Total Pageviews

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Let me be brutally honest and say there is no major potential for wave power.  Yes, of course, a few installations over the next few decades will successfully feed electricity into the local grid, but will wave power, say, approach 10% of all electricity produced by the year 2100?  Even though it is reported that the theoretical amount of the available resource exceeds current worldwide usage, I think there are too many impacting negative factors facing this option.  But I could be wrong, so let me attempt to provide a broad perspective.

In my book focusing on renewable energy, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, I indicated that the UK estimated that 0.1% of the energy inherent in offshore waves could supply the world's energy needs five time over.  However, I ended with:

My personal assessment of wave power is to wait and see. I am not optimistic.

Part of my pessimism is based on failures.  For example, the world's first wave farm just north of Porto, Portugal, went into operation in 2008, using three Pelamis wave energy converters.  Just two months later, the effort collapsed.  There is doubt about any second phase.

Thus, first, some contravening factors:
  • More than two decades ago I was on flight to Tonga with a researcher from the Florida Solar Energy Center.  He was on his way to assess the potential of wave power for the country.  He never survived his first survey dive.  Last year it was reported that ARGOenvironmental of New Zealand was negotiating a power purchase agreement with Tonga for a 1 MW wave energy project.
  • It will be nearly impossible for a wave energy system to survive a hundred year storm...UNLESS IT IS PROPERLY PROTECTED.  And here is the fatal flaw.  You can almost always build to withstand disaster.  The Fukushima nuclear reactors (above) would have survived if the walls were thicker and 25 feet taller.  But how can you justify such costs for something that  has never before happened?  Wavepower devices can be designed to withstand virtually anything, but that could double or triple the already high cost.  Wind energy conversion devices have fallen apart.    Simply, water is 859 times denser than air.  
  • The local paper yesterday described a 20kW Azura wave buoy to be tested at the Wave Energy Test Site of the University of Hawaii off the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base.  I have friends who have 20 kW solar photovoltaic installations on their roof.  The maintenance is minimal.  Can you imagine what it will cost to keep this system to the right going for 20 years?  Then, of course, there will be days when there will be no waves.
  • Energy Informative gives some pluses and minuses.  The major bad is cost:
    • Unknown, now high, but potential for competitiveness at larger scale and dependability.
    • Maintenance.
A key question is what will it cost to produce electricity from a wave power system?  A study reported by Dong-hyeon Park from Seoul National University indicates that:
  • Oceanlinx's Oscillating Wave Column Plant someday will be able to generate electricity for 9.2 cents/kWh
  • Pelami Wave Plant will ultimately do it for 10.4 cents/kWh
As electricity ranges from 33 cents/kWh on Oahu to 45 cents/kWh on Lanai, wow, why doesn't Hawaii immediately jump into wave energy?  Wave energy is today still very expensive.

So returning to Dr. Park's assessment above, it is my contention that any developing renewable electrical generation system almost always at maturity and large scale will be projected to produce electricity for less than 10 cents/kWh.    That is a general rule of future energy sources.  Proponents can justifiably speculate to their advantage. When I first worked on fracking for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 70's: 
  • When oil sold for $3/barrel, we said, if only oil prices were to double, we could produce cost-effectively.  
  • With the energy crises, oil shot up to $10/barrel.  
  • We then indicated, if petroleum came up to $12/barrel, surely, our fracking system would be competitive.  
  • Well, oil is now somewhere north of $100/barrel, and fracking, indeed, is a success.
  • I might add that I then went on to work for the U.S, Senate in 1979, and was instrumental in passing various pieces of legislation promoting fracking, something that I today regret.  (READ the paragraph to the right of Senator Scoop Jackson--after you click on that)
There are two points to underscore here:
  1. Never accept the future cost of any energy source as cost-effective if provided by an advocate of the resource.
  2. On the other hand, they could be right should conditions significantly change to their advantage.  If global warming becomes a true crisis, a severe carbon tax will be invoked.  Then, some of the more marginal options will definitely be commercialized.  It is, thus, worthwhile to have various alternatives ready for implementation.
A compilation of negatives from Conserve Energy Future:
    • Only suitable for certain locations
    • Effect of marine ecosystem
    • Source of disturbance for private and commercial vessels (I might add, surfers)
    • Wavelength
    • Weak performance in rough weather (and, I might add, potentially cataclysmic)
    • Noise and visual pollution (I can't imagine what would be the noise pollution)
Among the favorable points for wave energy include:
  • The capacity factor (% of time energy is supplied divided by nameplate figure) could be as  high as 40%
    • solar photovoltaic in Arizona = 20% (the sun does not shine all the time)
    • windfarms = 20% - 40%
    • coal power plants = 40% - 70%
    • nuclear reactor = 70%-90%
  • Zero carbon dioxide emission 
  • From Conserve Energy Future
    • Renewable
    • Environmentally friendly
    • Abundant and widely available
    • Variety of mechanisms
    • Predictable
    • Less dependency on foreign oil
    • No damage to land
So what should be the strategy for wave power?  Universities should continue to provide wave energy test centers to assist companies and the federal governments of the world should provide supportive funds.  In consideration of the enormity of our future energy and environmental problems anticipated, even wave power deserves some consideration.  

