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Is There Enough Renewable Ocean Energy?

10.21.2003   Ann Marie Harmony, Executive Director, CEO, Practical Ocean Energy Management Systems, Inc.

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80 Comments

The US consumes roughly 25%, or one quarter, of the world’s annual electrical power output. Between 60 and 80% of all electricity outside the United States powers lightbulbs. The Department of Energy (DOE) found that lighting accounts for about 7% of total energy use in the U.S. (electricity, natural gas, gasoline, etc.).

75% of the energy used in North America comes from the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels. North American homes alone use over $40 billion worth of fuel and $75 billion worth of electricity every year. That energy use emits 25,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, per house, per year.

Certainly in our current paradigm of energy dilemma, we have made little or insufficient progress towards a posited world demand of 10 terawatts by the year 2050. Why?

The same solutions available to us now were on the table over 30 years ago - fission, fusion, fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells. Significant public and private financing has been provided in each instance, yet we have made very little progress towards our goals. Often existing infrastructure is held accountable as the culprit for blocking progress.

We have seen time and time again that when the question is altered, the elegant solution manifests extremely quickly. Hence, the nearly immediate and worldwide acceptance then demand for technology involving radio, television, Internet (as an example). The same is true of antibiotics and sanitation in the field of healthcare. Clearly what is required is a paradigm shift in our thinking- the kind of intuitive leap that Milo Farnsworth was able to achieve in understanding the basis for color television by plowing circles in the dirt.

Waves, currents are a universal phenomenon, and fairly pervasive on earth.

"The oceans cover a little more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface. This makes them the world's largest solar energy collector and energy storage system. According to the World Energy Council, the global energy available from wave energy conversion is 2 TWh/yr. Tapping just 0.2 percent of this energy would satisfy the current global demand for electricity." - Anthony T. Jones, Ph.D.

Moreover, the above does not take into account the four remaining sources of renewable ocean energy:

  1. Tides
  2. Currents
  3. Temperature gradient (OTEC)
  4. Salinity gradient

By commercializing and focusing on extensive renewable ocean energy applications, I believe the upcoming generations will be able to come to a better understanding of the reception, transmission, dispersion and conversion of energy/matter.

Meanwhile, harnessing the ocean affords key sustainable global solutions:

  • Coastal stabilization
  • Water quantity & quality
  • Air quality
  • Waste management
  • Energy storage
  • Mariculture
  • Fisheries renewal
  • Beach and job creation
  • Climate management
  • As well as grid and transport power

Roughly one-sixth of the world’s population, 1.1 billion people, lack access to safe water. Today, 31 countries are short of water. Many others have shortages in certain parts, like the United States and China. By the year 2025, the number of countries with water shortages will grow to 48. Seawater desalination provided by low-cost ocean energy is an answer.

Europe and Asia have benefited from their investment in clean energy over the past 10 years by having measurably cleaner airspace, whereas America's airspace has deteriorated over the same 10 years. Current electricity production is responsible for some 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency could save America an additional $200 billion each year - and all we have to do is be as efficient as what Western Europe and Japan are already doing.

Fossil fuel imports are the number one US trade deficit, seafood is number 2. Here is a municipal revenue model utilizing ocean energy.

How many ways does one need to look at the facets of ocean energy management to realize it is a diamond in the rough? We need to restructure our perceptions of how the world is to get where we need to go. Ocean energy may not be ultimately enough - but it could be an invaluable and irreplaceable approach in garnering an optimal understanding of energy collection and management in our universe.

Copyright 2004 CyberTech, Inc.

Readers Comments

Date Comment
John K. Sutherland
10.21.03
Ann, The answer to your question in the title is yes. However, like wind and solar energy, ocean energy is too dilute and may never recover its cost of attempted extraction. Tidal power has long interested many people. Tidal water wheels were in use in the middle ages and I believe that the last one (U.K.) was retired just a few decades ago. Tidal power, like wind and solar, probably has niche applications in those regions where there is no grid and little alternative. The tides of Fundy were of great interest in the 1920s and 1930s and since, but have always been shelved as too expensive to develop, considering their intermittency. You cannot build an industrial society on a power source that is available only for a few hours that migrate around the clock, at least not without reliable alternative supply. This is the same problem that causes wind supply to be a problem - you need reliable backup and to get it, you have to sink a lot of capital into providing it. Doubling the capital cost of a project to get reliable supply is not socially responsible. Juggling water flows in different basins to have more consistent supply still does not make it, but raises the costs for fewer megawatts. Practical experience in France and Russia and a few other minor projects (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) generally show that tides are interesting and impressively powerful, but do not cut it. All other sources of ocean energy are even more dilute and dispersed and in the wrong place - the ocean - rather than where they are most needed.

David Nickerson
10.22.03
comment to JKS.. i would have two exceptions to the distribution assumption. The first is that what all power grids need is distributed power and not large blocks that require T&D upgrades. Small amounts of power for local consumption serves us the best. The second is that OTEC or ocean thermal energy is found in substantial levels near large population centers. If the heat exchange efficiencies can be improved, then this is where the action is and more development should be funded in the area.

Jack Ellis
10.22.03
The author needs to very carefully review her statistics. US electricity production and consumption is on the order of 3,000 TWh per year. 2 TWh is enough to supply average demand in California for something less than 3 days.

