Today OMS brings you updates from the world of fusion power.
Michael Suppes from Brooklyn, New York, is developing a fusion reactor using only his home computer and $40,000 worth of parts that he purchased from Ebay and refurbished. Check out this video from Energy Now where Michael explains and demonstrates his current progress.
According to the blog Prometheus Fusion Perfection, “The Bussard reactor holds the promise of cheap clean abundant energy. A definitive energy solution. I hope to catalyze an open source movement to bring the Bussard reactor to fruition.” In other words, the author is developing one of the most promising sources of abundant energy for mankind, and he wants to give away his development efforts to the public as open source! What does the author say is the ultimate goal of this project? “Building the world’s first superconducting Bussard Reactor. Ultimately break-even fusion.”
We applaud all efforts toward making fusion power a reality.
Example of a System Concept
Operation Mustard Seed (OMS) has begun development of Project: Boil the Ocean. This project was initiated from the results of a year-long study into the feasibility of solar thermal power as an economical source of heat energy. The results suggested that solar thermal power could be competitive with cheap, nonrenewable coal and natural gas.
More than 70 percent of our planet is covered with salt water. This water creates a delicate balance of climate and biological needs necessary for all known forms of life.
And yet, not all of mankind has access to this precious, yet seemingly abundant source of water. Even in developed countries such as the U.S., fresh water shortages occur, leading to rationing and a predicted water shortage in the future.
If just a fraction of a percent of the salt in salt water were removed, it would be possible to sustainably supply all of mankind’s needs for fresh, clean water. As an added bonus, if we could harvest salt water in a sustainable manner it would have no measurable impact on Mother Nature or her natural processes.
Meanwhile, the sun bombards us with more solar energy in one hour than the world uses in an entire year. Tapping into just a tiny fraction of a percent of this abundant, renewable resource would provide an enormous quantity of energy.
Project: Boil The Ocean will attempt to apply ingenuity and just plain hard work during the next five years to develop the enabling technologies to make possible a sustainable harvest of our vast solar energy and water resources.
For you. For me. And for the world. Operation Mustard Seed.
This post is an update about the projects that we at Operation Mustard Seed have been developing.
Throughout the last several months we’ve researched stirling engine design. A stirling engine has the capability of producing mechanical or electric power from a variety of heat energy sources, such as biofuels, solar thermal, and geothermal energy.
Additional advantages of using a stirling engine instead of the more traditional steam turbine are fewer parts, reduced maintenance, a quieter operation, and perhaps mostly important: higher efficiency. The challenges include designing a practical regenerator (which is an essential component to a stirling engine), advanced design for high-pressure hydrogen, and expensive and complex components.
Due to the complexity of these challenges, we’ve decided that the stirling engine is not a good sustainability technology for OMS to pursue at this time. It seems that any advancements in technology which enable a practical stirling engine could just as well be applied to other designs, including the steam turbine. However, the knowledge we have gained from this pursuit feeds directly into our current efforts to launch the next big OMS project. Stay tuned! Information will be posted to this blog first!
The much talked about “cap and trade” portion of an energy bill that the U.S. Senate is drafting is no more. Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, said that there were simply not enough votes to include the measure (60 votes are needed to pass the bill). The bill will instead focus on energy efficiency and the ongoing saga that is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Critics argue that with no required cap on carbon emissions, power companies will switch to natural gas, and one-third of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. could close. These plants would not be replaced until Congress passes guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions.
Normally this is the part of the post where we would offer the official Operation Mustard Seed opinion, but this is one topic we are going to stay quiet about, and let people come up with their own interpretations of the facts. Politics are a dirty business, and we feel that it is better not to have our opinion on the written record. (Although anyone interested in chatting politics and drinking coffee can head over to the “Contact Us” section of the “About Us” page and shoot us an email.) However, we will say that we are excited that Congress has finally decided to address energy efficiency, and we hope that it can swiftly and amicably put together a bill that is in the best interests of the country.
This past weekend we chartered a fishing boat to take us out on Lake Erie to the location where we last saw Project Mustard Seed in November to try and determine what caused the failure. We used the same side-scan sonar imagers that fishermen use to scan the bottom of the lake, as well as a USB underwater camera system we designed to take detailed pictures and video. While the camera worked successfully (despite springing a leak), sadly, there was no hardware to be seen or found.
We have gone over the most credible failure modes which could have led to the rig being lost. Our expectations and hopes were that any hardware found would give us a clear indication of the most likely failure scenario.
For example, we thought that if the core cans (the ones in the center of the rig) were found intact at the bottom of the lake, still attached to the anchor line, it would indicate the rig had broke apart because the set-screw structure failed. Since the center was not sufficiently buoyant without the parameter cans, the core would have quickly sink without the tubes connecting it to the parameter. Tube structure failure seems a likely scenario due to the 22′ waves the rig experienced!