I reported on the Hawaii efforts (above), but Oregon State also has a program:

The State of Oregon has long been progressive in advancing this option.  In the Atlantic, there is the Center for Ocean Renewable Energy (CORE) operated by the University of New Hampshire:

The unquestioned world leader,  however, is Scotland, where a partnership between the national government and various companies has leveraged the research conducted by  universities.  Stephen Salter (above to the right in 1974) from the University of Edinburgh, is legendary with his Salter Duck.  I dropped by his "tank" for a chat  when I long ago spent some time on their campus.  The latest Marine Energy News issue of the Scottish Enterprise reports:

  • Seatricity's Oceanus 2 device (above) is ready to be deployed at Wave Hub in Hayle, and if testing is successful, they will manufacture 60 devices.
  • The Crown Estate (hey, this is Queen Elizabeth II) has approved six new wave and tidal demonstration zones and five new wave/tidal project sites, each with a potential to deliver 10-30 MW.
  • From Yahoo, a report by Transparency Market Research claims that the global wave/tidal energy mart could worth $10.1 billion in 2020.  Keep in mind, though, that the current numbers are 200 companies and assorted research groups operating on $25 million.
  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will test wave devices at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (Oregon State University).
As bullish I have been for OTEC and less than so for wave energy, let me nevertheless predict that wave energy will beat OTEC to commercialization.  While the long term prospects for OTEC is cornucopially monumental, getting to that first enterprise has been elusive.  Conversely, a 1 MW wave system should be financeable under current practice.  OTEC will begin to develop slowly, at first only because of co-product needs.  Note that wave energy ONLY produces electricity, which provides no distractions.  Luis Vega (right) of the University of Hawaii is the world authority on this subject.  A commercial 100 MW plantship will cost at least a billion dollars, and only if the $/MW hour total cost for a proposed 1 MW facility today can be reduced by a factor of seven.  Interest rates, of course, can be determining.  Today, great.  Tomorrow?

The bottom line is that investors do not have a current mechanism to fully fund such an ambitious enterprise.  Keep an eye, though, on Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation, for they have some innovative finance concepts being advanced.

Alternative Energy has a Wave Power site, and you click on it to learn a lot more about this option.  Wikipedia has a readable summary.

Tropical Storm Halong, now at 65 MPH way east of the Philippines, will strengthen into a Category 3 and head for Japan:

There are six ocean storms, but Halong is the only one of any consequence:


Monday, July 28, 2014


I went to see two new movies yesterday:
  • Lucy. with Scarlet Johansson, earned $44 million this weekend as the #1 grossing film.  Someone forgot to tell the reviewers and audience, for Rotten Tomatoes  gave this film 59% and 52% ratings, respectively.
  • And So It Goes, with Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas, took in a measly $4.5 million and came in at #8.  This should be a disaster of a film, for Rotten Tomatoes gave it 15% and 45% ratings.
The former was intense, bloody, brutal, well-crafted and entertaining.  The latter, a fluffy comedy that I actually enjoyed more than Lucy.  When I eat, I combine hot and cold, sweet and sour...contrasts.  This double-bill featured totally opposite productions.  Just my type of staging.

Lucy (so named because Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was playing on the radio when she was found), one of our earliest ancestors 3.2 million years ago, is to the left.  Lucy, from the movie, could well be our final female, and I can't say why, or I would be giving away too much.  For the record, Ardi (right, from her scientific name, Aridipithecus ramidus), 4.4 million years ago, is the current oldest female.  All these early hominids seem to be women.

Lucy kind of reminded me of a 1968 film, Charly, where Cliff Robertson won an Oscar.  This would be a fine twin-bill I'll need to add to my list.  I'm putting together film combinations to someday watch, perhaps as a 15 Craigside regular feature.  A typical example would be Casablanca, followed by Play It Again, Sam (where Diane Keaton played the equivalent of Ingrid Bergman, with Woody Allen, coached by Bogie).

Not much more worth saying about And So It Goes, except that Diane Keaton again croons.  Watch her singing for a nightclub owner, played by that Frankie Valli.  For nostalgia, click on Seems Like Old Times, from her 1977 Oscar performance in Annie Hall (Woody Allen got an Oscar nomination for his acting).  She most definitely is 37 years older.

Michael Douglas, who will be 70 (Keaton is two years younger) in September looks good for someone who was diagnosed with stage IV (the worst there is) tongue cancer four years ago and lost 32 pounds  He was very descriptive on  how he thinks he contracted this ailment.  He also owns an Oscar for his 1987 role as Gordon Gecko.


Sunday, July 27, 2014


During these past few weeks I have posted on a range of stuff related to your health:
Let me start today with Niacin.  Yes, this Vitamin B3 (this was the third B vitamin, found in 1943) does appear to boost levels of good high density lipoprotein and lower triglycerides, and, perhaps even lower bad low density lipoprotein.  Also this acid (chemically called nicotinic acid) appeared to relieve pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.  There is a reason why they sound the same:  nicotinic acid (right) results on the oxidation of nicotine.  Should you be concerned.  Nah.

Insufficient niacin causes pellagra, and, not to scare you, but this is an ailment starting with diarrhea and dermatitis, leading to dementia and death.  However just about any modern diet provides sufficient niacin.

The recommended daily allowance is 18 mg/day for males and 13 mg/day for women.  However, those on Niacin take 35 mg/day.  Sounds extreme to me, but to combat cholesterol, some take as much as 3,000 mg/day.  Niacinamide is an alternative for those who flush.

As niacin is a natural pill, drug companies cannot patent it and jack up the price.  A bottle of a hundred 1000 mg capsules purchased over the counter only costs around $7.  However, 90 tablets of 1000 mg extended release Niaspan tablets, sold by Abbot, can cost more than $500.  In other words, use judgement about what kind of Niacin to take.  One can only wonder whether this issue is symptomatic of medical plans supporting pharmaceutical companies.

WORST YET, TWO LATEST STUDIES ARE LEADING TO DOCTORS NOW INDICATING THAT NIACIN IS TOO RISKY FOR ROUTINE USE!!!  First, it was confirmed that Niacin does not prevent any heart problems.  But that's almost the good news, for there seems to be a troubling  (but only tiny) rise in deaths among Niacin users.  While maybe only incidental, NIASPAN appeared to induce more strokes.  Interestingly enough, Abbot paid half of one study, said to cost $52 million, and sales of this formulation for them approached $1 billion last year.

This is certainly not the end of Niacin, nor Niaspan.  The results were preliminary and additional investigations will provide confirming clues.  In the meantime, you Niacin/Niaspan takers need to talk to your personal physician.

I find the above to be disturbing in many ways.  However, I may have good news for some of you, especially me:  FASTING MAY NOT BE NEEDED BEFORE FUTURE BLOOD TESTS FOR CHOLESTEROL.  I find that my blood pressure jumps when I am hungry.  This could well be a potential life-saving change for me.

Basically, in 2011 a study was run for 200,000 blood tests in Calgary, Canada.  Here were the results between fasting and eating:
  • 2% difference for total cholesterol and HDL
  • 10% for LDL
  • 20% for triglycerides
Is this significant?  Authors of this study indicated that fasting for routine lipid (those above bulletized items) level determinations is largely unnecessary.  So when will my blood-takers heed this study?  Don't know.