Renewable resources have interesting potential, but they are cost-prohibitive compared with oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear resources. Until we come much closer to exhausting conventional energy stock, power from waves, tides and ocean temperature differentials will remain lab experiments rather than viable alternatives.

Ron Rebenitsch
10.22.03
I'm curious about the author's claim that the US airspace has deteriorated over the last 10 years. As pollution requirements have tightened over the years, the government is telling us the air is cleaner. Would like to see the author substantiate this claim.

John K. Sutherland
10.23.03
Ron, the problem with perceptions of pollution, arises from our ability to detect parts per trillion of everything today (chasing a receding zero, thanks to zero tolerance), rather than the parts per thousand that were common 150 years ago. Some people think (or would like us to think) that detection equates with harm. For example, I'll take the drinking water supply with its hundreds of pollutants today at the atom and molecule level, over the water of yesterday with its non-detected major sewage and bacteria content any day. By all measures of the past and even now to some minds, yesterday's water (and air) seems less polluted. A good site for this is: http://www.pacificresearch.org. In the environmental category is the eighth edition of a must-read publication that gives you the data. '2003 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators'

Ann Marie Harmony
10.23.03
John and Ron "There are lies, damned lies and statistics...." -Mark Twain.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 120 million Americans — more than 40 percent of the population — currently live in areas of the country that violate minimum air pollution health standards.

Disclaimer: I never measured this myself...but it appears to be a good idea. -Ann Marie Harmony

John- I'm all for informed discussion- I published CATO Institute's http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-280.html Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not "Green" by Robert L. Bradley Jr here: http://www.poemsinc.org/links.html#criticalthought

Please fly through the POEMS website and get yourself updated and informed on renewable ocean energy. 50% of the US population lives within 50 miles of the coast. Tidal is the oldest and for the time being as we understand the ocean energy paradigm (which was the whole point of the article- we need to revisit this "too dilute" energy source- we don't have the right understandings yet) the least available for power conversion. I have a table http://www.poemsinc.org/industry.html#Int which needs to be updated that compares the international ocean resource.

http://www.aceee.org/press/01carbonscorecard.pdf The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released a scorecard outlining the recent findings. The United States continues to fall behind its industrialized allies in controlling carbon emissions, according to a recent European Union report. While EU countries' carbon emissions fell from 1990 to 2000, U.S. emissions rose 14 percent. Carbon is believed to be one of the primary causes of global warming and makes up a high percentage of air pollution in the United States. cited by POEMS http://www.poemsinc.org/cause.html THis is also an informative article http://cta.policy.net/cusc/faq/?PROACTIVE_ID=cecfcfcccacec9c6cdc5cecfcfcfc5cececec9c8c8c7cccacac5cf Preliminary studies comparing the costs and benefits of cleaning up power plant air pollution show that for every dollar spent on power plant cleanup, between $2 and $5 dollars will be saved in medical costs

Jack- 1 terawatt = 1,000,000,000,000 Watts 1 gigawatt = 1,000,000,000 Watts 1 megawatt = 1,000,000 Watts 1 kilowatt = 1,000 Watts

terawatt- that's a trillion watts. Some say current energy use worldwide is between 10 and 12 of these. 30 years ago it was posited we'd be at 10 by 2050.

David- OTEC needs steam to drive turbines- so it needs a source of very cold- (not always close to major population centers- unless you consider Hawaii a major population center....) and a source of water/heat that is at least 35F higher. You are right about the need for waste heat conversion efficiencies ( perhaps the Great Lakes or water in deep trenches off the Pacific coast?). Getting the two temps together efficiently and cost effectively has been the problem. http://www.poemsinc.org/FAQOTEC.html

The ocean among other things is a significant gravity collection and management system. Gravity is big in the universe even though we still fail to understand it efficiently and are relegated to Newtonian principles. Bigger than carbon- bigger even than higher density forms of energy- like stars, the sun or even the moon. My subtle article theme was- not that there was insufficient energy in the ocean- but insufficient thought had been given by mankind to harnessing it. It might not give us all we may one day require- but we have failed to scratch the surface of this immediately accessible energy workbench. Costs of extraction? What about costs of remediation for more traditional fuel sources? Right now ocean energy is running neck and neck with wind- 1millionplus per megawatt in capital and 4-7 cents per kwh. The sun never sets on the world's ocean and gravity never quits either.

Keep the comments coming!

Best, Ann Marie

jim glennon
10.25.03
You're citing ACEEE? Did they score Indonesia? How about India? Acording to the Britsh study reported in SCIENCE NEWS last November, 40% of the world's excess CO2 is coming from the fires burning in New Guinea, Indonesia, Borneo...and India. All of whom are burning their forests as fast as possible to catch up with the so called,"industrialized World".

In the article it describes the Indonesian view from space..."Smoke from what looks like 3 or 4 volcanoes."...and this has been going on for years.....tons upon tons of CO2 directly into our air.

2% of the worlds excess CO2 is coming from automobiles....and heavy industry. So much for Kyoto.

Jim Glennon

Next time you want to condemn the USA and other industrialized countries, just remember that it is their technology that is solving this situation.

