The holidays are fast approaching, and before winding down for the holiday season, we wanted to give a status update about Project Boil the Ocean.
- The advanced desalinator design continues. This is a necessary part of processing salty water into pure, fresh water through the abundant power of the sun.
- OMS has begun development of a prototype solar collector design that could help solar heat and power become affordable and reliable, for residential areas from the Keys to Hawaii, from Ohio to even Alaska. It should even be scalable, for much larger power needs. A prototype should be ready for testing within 6 months.
- We’ve completed the first round of testing for our controls automation software, which we’ve dubbed “The Green Vector.” Despite a few initial bugs that have since been addressed, this software is versatile and robust. It can be used on any computer, or even a smartphone, and can be scaled up or down and customized for OMS’s R&D and commercial needs, including test rigs and large megawatt scale projects.
OMS New Year’s resolution: post more pictures & video!
On a separate note, OMS is now hosting the website for the Cleveland chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Renewable Energy Committee. Check it out: www.operationmustardseed.com/SESC/SESC%20Website/index.html
Happy Holidays! We here with OMS are looking forward to an exciting year 2012, filled with forward progress toward energy sustainability.
Hope you enjoyed the summer! Project: Boil the Ocean continues to take strides:
- Planning an OMS R&D center to be located in the Greater Cleveland area. It will include, among other features: solar power, energy-efficient design, rainwater collection, and a small urban garden.
- An automation and controls software framework is currently in beta testing. Compared to available automation and controls solutions used in both research and manufacturing today, it is highly customizable and can be used for very large, complex systems.
- Personally traveled throughout the Midwestern and Southwestern US, in search of a good location for launching BTO. A lot goes into choosing a location, and this travel helped narrow the available choices further than a simple internet search.
- Currently testing a desalination system that will efficiently remove salts and dissolved solids from salt water. Unlike current desalination systems which dump waste brines into the sea, such technology will make possible 100 percent use of all the components in seawater, producing zero waste products, and producing fresh, clean water.
Sketch of an R&D building concept.
Multimedia associated with BTO will be on the website soon; stay tuned.
The largest solar plant in the world is currently in the works for an area near Gila Bend, Arizona (70 miles southwest of Phoenix). Abengoa Solar is building the 280 megawatt parabolic trough plant, called Solana. It will have up to six hours of thermal storage, which will enable it to provide power even after sunset or on cloudy days. According to Abengoa Solar, the energy produced will be enough to serve 70,000 households and prevent 475,000 tons of CO2 each year. It will reportedly eliminate nearly 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Operation is scheduled to begin in 2013.
For more information, and a video, visit www.abengoasolar.com.
A frequent complaint about solar thermal generators and solar energy in general is that the technology fails to produce enough electric power to be economical. A team of researchers from Boston College and MIT have set out to change that, with a new type of solar thermal device that combines high-performance thermoelectric materials with spectrally-selective solar absorbers in a vacuum-sealed chamber that boosts conversion efficiency.
In English, this means more electric power from the same sized panel, while producing thermal power for other uses such as water heating. The results of this technology could have far reaching appeal, for industrial as well as residential. With the ability to simultaneously heat water and generate electricity, the hybrid panel has the potential for realizing payback much faster than any other device currently on the market.
Looking for more information? Check out the article “Solar-thermal flat-panels that generate electric power” from Solar Daily.
Today’s energy technology update comes from the golden state of California where Bruce Marshall of Marshall Hydrothermal has patented a system for harnessing thermal power and mineral resources from hydrothermal vents. Marshall Hydrothermal claims this is the first such system in the world. The design includes a three-meter wide insulated pipe, which could provide 20,000 megawatts of electric power – five times more than the largest US nuclear power plant – with no pollution or waste products (and since the superheated steam is located more than 200 meters beneath the ocean surface, it is unlikely to create an environmental threat in the instance of a tsunami). National Geographic estimates that hydrothermal vents can produce up to 17,000,000 megawatts of energy.
From the Marshall Hydrothermal website: “deep below the surface of the world’s oceans lies a vast and inexhaustible energy source, completely untouched by humans. Capable of providing enough power to make 20 GW+ generating stations a realistic expectation, its exploitation has only been awaiting the moment that a practical means of utilizing it could be developed.”
For more information, check out this video Marshall posted on its website: www.mevio.com/episode/192994/fen-091019.
During the month of March, we have had several small accomplishments which are worth mentioning. First, we’ve added new features and fixed bugs with the automation and controls suite. We’ve also found an inventor in California whose steam engine design we’ll be testing in the next few months as a candidate power system.
Fabrication and testing has begun for a bench-top-sized, salt water distiller test rig.
Our search for a location continues. The location has to have the perfect balance of solar, land, water and economic resources. A few candidate locations have been found outside the U.S.
We also briefly explored the possibility of producing hydrogen from solar thermal energy, using (mostly) off-the-shelf hardware. While this is currently probably too ambitious and complex for our means and Project: Boil the Ocean, it may lead to a future OMS project.
We’re moving forward with the research and initial system design for Project Boil the Ocean. During the past month, we set up a secured server system for data acquisition, controls, surveillance, and automation. This system allows for remote monitoring and data acquisition, similar to the wind farm test rig for Project Mustard Seed but with more fail-safes and advanced design features.
We also explored various concepts for solar thermal collectors, and have decided upon a central-receiver type of solar collector design. Compared to parabolic troughs and Fresnel mirror systems, a central-receiver-type system is capable of much higher efficiencies, which means more power in the same area. A naval but simple design is in works for creating a field of solar tracking mirrors and central receiver using inexpensive, mostly off-the-shelf hardware. According to a 2003 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), for a solar thermal power plant, the solar collectors represent nearly half of the total costs that go into building a solar thermal plant, followed by about 15-20 percent of the costs for the receiver.
As always, if you are interested in becoming involved with this project, or have ideas about other projects that you would like us to be involved with, visit our “Become Involved” page.
Back to the “Home Page.”
Multiple groups are in the process of developing small-scale solar thermal power systems for remote areas where utility power is not readily accessible. A not-for-profit group, STG International, based in Massachusetts is working to provide electricity and hot water to off-grid schools and clinics using solar energy technology. The for-profit Promethean Power Systems is developing a solar-powered refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas in developing countries.
According to Popular Mechanics, these design concepts are using parabolic concentrators to collect solar thermal power. Utilizing an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) generator, the systems are able to produce electric and heated power. Total hardware costs for the STG system are only $3,000 for a one kilowatt electric power with water heating system. Automotive parts and other off-the-shelf components are used to keep costs low.
The approach of these groups is in line with what we at OMS and Project: Boil the Ocean are attempting, right down to the use of creative hardware parts for cost efficiency.
For you…for me…for the world.
Researchers in the U.S. and Switzerland have recently developed a solar prototype that can turn the suns energy into fuel. The reactor uses concentrated solar thermal energy to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, or carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. To date, the device has only proven 0.7 to 0.8 percent efficiency, however, its researchers believe it has the capacity to become commercially-viable at 19 percent efficiency.
In other solar news, a bakery in California is using photo-voltaic (PV) panels to provide nearly 40 percent of its power. Alvarado Street Bakery has installed more than 1500 solar panels which provide 404 kilowatts of power.
For those of us who won’t be visiting California in the near future, an all natural desserts shop will be opening in Lakewood, Ohio this spring. The shop will offer tasty treats made from mostly local, organic and/or sustainable ingredients.
With the beginning of the new year, Operation Mustard Seed (OMS) wanted to take a minute to share a few updates about Project: Boil the Ocean.
But first, some house-keeping: OMS has a new telephone number (440-941-2849) and address (17804 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, Ohio 44107). Both have been updated on our “Contact Us” page.
Preliminary project budgets, specifications, and schedules have been drafted for Project: Boil the Ocean, and will provide our direction for 2011. Rather boring stuff to talk about, but many project managers will understand how important these tasks are for any successful undertaking, including our project’s pursuit of energy sustainability.
We are developing a controls and data acquisition software program in Java. Once complete, the program will be used with PC interface hardware to record the data from sensors. This will serve to prove that solar thermal energy can actually be used to economically exploit seawater resources. It will also be used to automate the power and production systems that we will develop for Project: Boil the Ocean. Currently, we’ve completed about 25 percent; a working version should be ready by summer.
Testing and development have begun for a novel power generator that will have no moving parts. We don’t currently have an estimated time frame for this project, nor can we project our success with producing a useful generator. Stay tuned…