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Hawaii OTEC

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plant goes live in Hawaii

Hawaii OTEC

Hawaii, a leader in renewable energy out of necessity, just opened their first Ocean Thermal Conversion Energy Power plant. It is a test plant that will power 120 homes. Much bigger plants are coming, with the potential to power 100,000 homes. OTEC power, unlike other forms of renewable energy is available 24/7. Essentially, it is solar power, and it relies on the sun warming the surface of the ocean.

OTEC builder Makai says large-scale OTEC power plants will be offshore, thus not competing for land, and twelve such plants would power all of Hawaii. Further, enough OTEC power exists worldwide to power 4X of the world’s electrical needs. Plus, environmental risks are very low.

OTEC is a process that produces electricity by using the temperature difference between the warm ocean surface waters of tropical areas and the much colder deep water below. The plant that Hawaii has just installed pumps water from the warm shoreline as well as from the cold deeper ocean through a heat exchanger. The resulting steam drives a turbine and produce electricity at an onshore power station.

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Shower of the Future, changing filter

Shower recycles and heats water

Shower of the Future, changing filter

Shower of the Future, changing filter

An innovative new shower purifies and reuses water, reheating it in the process. Potential water and electricity savings potentially can be large, especially in big households. The technology is the same as used on spacecraft. Downside is it is expensive and requires a bathroom remodel if not installed as part of new home construction. Hopefully the price will drop, as this seems a good idea.

The Shower of the Future is based on the technology that is used on spacecraft, and works on a closed-loop water system. Because of this it only needs 1.3 gallons (5 liters) of water to function, which is about one tenth less than classic showers need. After the first use, the water is collected from the drain, filtered and purified, and fed back into the in-flow tank to be reused. Apart from the water savings, the shower is also capable of saving more than 80% in energy consumption

Posted in Energy, Water0 Comments

Dogger Bank wind farm location

U.K. plans ginormous offshore wind farms

Dogger Bank wind farm location

When built, two 1.2 GW offshore wind farms jointly will be one of the largest in the world. Britain already has more offshore wind than the rest of the planet combined and now is building more. Meanwhile, the U.S. has labored mightily and finally built the first platform for an offshore wind turbine.

The U.K. authorized the Forewind consortium of four European utilities to build the joint-largest offshore wind project in the world.

The two 1.2-gigawatt wind farms, called Dogger Bank Teesside A&B, total almost four times the capacity of the largest operational project. They won development permission from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, according to a statement e-mailed Wednesday by the Planning Inspectorate.

If built, Dogger Bank Teesside A&B will include as many as 400 wind turbines, support hundreds of jobs in northern England and provide enough electricity for 1.8 million homes,

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Dancers. Party

U.S. finally to get offshore wind energy. Woo-hoo!

Dancers. Party

The United States is at long last about to get offshore wind power. A single, solitary foundation has been built for a wind turbine off Rhode Island, part of a projected 30 MW wind farm,  a wee little thing to be sure. However grid-scale wind farms will be following quickly. After hundreds of millions in government funding, repeated assaults by rich NIMBYS (screw you Kennedy clan, and your phony environmentalism), and endless regulatory hurdles, we are finally getting offshore wind. Why did it have to take so long?

Deepwater Wind, God bless ’em, has three projects happening.

Block Island off Rhode Island looks like their deliberately small, proof-of-concept:

The first offshore wind farm in construction in the United States, the 30-megawatt, 5 turbine Block Island Wind Farm is scheduled to be online in 2016.

Deepwater ONE, also off Rhode Island, will be grid-scale:

Located in the best site for offshore wind in the United States, Deepwater ONE has over 1,000 MW of capacity. The wind is so strong and consistent in this site, that average annual capacity factors are expected to reach 50%, among the best in America. Deepwater ONE can be built in phases over time, supplying power to both southern New England and eastern Long Island. Located over the horizon, in the deep waters of Atlantic Ocean. The project will be barely visible from shore.

Eventually, this project would grow to 200 or more turbines generating 1 gigawatt of clean energy — for multiple power markets in the region.

Garden State, off New Jersey, will also be grid scale.

Located roughly 20 miles off the coast of Avalon, New Jersey, with nearly 200 turbines generating 1 gigawatt of clean offshore wind power.

Europe is way ahead of us on offshore wind.

Offshore wind energy is present in Europe, with close to 2,500 wind turbines already installed, according to the European Wind Energy Association. In 2014, 536 turbines were erected. Cumulatively, 74 wind farms in 11 European countries generate a total of 8,045.3 MW.

