Re: Solar Wealth

From: Ken Clements (
Date: Thu Nov 01 2001 - 22:28:09 MST

Don't forget the coast. Many people live next to the sea (such as
myself) and would like to have both energy and potable water. I suggest
getting both at the same time by building large solar collectors that
are spherical on the outer surface, and reflective paraboloids on the
inner surface. These would be fitted with a boiler chamber at the focus
and tethered to the sea floor with cables. Winders on the cables would
be used to track the sun (might be able to power those off wave and tide
action most of the time). Then run insulated high pressure steam lines
to the shore, or to generators on barges near by. What comes out of the
turbines condenses as nice hot drinking water.

With the right engineering, I think these could be made very cheap. It
is mostly just a fixed structure. The hard part it getting it to stand
up to most storms and general marine rot. The boiler could be very
simple because you can depressurize and flush it every night, whereas
continuous boilers fed salt water are a pain to keep going. Perhaps a
system with land based turbines could have enough live steam storage to
last into the evening hours, or the boilers could have enough phase
change salt built in to do the same thing.

I first thought of this for off the coast of LA. A factory could be set
up there to use the waste plastic and aluminum generated by the city to
make these things. I pictured them being plopped out of the place like
eggs, then towed out to sea. As long as toxic chemicals did not diffuse
out of them too much, the environmentalists should go for it, and think
how great a few square miles of these things would look, about 100m high
and each tracking the sun.

On the solar biomass front, I am now leaning to a system that is just a
cable that goes out into the sea and loops back. If you spray that with
gametophytes from Macrocystis pyrifera it will grow all over it and
actually float the cable. When this stuff gets going it can grow 20cm a
day. You would time the cable loop rate so that it gets back to land
when the stalks have finished growth cycle, at which point the cable
hauls them out of the sea and into your processing plant. If folks do
not like the looks of the processing plants on shore, you can still do
this from factory ships that are towing the cables behind them.

Macrocystis will grow almost anywhere there is sunshine, upwelling for
nutrients, and something to hang on to. If you go somewhere with
sunshine, and provide the cable to hang on to, all you may need is to
put some small amount of special nutrients on the cable to diffuse into
the water simulating upwelling. Again, it is an existing replacator
that will do most of the work building you a very big solar system.


"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:

> I did a really brief paper this morning on looking at current
> and potential future solar wealth. In large part this was
> an exercise to see what areas are likely to continue to be
> sources of political trouble due to resource shortages.
> The paper is here:
> Any discussion is welcome.
> Robert

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