Oh, by the way...Europe is producing less CO2 because they are shutting down many of their factories...moving them to China. Did ACEEE report on China? No...it is considered a third world "developing" country. So much for accurate information.

Sasi Stephen
10.26.03
Dear Mr. John, are you so sure that the cost cannot be recovered? Is USD 25 mill investment for a 100 MW unit recoverable. Can be done if my assumptions and calculations are correct. Further the cost of fuel has to rise substantially, in the near future, which will increase the cost of power. Isn't better to start things rolling now, so that we have the resources for setting up generation units then. Sasi Stephen diffthrust@rediffmail.com

Paul Kistler
10.27.03
Ann,

The DOE estimates that in 2003 the United States will generate 3,836 billion kilowatthours (Kwh) of electricity. See http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/usa.html#elec. If my math is correct, this converts to 3.8 terawatthours (TWh). Your article states that "...the global energy available from wave energy conversion is 2 TWh/yr. Tapping just 0.2 percent of this energy would satisfy the current global demand for electricity". 0.2 percent of 2 TWh is 0.004 TWh. According to my calculations this is only 0.1 percent of the electricity consumed by the United States. Assuming that the United States consumes 25% of the worlds electrical output as you state and which I believe is roughly correct, then the world consumes roughly 15.3 TWh/yr. 0.004 TWh is 0.00026 percent of this total.

Paul Kistler

Peter Manos
10.28.03
Ann, just to amplify Paul's 10.27 correction above, your reply to Jack about energy units talks about power (watts), while the pertinent section of your article talks about energy (watt-hours)--where you say "According to the World Energy Council, the global energy available from wave energy conversion is 2 TWh/yr."

Regardless of whether it is T, G, M or K in front, that little "h" at the end makes it energy, not power, and you'll make big mistakes if you do not distinguish the two. Energy is the delivery of power over time, and is analogous to your car's odometer, while power is the instantaneous capacity to deliver energy, and is more akin to the speedometer.

John K. Sutherland
10.28.03
All, I sometimes find it easier to go at the math from at least two directions, as I also get too easily confused by the math. Let's assume that we have a 250 MW (electrical) facility operating at 80% efficiency. It produces 200 MW of electricity (on average) each hour. In one day, it produces 4800 MWh of electricity. In one year if produces 1.75E6 MWh of electricity. This 1.75E6 MWh is also 1.75E3 Gigawatt hours, or 1.75 Terrawatt hours (not that much energy in the large scale of things). This is very different from a Terrawatt year, which is actually 8.76E3 TWh.

The 3,836 billion kilowatt hours (3,836E9 kWh - assuming that we are not assuming that the comma is the decimal point as in some of Europe), or 3.836E12 kWh of electricity quoted for the US by Paul for the DOE estimate, is also the same as 3.836E9 MWh, (3 point eight etc) which is the same as 3.83..E6 GWh, which is the same as 3.83..E3 TWh. This is pretty well the electrical output of about 500 large electrical production facilities operating continuously for a year, which is also about the expected output for the U.S.

Peter Manos
10.28.03
Thanks John--you are correct that a Terrawatt year would convert to 8,760 TWh if we are talking about 100% constant demand (from the perspective of an electric load) or 100% availability (from the perspective of the output of generating units). And everyone needs to be clear that the annual ENERGY measure in the original quote -- 2 TWh / year -- is read as "per year" versus "hyphen-year" and so it is not the same as the CAPACITY or POWER measure of a Terrawatt-year. The error in mixing these units is a factor of 8760.

Paul Kistler
10.28.03
Oops! Looks like it is time to get a new battery for the calculator. 3,836 billion kilowatthours (Kwh) converts to 3,836 Twh. I missed the "kilo" in the DOE's info. 0.004 Twh is 0.0001 percent of this. If we are talking world wide then the total electrical energy generated in a year is 15,344 Twh and .004 Twh is 0.000026 percent of this. My point is still the same, it 2 Twh/yr is all of the power from wave conversion that is available, it will not even come close to supplying the entire U.S. with even one percent of it's energy requirement, much less supply the entire world with 100% of it's energy requirement.

**** ****
10.28.03
Patrick Doss-Smith; The point of the article was to ask, Why not give it another look? True to form, those of you with interests in getting more money in YOUR pockets have managed to confuse us all by double talk and lots of math. I'm impressed by your knowledge. However, I am struck by your lack of wisdom. The ocean, like any other energy source (or power source, so that I'm not accused of not understanding the difference) is less than perfect. So what! We have a worlwide problem in the fact that our current energy systems are; A. insufficient and B. too darn dirty. So, all you intelligent folks, quit arguing semantics and thouroughly review ALL possibilities. You have to start by admitting that its a possibility (this would be considered wisdom) and after that apply your knowledge. By the way, keep in mind that every action you take is connected to everything on the Earth and will have an effect, either positive or negative, on all life and not just your pocketbooks.

David Nickerson
10.28.03
Ann

OTEC does not require steam. Most low heat power generation systems use vapor turbines. Steam turbine systems are optimzed for operating temperatures in excess of 800 degrees. OTEC sites would by like a hydro site with transmission access to major grids and not just for Hawaii. If we put some research funds into low temperature heat exchangers and vapor turbines, the payback would benefit all conventional power generation systems in the US. Check out Wow Energy at www.wowenergies.com for some new advances in bottoming cycles

John K. Sutherland
10.28.03
Patrick, We have been continually 'taking another look' for the last 60 years or more with Tidal and ocean potential, and I agree we should keep looking.