So, without any hardware or evidence, we can only conclude that Lady Bessie has won this round. We have now brought Project Mustard Seed – the world’s first freshwater windfarm – to a close. Please check back for more information about the next big project that Operation Mustard Seed has planned.
Cities from all over Ohio are jumping on the renewable energy wagon, and are introducing various projects into their municipalities. Just last week, the city of Painesville announced that it is working with NexGen Energy Partners, LLC to develop a municipal-scale wind power project on multiple sites across the city, with the potential to generate up to 3.2 megawatts of power. The partnership between NexGen Energy and Painesville marks the first time a municipality is partnering with a renewable energy developer for a distributed wind generation project of this size. According to the press release, the six to eight turbine project will be functional by the end of 2010, and have the potential to provide power to nearly 450 homes.
A quick glance over NexGen Energy’s press release page shows that the company is also partnering with many Ohio school districts for various renewable energy projects, including schools from: Seven Hills, Upper Scioto Valley, Bucyrus, Danbury, Ontario, as well as Ohio Northern University.
Earlier this week, General Electric (GE) and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) announced plans to partner and develop an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie. The initial 20-megawatt farm, scheduled for completion in late 2012, will be comprised of five turbines and located nearly 6 miles off the Cleveland shoreline. This project is a test for future wind developments, with a long-term goal of generating 1000 megawatts of power from Lake Erie wind turbines by 2020.
In addition to the wind farms, GE and LEEDCo are jointly looking into opportunities for making offshore wind technology economically viable for areas around the Great Lakes.
Does this story sound familiar to you? It should! That’s because Operation Mustard Seed launched Project Mustard Seed, the world’s first freshwater wind farm on Lake Erie, seven months ago. Although our project only had two turbines that stood eight feet above the water, it was also a test rig to prove the viability of generating wind power from Lake Erie, and was the first in a series of bigger and better projects.
Congrats to Cleveland for continuing to support offshore wind power development.
German-Austrian researchers are planning to go where no one has gone before, and develop the holy grail of green technology: a system for storing surplus electricity from wind farms or solar panels as climate-neutral methane. Why is this great? Because it’s sustainable. The hydrogen from water and CO2 from the air can be used and retrieved indefinitely.
With the help of a new process developed from the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wurttemburg (ZSW) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES), the researchers have succeeded in converting electricity into synthetic natural gas. A 10 megawatt system is projected to launch in 2012.
Stay tuned! A project similar to this may be on the not-so-distant horizon for OMS.
Last week, President Barack Obama approved a large-scale wind farm about six miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The 130-turbine farm had been in review for nine years, when U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the decision to move forward. Cape Wind, the company behind the farm, claims that it will be able to supply power to 75 percent of Cape Cod’s 225,000 residents by 2012.
This important implementation sets a precedent for other offshore wind farm projects currently fighting through legislative hurdles. The technology to develop a large-scale wind farm on a lake or ocean has been available for years, but projects have been delayed by bureaucratic red tape. With this decision, the government is finally acknowledging that renewable energy is more important than the visual aesthetics of coast lines.
We at Operation Mustard Seed were lucky enough to work with a supportive Coast Guard here in Cleveland, Ohio. Our legislative battles were minor, and only cost us about six months worth of time. The approval of Cape Wind sets the stage for smaller ventures, such as Operation Mustard Seed, to set up wind farms along inter-coastal lakes as well.
This is a victory for the entire country. But remember, as you read more in the coming months about the development of this farm – Operation Mustard Seed did it first.
Lake Erie Waves/Project Update
We are currently in the final stages of assembling an underwater camera, which we plan to send deep underwater at the Lake Erie coordinates where Project Mustard Seed was last seen. We are hoping that this view will give us some insight into what could have happened to the rig. And, let’s be honest, we’re hoping to find – and retrieve – some of the hardware. We will be posting pictures and videos from this expedition, likely sometime during the next month.
In the meantime, here are some examples from YouTube of the type of weather that Project Mustard Seed had to endure during its time on the lake. This first video is just a regular, rough day on Lake Erie. It nicely shows what the rig would have been battling against on an almost weekly basis. However, the week that we launched, Thanksgiving 2009, there was a crazy storm, with reports of more than 20-foot waves. Take a look at what waves that size can do to a cruise liner, and then imagine how our small rig of garbage cans – designed to withstand waves of up to 14 feet – must have been tossed around.
And while you’re at it, check out these videos of an amazing rescue, and waves off the coast of Iceland. It is truly amazing the incredible power of water.