But more so, I will be eternally grateful if medical science can derive the results of my blood test without drawing any of my blood.  Surely enough, non-evasive developments seem on the horizon, as there is a hint of a wrist band that can provide this information.

There continue to be four storms in the East Pacific, all headed for Hawaii:

However, only the one on the extreme right, Tropical Storm Hernan, currently at 70 MPH, will become a hurricane:


Saturday, July 26, 2014


Yesterday, I suggested that ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) could well remediate global warming.  Today, I extend the benefit further with a contention that OTEC can also  neutralize hurricanes (and cyclones and typhoons).   I use neutralize, for the effect might well be two-fold:  prevent the formation of this damaging storm and diminish the severity if one forms.

It must have been twenty years ago that I gave a talk on this subject in Taipei, and a comment came from the audience:  But a typhoon is how we get most of our drinking water.  I made a snide comment about a future ability of scientists to reduce the storm so they got the rain, but not the high winds.  Well, just this past week, Typhoon Matmo stormed over Taiwan, and probably caused the crash of a TransAsia Airways flight, killing 48.

For global climate change, the concept sounds worthy, but the value is nebulous.  How much carbon credit should this process gain?  With hurricanes, the damage is definite.  Katrina (left) in 2005?  $125 billion! Sandy in 2012?  $50 billion.  In 1970 Cyclone Bhola killed, perhaps, half a million in India.  Last year, Super Typhoon Haiyan overwhelmed the Philippines, with maximum gusts up to 235 MPH.  Worse, these typhoons seem to be getting stronger and stronger.

Back again to a paper I co-wrote on Artificial Upwelling for Environmental Enhancement:
  • More and stronger hurricanes form with warmer temperatures, and with global warming, it can only get worse.
  • A 2 F drop in ocean surface temperatures can prevent the generation of a hurricane.
  • In 1993 at the Department of Commerce (operates NOAA) in DC I co-chaired a summit to discuss the potential of OTEC systems to minimize or prevent hurricanes.
    • In addition to the Feds and academics, representatives were there from General Dynamics and Lockheed.
    • Ambitiously, we designed a plan to finance and operate up to 500 floating OTEC plantships, each at 1000 MW.
I won't even mention the cost, but you would think that, in light of regular multi-billion dollar damages, a few hundred thousand dollars to initiate a program could be warranted.  Nope...nothing happened.

What about the more limited task of using artificial upwelling to reduce the effect of a moving hurricane?  A decade and more ago, I was advising an individual in New Jersey on his efforts to accomplish this task.  After a few years I finally convinced him that the federal government would not spend significant funds for this purpose, and that no company would bother to try because there are no profits involved.

But, aha, along came Bill Gates and Ken Caldeira in 2009.  They, and their team, actually filed five patents to reduce the danger of approaching hurricanes. either by cooling ocean temperatures, as above, spraying seawater into the atmosphere (left), etc.  Hurricane luminaries, people like William Gray and Kerry Emanuel, belittled the plans.  The world is not yet ready for geoengineering.

In any case, they all missed the point.  The concept actually might work, but no one has tens of billions to carry out the full-scale plan.  UNLESS the hardware is but a portion of a floating platform also generating income.  Reduction of hurricanes will never be attempted as a stand-alone mega-project.  However, as a co-product of the Blue Revolution, that is exactly what I have been advocating for more than two decades.  Click on  any of my Huffington Post articles on this subject (there are four), or link to the Blue Revolution Hawaii site, especially the Pacific International Ocean Station.  Better yet, click on my 20 minute presentation to a gathering sponsored by the Seasteading Institute.

Today, I walked the road to Mandalay, a Chinese restaurant:

There was a one-year old birthday party for Mason, but I was squeezed into a table at the window in a small side room.  Unfortunately, a loud band was playing when I entered (and continued playing until I left).  What was the problem?  I was sitting on the other side of the wall behind the drummer:

Fortunately, though, the meal was fabulous.  I ordered dried scallop soup, bok choy with oyster sauce and Shanghai dumplings, accompanied by a Tsingtao beer:

After three cupfuls of soup, I hardly changed the level of the bowl.  This combination was enough for three people, or more, but only cost me, with tax and tip, $33.  So I walked home a container of bok choy in scallop soup.  I'm already looking forward to my next meal of this delicious concoction.