Solar thermal power is of interest to OMS because all fossil fuels- whether coal, oil, or natural gas- are ultimately burned to provide heat. The heat energy made from burning fossil fuel is then converted into torque by our car engines, electric power by our generators, or simply used directly through water heating and home furnaces and the like. In essence, all that fossil fuels offer us is a heat source. If we can supply that heat from another source, such as a solar thermal energy collector, then we can accomplish the same needs entirely without burning any fossil fuels.
Closer to the equator, on a day with clear skies at high noon, the sun bombards one square meter of the surface of our planet with about 1 kilowatt (kW) of radiant energy. Within an area of 100 square meters, or 2.5 percent of an acre of land, the sun provides in favorable areas more than enough power for an automobile AND regular electric power. So what about less sunny areas? If we account for less sunny areas due to factors like overcast and location, we can realize that sunlight for Earth overall provides more energy in one hour than the world uses in an entire year.
Today, we use this energy regularly to provide plants with energy for photosynthesis to make sugars necessary for creating foods we enjoy. But we also use it to convert some of that energy into electricity using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Finally, we can also use the energy directly in the form of heat. That heat is known as solar thermal power. There is more available solar power than for any other renewable energy resource- geothermal, wind, tidal, or wave- and we are far, far away from coming close to realizing its full utilization.
"Water, water everywhere
And all the board did shrink
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink."
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The world's ocean saltwater contains about 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of seawater, and comprises 97 percent water on the planet. In 2010, mankind consumed an estimated 4,000 cubic kilometers of water- only a fraction of a percent of the available supply in our oceans. The challenge to tapping into the vast resource is the salt in saltwater.
About 3.5 percent of all saltwater is pure salt. Every known stable element in the periodic table can be found in seawater. If we could separate the salt from saltwater, not only would we be able to supply the world with an abundant source of freshwater; we would also have access to an abundance of raw materials.
And let's not forget that our use of water is entirely renewable. The water, when properly processed after use, eventually returns back to the atmosphere and to the seas, and is recycled again for use through natural processes.
We Have The Means Necessary
OMS believes that for technology to be truly sustainable, it must be economically sustainable. The best indicator of economic sustainability is the capacity to achieve a profit (as in, the product offered commands more money and/or resources than those required to produce it).
Over the last year OMS has been conducting a feasibility study to examine whether seawater harvesting through the use of solar thermal energy could be economically sustainable. What we concluded is that the fundamental technology exists to make seawater harvesting using solar thermal energy to be sustainable. We conclude that this claim can be proven using relatively modest resources.
There are those who believe that you must be a highly capitalized, vastly-staffed organization in order to develop truly useful and important technology. The past being the best indicator of future performance, history tells us a far different, much more hopeful message for the technology entrepreneur.