warming hiatus is believed to have been caused by the movement of surface heat to a depth of about 100 to 300 meters in the Eastern Pacific due to unusually strong trade winds.

Indications are this will be an El Niño year which could return a good portion of that heat making this year and next record setters.

OTEC as I and a small group of others propose it should be implemented uses a deep water condenser design, which would move "a great deal" of surface heat to a depth of 1000 meters thus making it that much more difficult for this heat to return plus the fact this surface heat would be constantly driven to these depths by large scale OTEC implementation. At 1000 meters the coefficient of expansion of sea water is half that of the tropical surface so you gain a sea level benefit by relocating some of the surface heat.

The deep water condenser also addresses conventional OTEC's cost and environmental issues.

Prof. Gerard Nihous, Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, University of Hawaii estimates that the maximum steady-state OTEC electrical power is about 14 TW (Terawatts)

The greatest climate risk to biological life in the oceans is thermal stratification. Moving surface heat to deeper water reduces the problem and induces convection that would bring the nutrients phytoplankton require to the surface, which in turn could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

With conventional OTEC there is also a risk of impingement and entrainment of marine life and eutrophication due to bringing too much nutrient rich water to the surface. With the deep water condenser design the only water movement is at the surface over the evaporator. The working fluid has to be pumped back to the surface rather than bringing cold water upward to the condenser. This decreases parasitic losses of the system as you are moving about 1/20th the amount of fluid.

At the surface wave action and disbursement of the evaporator can limit the impact on sea life.

Regarding the thermohaline circulation, Nihous takes this into consideration in his estimate of 14 terawatts. I also have considered a counter-current heat flow system that could lessen this impact even more.

The lesson from Nature the past fifteen years would seem to indicate that sea level rise would in fact be reduced by moving heat to deep water. When this heat drives tropical storms, it is fast tracked to the poles where it melts ice and more ominously permafrost.

As to cloud formation, low-level clouds reflect sunlight and lead to cooling, high level clouds warm the planet increasing the the greenhouse effect.  Recent studies indicate that as the ocean warms, low-level clouds tend to dissipate creating a positive feedback warming cycle.

To the best of my knowledge there is currently only one OTEC plant operating at a capacity on only 50 MW. I think however this is more a reflection on the cost and environmental problems of the conventional design, rather than the one my colleagues and I are trying to promote.


May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

The principle risk of climate change is sea level rise and storm surge. CCS or nuclear due nothing to prevent the half meter of sea leve rise that is a virtual certainty, without OTEC, by 2050 under any other scenario.

I find your notion of a strong military to defeat an enemy that is nothing more than a body of individuals struggling to survive the ravages of climate change bizarre.



May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

Edward, currently we get about 14TW from fossil fuels whose reverses according to BP estimates will last 52.9 years for oil, 55.7 years for natural gas and 109 years for coal.

As pointed out below, Nihous points to 14TW of OTEC potential which will last ad infinitum. 

As to energy density, by weight hydrogen is about three times better than diesel or jet fuel and it would  be required to bring offshore produced energy to shore. By converting liquid ocean volume to weight you reduce sea level rise another way.

The OECD estimates $35 trillion in assets will be at risk to storm surge and sea level rise in the world's port cities by 2070 and this is only one of eight climate risks identified by the IPCC.

Burning cheap coal, NG or oil is nothing more than robbing Peter and the rest of his family to pay Paul.

As to the Air Force, the national security implications of climate change are well established and only OTEC addresses both the cause as well as the effect of this threat.


May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Moderate Environmentalists Go Nuclear

"Until large-scale energy storage is commercially viable renewables will only be able to meet a small portion of our baseload needs."

Ms Claussen is wrong.

Ocean thermal energy conversion can replace all fossil fuels. It is baseload power that utlilizes the greatest source of stored energy on the planet, the heat in the surface waters of the ocean, which is also the most significant manifestation of climate change. For the most part it would also store energy in the form of the energy carrier hydrogen for use whereever and whenever it is needed.

James Lovelock, recently commented about climate change, The thing we’ve all forgotten is the heat storage of the ocean.

Nuclear proponents forget the same thing. It produces twice the waste heat as power and most of that ends up in the oceans to excacerbate a problem that is already fraught.

OTEC is the only energy that addresses both the cause and effect of climate change.


May 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Do Oil Spills Boost the Economy?

Andrew, we have the same situation with fossil fuels in general. Industry profits puts $35 trillion in coastal infrastructure at risk by 2070 according to the OECD.

We can get the same amount of energy from a source that mitigates the threats of sea level rise and storm surge. 

What's more it is Canadian technology.

Of that $35 trillion, $300 billion is for Vancouver.

Little wonder there is strong opposition to Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan's proposal in this province.


May 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Renewable Wood Fuels, Part 1: Environmentally Beneficial or a Chronic Problem?

Sketchy Claims Inflate BC's Wood Energy Exports

"British Columbia is a central player in what amounts to an international carbon-kiting scheme, claiming credit for carbon capture decades before it's occurred, while hawking a product that actually spews more greenhouse gases than the fuels it replaces."

April 24, 2014    View Comment    

On Mitigation Talk Vs. Mitigation Cost

Sadly Roger, none of our opinions seem to carry much weight in the forums that count.

In this one however, I think I can safely speak for many, yours is highly regarded.

I have hope that private equity will soon enough realize that it is better to invest in the energy source whose price is declining and that is infinite as opposed to those that are rising and depleting; irrespective of the envrionmentally risks or beneftis of either.

April 24, 2014    View Comment