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On $43 Billion: Current and Rising Cost to Canada of Environmental Inaction

Hydro debt retirement charge costs Ontarians $11.5B

The residual stranded debt stems from the 1999 breakup of the province’s giant electrical utility, which had $38.1 billion in debt, mostly from building nuclear plants in the 1970s and ’80s.

April 6, 2015    View Comment    

On As California Loses Hydro Resources to Drought, Large-Scale Solar Fills Gaps

Stephen, California's water and a hydro solution was suggested here  and here. It's sort a good neighbour policy.

April 3, 2015    View Comment    

On Global Warming: Out of Sight, Peace of Mind

Bob, a 2010 NOAA study estimated the oceans are accumulating about 330 terawatts worth of heat continuously.

Currently we use about 14 terawatts of energy derived from fossil fuel.

OTEC replaces this with 14 terawatts of converted trapped heat but due to the thermodynamic inefficiency of the process it moves about 20-25 times more heat into the deep.

In essence it takes care of today's global warming problem and replaces the burning of coal and oil as you and I wish to see.  Electrolysis of sea water done the right way, also removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

If you have a better solution, I am all ears

March 29, 2015    View Comment    

On The Climate Case for Hydrogen

Hops, a lot of the fishing boats around here are made of aluminum and it is most often suggested as the best material. The smelting of Bauxite has also been suggested as a high value use for emissions-free electricity produced offshore. A colleague did a study, I don't have access to it at the moment, that suggests 20 years output of the world's smelters would give you all the resources you need for this undertaking.

There is also the fact that OTEC has been suggested  as a way to access a lot of the mineral wealth dissolved in the oceans.

March 28, 2015    View Comment    

On The Climate Case for Hydrogen

Rick, the first I heard of this evaporation effect was in an earlier comment of yours. It is an interesting  theory explained in part in Wikipedia under "global dimming".  If ocean heat cannot escape through evaporation that is one more reason why that heat, which remains stratified on the surface, should be moved to the deep. OTEC produces energy abscent the pollutants that are causing the dimming and possibly some surface effect that might interfere with evaporation. It has also been suggested that the removal of pollutants from the atmosphere would boost warming and thus increase ocean warming?

Circles within circles?

March 28, 2015    View Comment    

On The Climate Case for Hydrogen

Rick I defer to your superior knowledge regarding hydrogen bonding and likely intellect as well. My problem is I don't see that even a cell that could covert sunlight directly into hydrogen would solve the existing problem. I subscribe to the original premise in this piece that "To stop climate change, flat CO2 emissions aren't enough."

We already have a huge problem associated with heat buildup in our biosphere, mainly in the upper reaches of the tropical ocean, and this isn't going away for centuries, if not millennia.

There are only two things you can do with trapped heat; move it somewhere else or convert a portion of it to work.

Nature is moving it somewhere else, to the poles, which is and will continue to contribute to our woes.

My thesis is we can move it as well into the ocean depths, where it would have very little impact, and convert a portion of that movement into as much energy as we are currently using.

To get that energy to where it is needed would require electrolysis. To use the hydrogen the best option is probably a fuel cell and these two processes are thermodynamic mirror images only with the enthalpy and entropy signs reversed.

I fully understand OTEC is inefficient in an engineering and thermodynamic sense. The thing is that inefficiency works to our benefit because the more energy you use the more heat you have to move into the deep and to a point, you can go to far with it, this would be a good for the environment as it currently exists, IMHO.

Always interesting to hear your thoughts.



March 27, 2015    View Comment    

On Global Warming: Out of Sight, Peace of Mind

Thanks Brad. Yes I have seen the article and have discussed it with one of the authors for the past few days. It is noted in the piece I published today and will be the subject of a follow up article I am working on which I hope you will have the opportunity to read. Suffice to say I don't find a proposition that starts from an ocean surface magically cooled 8.3oC a very serious approach to a very serious problem.

The second law of thermal dynamics stipulates that you can covert a certain amount of heat to work by extracting it from a hot reservoir and exhausting into a cold one.  It does not say you should dilute the hot reservoir with the cold (with no economic or heat to energy conversion benefit), which is the proposition presented in the paper.