It's no use decrying the need for mathematics and accuracy. If we did not do the math we might be hell-bent on building millions of wind power units and solar collectors on roofs (and selling refrigerators to eskimos). Without the math, we do not know what we must know in order to avoid digging a massive trap with social and environmental consequences of draconian proportions. You speak of current energy systems being insufficient and too darn dirty. You might well have added that some of the choices are also too dilute, too unreliable, too unsafe and too expensive. I have the answer for for those of you who should do as you recommend for the rest of us, 'take another look', rather than just telling everyone else to do so: Go nuclear. Its cleaner, safer, cheaper, more reliable, concentrated, effective, and a lot safer than most if not all of the others on all counts. Take a look at the most recent article I wrote for Energy Pulse, as a few thousand others have done. You may not like the data, but they are accurate and available from many other sources. All I did was to pull them together.

Peter Manos
10.28.03
Patrick, your lumping of a discussion of energy vs. capacity math units with greed does not further the exchange of ideas that this forum is intended to promote.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.28.03
Thank you Paul- I will now dispense with that out-of date quote. Hurrah for mathematics and mathematicians, even the fuzzy kind!

Insofar as nuclear John,- we have a problem in that our government will not be accountable- nor the utilities for management of the spent rods. We could bury them in Yucca Mountain- where we know how to dig them up again when we do figure out how to render them entirely harmless. As I understand it, the neighbors have agreed it would be fine with them- as long as someone would remain accountable if things went wrong. NO one wants the longterm risk or the responsibility.

Too- nuclear in its present format is not a great idea for developing countries who maintain appreciably different attitudes than the US about workforce culture, training, community etc. We are all ill equipped to handle catastrophes or disposal issues.

For instance, we could certainly consider putting out the uncontrolled coal fires in China alone would cut CO2 emissions equivalent to the volume produced by all US automobiles in a year. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2003/denver_2003/2759983.stm http://www.itc.nl/personal/coalfire/problem/sub/china_coalfire_map.html

I live in San Diego- for those of you who do not know- we are having terrible fires and have been declared in a state of emergency. The air is like a volcano blew up for the last few days- lots of people wearing masks. Freeways and schools and government offices are closed. People are advised to stay indoors. This atmosphere could be very depressing if it lasted for even a month. The human race is quite knowledgeable and extensively practiced about fire management- comparatively speaking in the field of catastrophes.

The San Diego county fires are still burning- and a new one started today. Everything is covered in a dark gray greasy film of ash. With all the ash floating about- I am relieved not to worry about radioactivity too.

Here is what one person wrote privately:

Aside from the fact that the ocean is a very diffuse energy collector, and a difficult environment in which to build and maintain extraction facilities, there are ecological downsides to large-scale energy extraction. Such extraction has the potential to reduce the rotation rate of the earth, and to change ocean currents, resulting in unforeseeable climatological changes. It is far more practical to reduce population and per capita energy demand. Unless we find a way to beam in energy from space, continued increases in energy uses will eventually render Earth uninhabitable.

Although I am entirely dissatisfied with the millenia-old "chastity belt" mentality I cannot dispute some of his concerns or conclusions.

As a matter of fact one of the POEMS advisors, Dr. Dick LaRosa is researching extracting energy from the currents to slow their progress of warm water to the Arctic ice caps in order to stop present sea level rise.

No doubt about it- humanity demands a quantum deliverable. We have not arrived yet at the elegant solution. In the meantime we really need to come to a better understanding of the reception, transmission, dispersion and conversion of energy/matter. We don't have it yet- but in the interim we certainly could be resolving local problems cleanly and safely and creating needed solutions for our coastal communities.

James Hopf
10.29.03
Ann, the US govt. and nuclear industry have been more "accountable" for their waste stream than any other industry in history. The effort being persued by the industry (as demanded by the politicians) to completely isolate its waste products from the environment, and to assure a negligible possibility of significant release, is absolutely unprecendented. Nuclear is basically being held to a no pollution, and no CHANCE of pollution standard. ALL other industries are allowed to simply dump their wastes into primitive landfills, or directly into our water and air. After the waste is "dumped", the associated industry has absolutely no further responsibility (i.e., accountability).

Nuclear's waste stream problems are not worse than those of other industries; they are vastly smaller. The waste is in the form of a non-dispersible solid (as opposed to a liquid or gas), it remains completely contained in sealed volumes over its entire life (i.e., over the entire process), and it is generated in extremely small volumes compared to other industrial wastes. With respect to waste stream, nuclear power is inheremtly (and vastly) superior to all other industries, let alone power sources. The reason we have been wringing our hands all these decades over the nuclear waste issue is not because the nuclear waste situation is bad, but because it is so GOOD that we've had the luxury of doing so. Other industry's wastes are generated in such huge volumes that we have to immediately find a dumping ground for them, and do not have the luxury of a decades-long philosophical conversation on the absolute best means of diosposal.

Make no mistake, the threat to future generations from our landfills, our chemical waste dumps, and from all the pollution emitted into the air and water are orders of magnitude greater than the threat, or burden, imposed by Yucca Mountain. The reason they're "having so much trouble" disposing of the nuclear waste is not because it is a more serious (or intractable) problem. It is because society has decided (for completely arbitrary reasons) to make unprecendented demands and to apply unprecentented standards, for this one waste stream, that are so vastly different (higher) than those applied to any other endeavor in history, that it is hard to find words to describe. No other industry could ever meet the demands being placed on the nuclear indsutry, with respect to its waste stream.

The nuclear industry has taken accountability to a level never before seen. Nuclear power plants (in the West) have never, over their entire history, emitted any significant pollution into the environment, and have never had any measurable effect on public health. They are not allowed to emit any measurable pollution under normal operations, AND they are required to spend exorbitant amounts to ensure that the risk of an accident is negligible, AND they are required to provide evacuation plans in the event of this (extremely unlikely) accident, AND FINALLY, in the event that all these other measures somehow fail, they are required to pay for insurance to pay out damages to anyone who ever gets sick (or even claims to get sick) from released radiation.

No other industry is required to be accountable like this. Take coal plants for example. Every year, in the halls of Congress, it is acknowledged that coal plant emissions cause 10,000 premature deaths in the US alone, as well as causing ~100 billion in economic costs, such as health costs, etc..... If one merely divides 100 billion by the ~2 trillion kW-hrs of annual coal generated electricity, you get an added cost of ~5 cents/kW-hr. Adding this to coal's current overall kW-hr cost of ~4 cents, you get a whopping increase from four to nine cents!! All of the other major sources could easily compete with that. Problem is, the coal indsutry is NOT asked to pay any kind of compensation to anyone, be it the government or to the families of affected (e.g. killed) individuals. How "accountable" is this? Our (the nuclear) industry could never even imagine getting a free pass like this. Absolutely NO nuclear pollution is allowed to tolerated, period.

In summary, I don't really follow the concept of nobody wanting to take long-term responsibility for nuclear waste. All industries generate waste, and this is an unprecedented requirement for any waste stream. Nobody ever takes "responsibility" for wastes, once they are legally buried. The nuclear industry has been far more responsible, and conciencous, about its waste stream than any other industry in history. More to the point, the overall long-term risks (per kW-hr generated) from nuclear power, including all risks associated with its waste stream, are orders of magnitude less than those of fossil fuels, coal in particular.

Paul Kistler
10.29.03
Patrick, I am an engineer employed by the government, I can assure you that my comments or opinions have nothing to do with getting more money in my pocket. If I can get a certificate of appreciation signed by my supervisor and mounted in a handsome plastic simulated wood frame to hang on the wall of my cubicle at the end of the day, I will be fat, dumb and happy.

I am not sure how “lots of math” confused you. It was a few simple equations utilizing multiplication and division which most of us had mastered by the third grade. Do you have a better way for me to prove the point that wave generators cannot meet 100% of the worlds electric energy needs as claimed by the article? You say you are confused by my double talk. Random House Dictionary defines double talk as “evasive or ambiguous language”. I don’t know how I can be less evasive or less ambiguous than I was by saying that “wave generators will not meet the world’s electric energy needs and here are the numbers that prove it”.

If you want to see an example of evasive and ambiguous language re-read the article:

"The US consumes roughly 25%, or one quarter, of the world’s annual electrical power output. Between 60 and 80% of all electricity outside the United States powers lightbulbs. The Department of Energy (DOE) found that lighting accounts for about 7% of total energy use in the U.S. (electricity, natural gas, gasoline, etc.). "

Can anybody tell me what the heck this is saying? First of all the paragraph is comparing apples to oranges. Percentage of electricity to power light bulbs is not the same as percentage of energy to power lighting. Let’s assume for now that you are comparing apples to apples, what is the point of the statement? Is the author trying to say that the lighting in the U.S. is more efficient? That people in the U.S. go to bed earlier and turn out their lights earlier? That there is more cloud cover in the rest of the world so they use their lighting more frequently? That the U.S. has more factories that use energy for purposes other than lighting? What exactly is the point? I assume that the author thinks that this perceived imbalance in energy use for lighting between the U.S. and the rest of the world is a problem. Why is it a problem? If it is a problem, how will wave generators solve it?

"The same solutions available to us now were on the table over 30 years ago - fission, fusion, fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells. Significant public and private financing has been provided in each instance, yet we have made very little progress towards our goals. Often existing infrastructure is held accountable as the culprit for blocking progress. "

Excuse me? Fusion? Available to us now? Although this technology has been worked on for years, as far as I know it has yet to generate a single net watt even in the laboratory. Hydrogen fuel cells? Although they exist outside of the lab, I have yet to see one that is economically viable.

"We have seen time and time again that when the question is altered, the elegant solution manifests extremely quickly. Hence, the nearly immediate and worldwide acceptance then demand for technology involving radio, television, Internet (as an example). The same is true of antibiotics and sanitation in the field of healthcare. Clearly what is required is a paradigm shift in our thinking- the kind of intuitive leap that Milo Farnsworth was able to achieve in understanding the basis for color television by plowing circles in the dirt. "

Can anyone explain to me what the first sentence is saying? What is the question that is being referred to and how is it being altered? All of the products and technologies referred to in this paragraph when introduced provided economic solutions to a perceived need with no viable alternate product or technology to compete against it. Wave generation is not yet economically viable and it is competing against a whole host of electric generating technologies that are economically viable.

"Roughly one-sixth of the world’s population, 1.1 billion people, lack access to safe water. Today, 31 countries are short of water. Many others have shortages in certain parts, like the United States and China. By the year 2025, the number of countries with water shortages will grow to 48. Seawater desalination provided by low-cost ocean energy is an answer. "

Would you like me to confuse you with math again, or will you just accept my word that this will not work? If you trust me that this will not work, you may skip to the next paragraph, otherwise, fasten your seat belt, ‘cause here we go. Sea Water desalination is a fairly energy intensive process, according to World-Wide-Water (www.World-wide-water.com/Desal.html) it takes between 3.96 and 7.93 kWh/tonne to desalinate sea water using seawater reverse osmosis. If you assume an average of 5.95 kWh/tonne then (5.95 kWh/tonne) X (1 tonne/1.1 ton) X (1 ton/2000 lb.) X (8 lb/1 gal) = .0216 kWh/g

James Hopf
10.29.03
Concerning the potential effects of ocean power (such as OTEC or tidal or wave power), I don't buy into the possiblity of large scale effects on things like ocean currents, the earth's rotation, etc... More generally, however, I do believe that trying to harvest a large amount of energy from these sources could have a significant impact on ocean ecosystems.

The coastal (shallow water) ecosystem is considered to be one of the richest, and most critical ecosystems. People fiercely oppose off-shore oil drilling for this reason. I can't believe that covering large sections of our coastal waters with machinery (e.g. offshore wind farms, wave machines, etc...) will not have an impact on those ecosystems.

All studies of energy source external costs show that the negative effects of coal and oil are higher than those of all other source by more than an order of magnitude. Personally, I believe that the costs of any other source (be it gas, nuclear, wind, wave, tidal, solar, etc....) are quite low by comparison, and frankly aren't worth getting to concerned about (i.e., its all "noise level"). However, if I had to pick between these non-coal/gas sources, I would have to say that, if anything, trying to obtain a large amount of energy from diffuse sources such as these will have a greater overall impact on the biosphere, due to the large "footprint" of the machinery required to gather this diffuse energy.

Harvesting diffuse sources of energy from the biosphere itself will have a greater overall impact than simply extracting high-density, energy bearing materials from beneath the biosphere. Uranium, of couse, is the ultimate example of this, containing about a million times as much energy, per pound, as fossil sources (and therefore, generating one millionth the volume of waste). The energy harvesting/conversion facilities (i.e., the power plants) also have an extremely small footprint.

Once again, however, I think all these issues are "noise level", and all of these environmental "costs" are quite low compared to what we're dealing with today. It all boils down to economics. If people come up with a way to extract energy from the ocean that is economically competative (w/o massive govt. help) than I'd be all for it.

Paul Kistler
10.30.03
Hey, what happened to the rest of my post? I was on a roll. Have I been censured? It must be a conspiracy. And I didn’t even get to finish reporting how many folks we can provide fresh water for by using wave generation. Backing up a little:

"Roughly one-sixth of the world’s population, 1.1 billion people, lack access to safe water. Today, 31 countries are short of water. Many others have shortages in certain parts, like the United States and China. By the year 2025, the number of countries with water shortages will grow to 48. Seawater desalination provided by low-cost ocean energy is an answer. "

Would you like me to confuse you with math again, or will you just accept my word that this will not work? If you trust me that this will not work, you may skip to the next paragraph, otherwise, fasten your seat belt, ‘cause here we go. Sea Water desalination is a fairly energy intensive process, according to World-Wide-Water (www.World-wide-water.com/Desal.html) it takes between 3.96 and 7.93 kWh/tonne to desalinate sea water using seawater reverse osmosis. If you assume an average of 5.95 kWh/tonne then (5.95 kWh/tonne) X (1 tonne/1.1 ton) X (1 ton/2000 lb.) X (8 lb/1 gal) = 0.0216 kWh/gal. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development in the National Geographic Report, UN Highlights World Water Crisis dated June 5, 2003, the minimum recommended quantity of water per person for household and urban use is 26.4 gallons. We will neglect the fact that when unlimited water is available humans use closer to 200 gallons per day. We will also neglect the fact that 70% to 80% of the water used world-wide is used for agriculture or that the water distribution will have an unknown quantity of leakage. From this value calculate the number of kWh/yr required to produce this water. (0.0216 kWh/gal) X (26.4 gal/day/person) X (365 days/yr) = 208 kWh/yr. Now we calculate the number of people than can be provided water using the author’s figure of 0.004 TWh available from wave generation. (0.004 TWh/yr) X (persons/yr / 208/kWh) X (1kWh/1000Wh) X (1012Wh/TWh) = 19,230 persons. Hardly makes a dent in that 1.1 billion people that are without water world-wide. According to the UN in their World Water Development Report issued in March 2003, the problem is really one of water mismanagement not shortage. Seems to me that if we really care that people have enough safe water to drink then a better use of limited funds would be to build more water treatment plants than wasting funds on wave generators which have yet to be fully developed and lack the required capacity.

