Total Pageviews

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

THE STORY OF THE BLUE REVOLUTION: Fantasy or Reality?

I have long considered writing a book about the Blue Revolution.  These past few postings, including the next one, are serving as the story board for this effort.  I'm not sure if this will be a novel or something closer to my SIMPLE SOLUTIONS series.  In any case, I'm only a few weeks away from the end of this blog site as a daily.  From May, I might decide to utilize this link to test out some of my future books.

So what is the story of the Blue Revolution?  First, you need to appreciate that:
  • The surface of the ocean 20 degrees north and south of the equator is warm.
  • 1000 meters deep, ocean waters are at 4 degrees Celsius.
  • If this deep ocean fluid can be brought to the surface (using a pipe)
    • combined with the warm surface fluid, electricity can be produced through the temperature differential
    • this effluent from the deep is pathogen free at high mineral concentrations in the exact ratio of "fertilizer" to promote new growth in the photic zone (where the sun shines)
    • under certain conditions, with the possible need to add some nitrogen, carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere to reduce global warming
    • as the end result is a cooling of the ocean surface, there is reason to believe that hurricane formation can be prevented
  • Thus, this system can be engineered to produce a wide range of co-products in addition to electricity.
  • These floating platforms powered by OTEC can ultimately become floating cities.
  • Someday there should be more countries at sea than on land.
A decent summary from this blog site is THE BLUE REVOLUTION IN HAWAII (Part 8) from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.  Another good historical reference is provided by the Blue Revolution Hawaii blog site.

For me, it began when I worked with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to in 1979 draft the first ocean thermal energy (OTEC) legislation.  After three years in DC, I returned to the University of Hawaii in 1982.  Senator Spark Matsunaga was asked to speak to the Honolulu American Society of Civil Engineers.  Of course I wrote that speech, where Matsunaga suggested Hawaii serve as the headquarters of an international technology transfer organization to develop sustainable energy options for the Pacific.

Through a series of legislations and strong support from the University of Hawaii, the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research was created to report to the Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Planning.  We particularly wanted to keep PICHTR away from the university.

No one in our team had any experience working with Japan on cooperative research.  To quickly summarize (click on this for the full story):
  • Senator Matsunaga, a Democrat, voted with the Republicans on a free trade bill.
  • As reward, Republican President Ronald Reagan asked Matsunaga to join him on a G8 summit meeting in Tokyo.
  • Sparky could only fit-in a ride on Air Force One from DC to the West Coast, where he asked Reagan to please work out with Prime Minister Yasu Nakasone an agreement for the two countries to partner on developing OTEC.  (This is a particularly interesting part of the story, involving intrigue and luck.)
  • The bottom line is that PICHTR got $1 million/year for eight years from Japan, mostly to perfect OTEC.  The U.S. Department of Energy provided the remainder of the funding for a $25 million open cycle OTEC facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.  The team succeeded in completing a 103 kW net open cycle OTEC power plant and produced freshwater as a co-product.
During the 1980's, I also closely worked with Phyllis Min, who managed Senator Dan Inouye's appropriations funding for Hawaii.  She got confused about priorities, so one day called a meeting at the Prince Kuhio Federal Building of key constituents.  It was alarming that Hawaiian Electric, major corporations and consulting firms dominated the pecking order.  Not only was the University of Hawaii near the bottom, but the PICHTR and HNEI were not even high on the campus' list.  I thus found a way to scuttle further discussion and personally worked with her for my needs.

Another key individual in the conceptualization of the Blue Revolution was State Senator Richard Matsuura.  He and I co-authored a paper on this subject for the First International Workshop on Very Large Floating Structures in 1991.  In many ways, this was the first official mention of the Blue Revolution in a conference proceeding.  Senator Matsuura had a PhD in agriculture and had worked with Norman Borlaug on the Green Revolution, which won a Nobel Prize in 1970.    Then in 1992 I ghost-wrote THE AMERICAN BLUE REVOLUTION for Senator Inouye in Sea Technology.

Also in 1992 Joe Vadus, chief ocean technologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, and I co-chaired a workshop sponsored by NSF and NOAA on the Blue Revolution, where the distinguished group arrived at the following conclusions:
  • The optimal size of the first floating platform to conduct experiments would be abut one hectare or 2.5 acres or 100,000 square feet.
  • There are huge food, energy, materials and ocean space benefits, with a potential for positively affecting the environment.
  • Certainly, the Ultimate Ocean Ranch, as one of the promising ventures, could reverse the current trend where fisheries were  in decline.
  • International cooperation will facilitate progress.
  • The enterprise would take half a billion dollars, about half the cost of a B-2 bomber.
  • The key to the whole system would be an OTEC system.
The Blue Revolution team has chaired other workshops/conferences, and here are just three more:
In fact, we led the way for the following gatherings just on artificial upwelling:
  • First National Science Foundation Workshop on Engineering Solutions for Utilization of Exclusive Economic Zone Resources (Hawaii, October 1986)--after this gathering I joked that if Texas and Hawaii counted our EEZ space, Hawaii was twice the size of Texas
  • EPA/NOAA Planning Workshop on Mitigation of Global Climate Change (Hawaii, March 1989)
  • NSF and Republic of China National Science Council International Workshop on Artificial Upwelling and Mixing in Coastal Waters (Taiwan, June 1989)
  • NSF and Japan Science and Technology Agency Workshop on Artificial Upwelling (Hawaii, March 1990)
  • NSF First International Workshop on Engineering Research Needs for Off-Shore Mariculture Systems (Hawaii, September 1991)
  • NSF Franco-American Program Development Workshop on Ocean Engineering, Marine Biotechnology and Mariculture (Maryland, October 1991)
The point is that a lot of thought from ocean experts around the world has gone into planning for the Blue Revolution.  For the few really into this crusade, a summary in the Blue Revolution Hawaii blog site citing their activities:
  • A 20-minute presentation I gave at a Seasteading Institute gathering San Francisco on the Pacific International Ocean Station.
I so much have faith in the Blue Revolution as the next economic frontier for Humanity in Harmony with the Environment that three years ago I donated my penthouse apartment to the University of Hawaii to catalyze the development of this concept.  I dream that the programs generated by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute will someday trigger the design and operation of the Pacific Ocean International Station.

Yet, the reality is that the Blue Revolution has actually been the Blue Evolution.  My current feeling is that we might be generations away from any kind of major break out.

For now, though, I continue to fantasize, but still envision a torus, more in the conformity of a bicycle tire than the below donut, as the initial shape:


Our POI Station has a projected budget of $1.5 billion, "only" 1% the cost of the International Space Station, for which $150 billion has resulted in a shiny large satellite which will not produce any major commercial product and is destined to crash back to Planet Earth in a decade or so.  

Mentioned earlier, what has been lacking for this almost mystical POI Station is significant funding.  As countries and companies do not seem capable of thinking so large, clearly the solution will need to be an imaginative mega-billionaire seeking a legacy to create a parallel future opportunity to  challenge expensive outer space exploits where there is nothing being offered than romance and danger.

Our next economic frontier is the open ocean, and all the better if we can concomitantly enhance the environment.  Tomorrow, how you could well be that special individual to lead the way.

-
Tropical Cyclone Gita remains at  135 MPH and has battered a few low-lying islands south of Fiji.


However, Nadi and Suva escaped serious trouble.  Next, perhaps Vanuatu and New Caledonia.  However, Gita is expected to somewhat weaken over time.

-

No comments: