Wednesday, July 15, 2015
SOLAR IMPULSE 2 VERSUS THE DOD'S GIANT GOLFBALL
More than 8 million visitors come to Hawaii every year. We now have two remarkable tourists vacationing here: Solar Impulse 2 (here to the right landing in Hawaii at sunrise) and the Sea-based X-band radar (SBX), also known as the Department of Defense's Giant Golf Ball. There cannot be two more different pieces of technology sharing Paradise.
SBX was conceived during the Cold War and was recently lambasted by the Los Angeles Times, reporting that "the giant floating radar that cost taxpayers $2.2 billion has been a huge flop." For the record, Boeing and Raytheon were responsible for this fiasco. Worse, during the ten year period the Giant Golf Ball has been here, the Missile Defense Agency has spent $10 billion on the SBX and related programs that were shown to be unworkable. This kind of reportage is patently unfair, but, imagine this sum being used a decade ago to build the Pacific International Ocean Station, and, by now, how far we would be towards developing ocean energy, next generation fisheries, marine biomass plantations, remediation of global warming, preventing the formation of hurricanes and a range of other sustainable resource initiatives?
During the past two months I have posted a range of articles about Solar Impulse 2. You can read these details by skipping down to the bottom of the right column and finding them. First the bad news. Coming over from Japan, the plane suffered a nearly catastrophic complication with the lithium batteries, such that all signs point to a "vacation" here for several months, certainly into next year. As we know now, lithium batteries of all kinds tend to heat up. The specific problem here is that the insulation system has to be adjusted to allow for more heat release. No question that a solution will be found to fly the aircraft back to Abu Dhabi, but this craft essentially needs ten hours of sunlight/day to recharge the batteries, and the Fall months in this northern hemisphere do not allow for this requirement. So why not spend the winter in Hawaii?
So while the Giant Golf Ball has cost taxpayers from $2 billion to $10 billion, the entire $150 million fund for Solar Impulse 2 comes from industry. While the SBX represents a failed technology still operating for no good reason, Solar Impulse 2 shines the way for the future of solar energy. Yes the system is delicate, but look at how far the airplane has progressed since the Wright Brothers.
Any promising sustainable technology will take a generation or two to gain traction. Renewable energy only began to be commercialized after 1998 when the real cost of oil dropped to an all-time low. You don't believe me? Here:
The recent price of crude oil is now around half of what it was during the past few years. This period, too, will give pause to the renewables. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange showing oil futures at $68.53 in December of 2023 is a sign that these low prices will hand around for a while...until the next energy crisis, which could happen at any time.
In the East Pacific, Hurricane Dolores is at 135 MPH:
However, all projections show Dolores moving out to sea and weakening. In the West Pacific, Typhoon Nangka at 90 MPH is weakening, but is expected to make landfall over Shikoku Islands tomorrow:
However, Typhoon Halola at 85 MPH will strengthen into a Category 3, roll over Ogasawara Island and head for Japan: