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The best energy/environment strategy extant.

Below left is the Pavagada Solar Park in India spread out over a total area of 53,000,000 square meters of land with a capacity of 2,000 MW, costing US$2.1 billion.

On the right is the Alta Wind Energy Center in California that is the world’s largest operational wind farm at 12,950,000 square meters with a power rating of 1,320 MW, costing $3 billion.

Below left is the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm in China that spans an area of 800,000 square meters, is the largest floating solar farm with a capacity of 40 megawatts, extrapolated here to cost US$62 million.

On the right is the US$1.3 billion Walney Wind Farm off the coast of England that encompasses 145,000,000 square meters that produces 659 megawatts of power.

Below is a 1,000-megawatt negative emissions ocean thermal energy conversion (NEOTEC) plant with an ocean surface footprint of  935,696 square meters and an estimated cost of US$1.2 billion.

As the following table shows NEOTEC has by far the greatest output per square meter of surface area and the second lowest cost per dollar of capacity at about half the cost of wind.

By comparison, a 684 megawatt NuScale small modular reactor is about four times the cost and is assumed to be about the same size as a NEOTEC plant of similar capacity.  

NEOTEC’s output is confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine OTEC power density map below that shows power density in kilowatts per cubic meter per second (kW/(m3/s)) on the right hand scale.

This is based on a 1,000-m cold-water pipe, a turbogenerator efficiency of 85%, and pumping losses of 30%, whereas NEOTEC uses a heat pipe design that has a pipe a tenth the size, is over twice as efficient and is augmented by 25 percent more wind, solar and wave power derived from the same ocean surface area.

The article “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030” by Jacobson and Delucchi suggests that the supplies of wind and solar energy accessible on land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe but this disregards the environmental benefits derived uniquely from ocean energy production that can produce at least 10 times as much energy per square meter. 

Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system emanating from the external forcing components the net effect of which is about 1.6 watts per square meter but as the map above demonstrates is mainly concentrated about the equator.

The paper Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition by Resplandy et al. calculates the current warming resulting from global warming is about 380 terawatts a year. Ninety-three percent of which is going into the oceans, which are thermally stratified making them uniquely able to convert heat to work and to compound the wind, solar and wave energy acting on a given area.

The IPCC identifies 8 eight key risks associated with dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system all of which are addressed by thermodynamic geoengineering and in most cases uniquely so.

The most important of these is cooling the surface by relocating heat to deep water and converting a portion to work.

This reduces sea level rise, storm intensity and can be adapted to neutralize ocean acidity.

The following table assumes an average 400 (kW/(m3/s)) power density throughout the Intertropical Convergence Zone (the doldrums) that have the greatest heat accumulation and the least potential to adversely affect thermodynamic geoengineering infrastructure.

Thermodynamic geoengineering, therefore, could convert 16 percent of the accumulating heat of warming heat within the Intertropical Convergence Zone to 29 terawatts of power and thus halt warming in its tracks.

By increasing the power density above this level, the surface would be cooled.

In the paper A “Manhattan Project” for climate change?, Yang and Oppenheimer argue against a Manhattan or Apollo Project approach to global warming because of the time scales involved and because the technology involved will eventually have to be employed by the private sector where buy-in cannot be guaranteed.

They claim historically the only successful types of government R&D support have been where the government has a strong and direct procurement interest; when it sponsors research in the “generic” area between the basic and applied, or it sponsors a decentralized system of clientele-oriented support for applied R&D, but fossil fuel subsidies contradict this claim.

The study How Large Are Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies? shows fossil fuel subsidies amount to about 6.5% of global GDP totaling about $5 trillion worldwide.

As shown above, $5 trillion dollars a year in fossil fuel subsidies diverted instead into the production of 1-gigawatt NEOTEC plants would result in the manufacture of 4545 plants a year, which in turn would have a useful life of about 30 years.

In less than six years, therefore, we could produce enough plants to convert all of the heat of warming to productive use while deriving twice as much energy as is currently being produced by fossil fuels. And all of this would require no buy-in by the public which could receive energy for free because the cost of the fuel is zero and either the public or government would no longer have to pay the annual  $4.7 trillion dollar environmental cost of doing business.     

The actual price the public should be paying should be the same US$ 6 trillion USD it is currently paying, for twice the energy with the difference being diverted instead to the other major concerns of humanity.

What’s more, the time scale involved with producing a full fleet of NEOTEC plants could be within the range of the Manhattan or Apollo Projects if $5 trillion dollars is marshalled for 6 years.

Instead of trying to put a price on pollution, putting a value on climate remediation instead would be the best energy/environment strategy extant.

Jim Baird's picture

Thank Jim for the Post!

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