A NOAA study estimated in 2010 the oceans were accumulating about 330 terawatts worth of heat continuously. We would be lucky if we could convert and move just that amount of heat into the deep with the result we would produce close to the amount of energy currently derived from fossil fuels.

This would simply maintain sea surface temperatures at about what they are today and thus there would be no massive increased heat forcing due to the lack of clouds as is suggested by the paper.  By my estimate, to get the kind of effect seen in the paper you would have to move 5,500,000 times more cold water to the surface than would be possible with all of the ocean thermal energy conversion you could possibly produce.

Rather that sweeping the problem under the carpet, I much prefer to try and find a way to convert it into an opportunity. By that's just me.

March 26, 2015    View Comment    

On The Role of Energy Intensity in Global Decarbonization: How Fast Can We Cut Energy Use?

If using fuels to produce heat directly is typically more efficient than converting primary energy first to electricity and then to heat then using existing and problematic heat to produce electricity has to be the most efficient process of all?

March 19, 2015    View Comment    

On The Role of Energy Intensity in Global Decarbonization: How Fast Can We Cut Energy Use?

Jesse, sound climate policy has to be based on sound science. 

Climate change is the result of heat being trapped in the closed system of our biosphere and the greenhouse gases that trap that heat will linger for 1000 years. 

How Nature, or the species that is responsible for the buildup of those greenhouse gases, distribute that heat will determine the sustainability of all life on this planet.

The science of how heat is distributed or is converted from one form to another or to work is defined by the laws of thermodynamics. 

The Physics Department of the University of California San Diego points out that the change in entropy (a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work) of a system ΔS is defined as the amount of energy ΔE added to the system divided by the change in the temperature T  of the system (measured in degrees Kelvin), 

ΔS = ΔE/T.

Further they state that this is very closely related to the heat capacity of a system or object: “Because entropy and heat capacity are so intimately related, we can instantly order entropies of everyday substances: metals are lowest, followed by stuff like wood and rock, and liquids have the highest (water, especially), on a per-kilogram basis.”

They use the analogy of deep pockets for a system with high specific heat capacity like water and state that, “A system with deep pockets will not increase temperature as much for a given injection of energy. Substances with higher heat capacities have deep pockets, and therefore more ways to spread out the energy internally.”

The oceans are the largest system in the biosphere and are sustaining life by absorbing a great deal of heat but not nearly as much as they could were we to find a way to overcome the natural predisposition of oceans to thermally stratify with the warmest layer remaining near the surface. 

In essence they are not spreading the energy internally and soaking up enough of the energy being injected into the biosphere to keep us safe.

This can be overcome with heat pipe OTEC designs, which rather than reducing the amount of energy necessary to support a given amount of economic activity would produce increaslingly more climate benefit with every additional unit of energy produced.

March 16, 2015    View Comment    

On The Lowest Cost Renewable Energy Comes With a 2000 Percent Environmental Dividend

John, there are a number of energy carriers that could bring this power to market. Colleagues suggest ammonia is the best option. Since the automakers seem to be committing to fuel cells however, I think hydrogen would be best. Production of the "supergreen" kind that sequesters CO2 and neutralizes the growing acidity of the oceans is an excellent fit with the process.

March 2, 2015    View Comment    

On Can Humanity Coexist With Rising CO2 Levels?

Mark the 36C is simply an indication of the capacity of the ocean to accept heat without a significant increase in termperature. The whole point of the article is to try and point out some of the heat that would otherwise cause the atmosphere to warm up by 3.7°C to 4.8°C by the end of the century in the business as usual case, or whatever scenario you care to use instead could be safely sequestered in the deep and could be done through the production of zero emissions energy.

Yair Rosenthal of Rutgers has pointed out, "We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy. It may buy us some time – how much time, I don’t really know – to come to terms with climate change. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”

I will take as much time as possible to forestall and in fact prevent a 4C future.


February 28, 2015    View Comment