Hopefully the U.S. will have gigawatts of offshore wind energy soon too.

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Salton Sea

Salton Sea geothermal plan now appears doomed

The Salton Sea, a large inland salt water lake in a baking Southern California desert is dying. Ambitious plans to build geothermal plants there would have revitalized the area and provided money to clean up the lake, which is a major bird migratory area.. However, a bill to fund geothermal there died in the legislature last fall. No new bills have been introduced. Proponents say they need $3.15 billion to stop the coming environmental disaster. It’s difficult to see where that money will come from.

A dry Salton Sea would also emit dangerous dust that could lead to increased incidents of cancer and asthma around the Sea and beyond. The SSRREI provides strategies for the mitigation of these emissions via the installation of wind barriers, the establishment of native plant species, and the use of soil binders and gravel to reduce dust formation. The dust mitigation plans are feasible because they are low maintenance, long lasting, and require little to no water from outside sources. If this plan is implemented, the Salton Sea will have a safe, healthy future. If this plan is not put into action, the dust from the Salton Sea will reduce air quality in the Inland Empire to historical lows and cause serious health issues

One big problem is that geothermal energy is expensive.

It’s no longer clear if there is much legislative support for an SB 1139-type approach mandating geothermal development. Officials with the state’s three giant investor-owned utilities have never been big fans of geothermal as a major source of state power. Energy experts say there’s a reason that there’s no billionaire enthusiast pushing geothermal, as T. Boone Pickens has done with wind power and several tycoons have done with solar power. It’s because a deep dig into the facts — by scientists as well as potential investors — shows it’s not an attractive option.

The Geysers in northern California is the biggest geothermal plant in the world. However it produces a minuscule amount of California’s electricity. The Salton Sea has the potential for geothermal power, but logistics and practicality are daunting.

Clearly, geothermal energy works well in select locations (geological hotspots). But it’s too puny to provide a significant share of our electricity, and direct thermal use requires substantial underground volumes/areas to mitigate depletion. All this on top of requirements to place lots of tubing infrastructure kilometers deep in the rock. Even dropping concerns about depletion, the practical/economic challenges do not favor extraction of geothermal heat on a large scale. So geothermal is not giving me that warm, fuzzy feeling I seek. It’s certainly not riding to the rescue of the imminent liquid fuels crunch.

A real problem here is that the Salton Sea is in a neglected area of California. The money flows elsewhere. However, without remediation, the lake will dry up, creating major health hazards.

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Solar farm

Utility-scale solar is considerably cheaper than rooftop

Solar farm

Rooftop solar, especially when leased, is much more expensive than grid-scale solar, plus carbon savings are less. Economies of scale for big solar produce electricity cheaper and with less carbon. And unless a rooftop solar system has battery storage, it won’t help in a power outage.

The savings from utility-scale solar are considerable.

“Most of the environmental and social benefits provided by PV systems can be achieved at a much lower total cost at utility-scale than at residential-scale,” is how the study puts it.

“The biggest two takeaways were surprising,” Fox-Penner said. “The generation cost per solar MWh purchased is half as large for utility-scale solar as for rooftop solar. And per MW of solar installed, the carbon savings and the fuel savings from a MW of utility-scale PV are 50% larger.”

Utility-scale solar offers higher capacity factors and significant economies of scale, Crossborder concludes. But rooftop offers location at the point of end-use, reliability benefits (especially when paired with storage), societal and customer choice benefits, and lower cost to customers than green pricing programs.

The supposed resilience of rooftop solar doesn’t exist yet because they automatically shut off when there is an outage (to prevent power going back up the lines when repairs are happening.) Batteries will help. Even so, they generally won’t power a house at full power or for more than a few hours.

Rooftop solar offers the potential of greater resilience for the homeowner against outages, he said. It is only a potential advantage because most rooftop solar systems, as currently installed, automatically shut down when the grid goes out “to protect workers and to meet fire protection requirements.”

Rooftop solar still provides many benefits. However, big can almost always produce something cheaper than small.

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Grid-connected wave energy now a reality


Electricity generated by movement of ocean waves is operational in Australia. The buoys are completely underwater, and their motion forces ocean water to land via high pressure pipes to drive the turbines. Added bonus: The process can also desalinate the water.

An electrical generating plant powered by wave energy has commenced operations near Perth, Australia. Built by Carnegie Wave Earth, the Perth Wave Energy Project is the first and only operational wave power plant anywhere in the world that uses multiple wave units. The facility has a peak generating capacity of 240 kilowatts — enough to power up to 2,000 homes.