“Europe and Asia have benefited from their investment in clean energy over the past 10 years by having measurably cleaner airspace, whereas America's airspace has deteriorated over the same 10 years. Current electricity production is responsible for some 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency could save America an additional $200 billion each year - and all we have to do is be as efficient as what Western Europe and Japan are already doing.”

Ditto what Jim said.

“Fossil fuel imports are the number one US trade deficit, seafood is number 2. Here is a municipal revenue model utilizing ocean energy.”

Actually according to the U.S. Department of commerce, seafood was number 9 in 2002 after, in order, petroleum, pharmaceutical preparations, other household goods, TV’s/VCR’s/etc., Toys/games/sporting goods, furniture/household goods/etc., gem diamonds, and computers.

“Current Status:

 Electricity as high as $.13 kwh, using gasoline; pollutes air & water”

Can somebody tell me where there is even a single power plant that runs on gasoline?

“money flows out of the community”

Why does it flow out of the community for conventional power plants but not wave generators?

“OCEAN ENERGY $.04-$.06kwh, less- zero emissions”

According to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism in Honolulu, Hawaii in their January 2002 report Feasibility of Developing Wave Power as a Renewable Energy Resource for Hawaii, they say that claims of $0.03 to $0.04 kWh are very optimistic estimates by proponents who have a vested interest in the technology. Since so few commercial installations have been completed $/kWh are difficult to come by, although the Hawaiian study of several different sites in Hawaii estimated that the cost would be between $0.098 and $0.236 kWh.

Patrick, you say that you are struck by my lack of wisdom. Random House Dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with good judgement”. Who would you say is using wisdom here, someone that does a little research, does the math, thinks independently and arrives at a conclusion supported by facts and data or someone who thinks we should take another look at this technology simply because … uh, why was it you wanted to look at wave generators again? You see Patrick, those of us with wisdom are the one

Paul Kistler
10.30.03
One more time to complete my post:

Patrick, you say that you are struck by my lack of wisdom. Random House Dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with good judgement”. Who would you say is using wisdom here, someone that does a little research, does the math, thinks independently and arrives at a conclusion supported by facts and data or someone who thinks we should take another look at this technology simply because … uh, why was it you wanted to look at wave generators again? You see Patrick, those of us with wisdom are the ones who will continue to solve our evolving energy challenges. Those without wisdom will continue to be a hindrance by directly or indirectly causing our limited and valuable funds and engineering talent to be wasted chasing after perpetual motion machines and snake oil simply because they somehow just “feel”, without any supporting data, that this is what we should be allocating our resources for.

TERRY MEYER
10.30.03
I response to “Nuclear” James Hopf:

>>It is because society has decided (for completely arbitrary reasons) to make unprecendented demands and to apply unprecentented standards, for this one waste stream, that are so vastly different (higher) than those applied to any other endeavor in history, that it is hard to find words to describe.<<

Maybe it’s hard to find words because the standards are not so different. Wait, there is a difference: Slag piles can be insured. Spent nuclear fuel cannot be insured. Granted that if Big Thermal had to pay for the free oxygen they get, or even for mitigating waste heat, nukes might look relatively slightly better than they do now in comparison, but as long as nukes have that infinitely high insurance cost, there will never be any meaningful cost comparison. Get your nuclear waste fully insured then we can talk about what is “arbitrary”.

>>…they are required to spend exorbitant amounts to ensure that the risk of an accident is negligible…<<

Ensure but not Insure. And spending exorbitant amounts on spinning the wheels doesn’t move the car.

>>Nuclear power plants (in the West) have never, over their entire history, emitted any significant pollution into the environment, and have never had any measurable effect on public health.<<

It depends on what your definition of “is”, er, “significant” is. If I were making million$ off it, it would take quite a bit of waste (which takes 10,000 years to neutralize HALF) for me to call it “significant”. Same with “measurable”. Just because the correlation between increased background radiation and increased cancer hasn’t been “measured” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

>>…they are required to pay for insurance to pay out damages to anyone who ever gets sick…<<

Even if this were true, which I doubt, the damages are limited to something less than possible medical costs, not to mention suffering or loss of life. And, just like with all other “insurance”, the victim would have to sue the insurance company to get it – hard to do when one is dead.

Badness of coal is no reason to jump into a nuclear waste pond, but go ahead if you think it’s so wonderful. At least the badness of coal can be mitigated in much less than 10,000 years. 70 years of nuclear power is an extremely limited safety record for poison that will be with us almost forever.

Ms. Harmony is right. We need to open our minds. How about some clean technologies for burning trees? Governor Davis and President Cheney aren’t going to lift a finger to put out forest fires anyway, we might as well get some electricity out of the deal.

Terry Meyer Hamster Wheel Tycoon

Ann Marie Harmony
10.30.03
Paul Kistler- I have contacted EnergyPulse asked that your commentary be reviewed and expunged on the basis of your ad hominem attacks. I am exercising judgement in determining that you and I cannot continue in this public forum to discuss and expand on the points you raised due to the number of accusations, inferences, misunderstandings, and apparently emotionally volatile associations you have created for yourself.