Carnegie’s unique CETO [Cylindrical Energy Transfer Oscillating] technology is different from the conventional energy generating devices because it operates fully underwater and is safe from large storms and other surface hurdles.

An additional benefit of the CETO system is that it can also power a reverse osmosis desalinization installation to make fresh drinking water without using electrically or gasoline powered pumps.

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Carbon Engineering: Industrial-scale capture of CO2 from air

Thinking big and out-of-the-box, Carbon Engineering says they can remove CO2 from ambient air then use the carbon to create fuel. The process and machinery can be powered by renewable energy, sited anywhere, and scaled to suit local needs. There isn’t a big demand for this technology now. In a few years though, if the technology proves to be reliable, cost-effective, and scalable, there easily could be. Bill Gates is an investor.

From their home page:

Carbon Engineering is commercializing technology to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, which we will use to enable production of ultra-low carbon fuels.

Air capture of CO2 enables large facilities to manage emissions from any source or location so that industrial economies of scale can be applied to the large fraction of emissions that come from distributed and mobile sources such as vehicles, airplanes, and buildings. Air capture can provide pure CO2 at point of demand for industrial use, and atmospheric CO2 can be used via multiple production pathways to manufacture ultra-low emissions fuels.

CE’s technology strategy is to develop a low-risk, chemical-based CO2 air capture system that we can bring to market in the near-term with competitive economics. Our air capture system combines proven, scalable industrial technologies with CE’s proprietary designs and innovations.

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Denmark just generated 140% of its electricity from wind

Horns rev offshore wind farm

Horns rev offshore wind farm, Denmark. Photo by Vattenfall

Renewable energy from wind supplied Denmark with all its electricity on the night of June 9 and early morning June 10. Excess energy was stored by Germany and Denmark using pumped hydro. Wow. This shows that renewables can indeed supply huge amounts of power on a reliable basis. Will power plants using natural gas and coal continue to be needed? Absolutely. However perhaps someday, sooner rather than later, carbon-based fuel supplies will be the backup power for renewable energy.

Three-quarters of Danish wind power is onshore, with big offshore wind farms being planned as well as more onshore wind turbines.

So much power was produced by Denmark’s windfarms on Thursday that the country was able to meet its domestic electricity demand and export power to Norway, Germany and Sweden.

On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%.

Texas is also a leader in wind power. On March 26, 2014, it set a new record of 29% of power from wind.

Posted in Energy


Compact fusion reactors are safe, emissions-free, and coming


Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works says their compact fusion reactors will be operational in ten years. If so, this could change the world. Seriously. Compact fusion reactors are emissions free, safe, and produce prodigious amounts of energy, 3-4x more than nuclear fission. Further, gas lines into existing gas turbines can be replaced with heat exchangers coming off fusion reactors, so infrastructure for it already exists.

Normally I would tend to discount such research. However this is coming from Skunk Works, developers of multiple famous aircraft designs and lots more too.

This is an invention that might possibly modify the civilization as we know it: A compact fusion reactor presented by Skunk Works, the stealth experimental technology section of Lockheed Martin. It’s about the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, most likely spaceships, and cities.

How it works:

Nuclear fusion works by stripping electrons from atoms of two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, mixing the resulting nuclei and confining the mixture, called a plasma, into a small space. The plasma then is heated to accelerate the nuclei (in a gas, particle speed is a function of temperature). This is necessary because both nuclei are positively charged and high velocity is necessary to overcome electrostatic repulsion to force them to collide. At high enough speed, fusion produces a helium atom and a highly energetic neutron, whose energy can be captured by slowing it down. Transferring this energy to a coolant allows it to be used to generate electricity. A small amount of deuterium and tritium can match the performance of a conventional nuclear reactor, but without the nuclear waste and with much lower radiation risk.


European Safety and Environmental Assessment of Fusion Power concluded that fusion has very good inherent safety qualities, among which absence of ‘chain reaction’ and no production of long-lived, highly radiotoxic products. The worst possible accident would not be able to breach the confinement barriers. Even when a hypothesis is done that confinement barriers be breached, any accidental radioactive release from a fusion power station in this case cannot reach the level that would require the evacuation of the local community.

At the end of a fusion power station’s working life the radiotoxicity in the reactor chamber and other structural and waste materials will decay rapidly. In less than 100 years the residual activity of these materials would be less than the radiotoxicity found in the waste from a conventional coal-fired power station.

More from the Skunk Works Compact Fusion site.

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