Paul Kistler
10.30.03
What accusations, inferences, and misunderstandings? Is there anything I have said that is incorrect? If you can point it out to me, I will be more than happy to retract the statement. As far as accusations, I believe I was the first one accused of only wanting to put more money in my pockets and of lacking wisdom. Delete my comments if you wish, but your reasons for doing it are very weak at best. If you truly wanted to prove your point you would rebut my comments with verifable facts. Apparently you only want a discussion on this topic if agrees with you. This smacks of censorship.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.30.03
Your provocative attitude, Mr. Kistler, smacks of abuse. You write more to inflame and less to inform. You have introduced conspiracy, mentioned censorship twice. What or who gives you special dispensation so that you can make public, unfounded and untrue allegations about who I am, my associations and what I represent-- and do so with impunity under some blanket authority of protection from censorship?

Peter Manos
10.30.03
Ann, scroll up to 10.28 and you will see two interesting things:

1) Your thanking Paul for an earlier post 2) Patrick questioning the sincerity of the engineers who posted, saying they were greedy and lining their pockets rather than seeking the truth.

So what happened? Paul applied Patrick's criteria and nasty labels to your paper. At least he never accused you of lining your pockets, yet you do not ask for Patrick to be censored.

Patrick aside (thankfully he seems to have censored himself since his insulting post), I believe we are all seeking the truth here. You should be willing to dig deeper rather than take Patrick's tactic of assuming the engineers are out to promote falsehoods or attack your cherished hopes.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.30.03
What we have here is a failure of shared values.

Mine are based on the Golden Rule (yep, Golden is alright by me). Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Near as I can tell a number here are based on Hammurabian devolution and casino game theory- if someone plucks out your eye, turn around and pluck out two from the next fellow down, explaining all the while that the precedent has been set.

Yes I did thank Paul- I made a point to do so in light of the commentary that had been thrown his way. Are you and/or Paul assuming that Patrick and I conspired to be in a league with one another? I don't know him - and I am new to this forum. I began largely uniformed about the prevailing culture but I'm bound to catch up fast.

mauk mcamuk
10.30.03
Heh.

Lively debate, indeed. :)

That said, ocean energy in almost all of the forms I have seen proposed, suffer from catastrophically low EXERGY.

In other words, there are vast quantities of energy in the ocean, but it is of a very low quality. The maximum possible temperature differential (using OTES as an example) in the ocean cannot be more than 100 degrees, and is likely to be less than 40.

By contrast, a gas-fired cogeneration plant (the current exergy champs as far as I am aware) has a firing temperature of up to 1500 degrees, and an exhaust temp of around 500, for a solid 1000 degrees of working enthalpy. Plus, there is then a steam-powered bottoming cycle run by that blistering hot exhaust gas.

(As a note, I am not a fan of any fossil-fired technology, but the cogen plants are good engineering.)

Now, it is possible to overcome low exergy by good engineering, and I feel that current windmill technology is getting close to that point, thanks to heavy subsidies. There is still a long way to go for wind to be truly useful, but it is looking very encouraging.

Frankly, I think ocean power, whether OTES, wave, tidal, or current based is simply too low quality to be made economical with todays tech, or even with reasonable advances.

Of course, I could be wrong. :)

Here's a source for the gas-fired tubines I mention:

http://www.mhi.co.jp/power/e_power/product/turbine/gas/effic/index.html

Fascinating technology.

Peter Manos
10.30.03
Ann, although I do not think you and Patrick were conspiring, I do believe that your last comment or conjecture that some of us do not adhere to the golden rule is as misplaced as Patrick's claim that certain commenters were greedy and lining their pockets.

Really, Ann, what we have here is not, as you claim, a lack of shared values. What we have here is "EnergyPulse --Insight, Analysis and Commentary on the Global Power Industry".

More analysis could strengthen your case. For example I notice above that the 0.2 percent utilization assumption carried down along all the subsequent discussion and calculations--but whywas it originally assumed (by Anthony Jones in your quote) that only 0.2% of the availabe ocean energy could be utilized? It sounded like a potential error - that he may have been referring to a capacity number (8760 times bigger) than an energy number, and then saying--gee all we need is 0.2% of this. The culture in these forums in my experience has been very professional. Hope you don't give up!

Ann Marie Harmony
10.30.03
Renewable ocean energy in any and all of its permutations is no batch of snake oil by any stretch of the imagination. If you solved some of its attendant problems you would be well on your way to resolving many land-based difficulties that confound us today. (sorry Las Vegas- for the horrible air pollution from San Diego fires- some of which are still burning- we're all crossing our fingers and waiting for ocean breezes to disperse all the smoke and ash)

Ocean energy can use the same turbine and bearing manufacturing efficiencies that have benefited the downward trend in costs in the wind industry- and because water is denser, requires 1/4 the surface area or less.

"Since so few commercial installations have been completed $/kWh are difficult to come by" That's right- although Massachusetts just funded tidal turbines for half a million, New Jersey and the Navy funded wave energy conversion, San Francisco agreed to fund $2 million for tidal, and Norwegian Hammerfest in the Arctic circle is building out their existing 300kW tidal current generation facility to 700kW. Additionally the UK in investing substantively in wave and tidal energies, South Korea is building a commercial plant, etc. etc. In the US, financing is the hangup.

For example, if one wants to finance a commercial wave energy project based on IRR to a JV partner, it does not pencil out. If one seeks a government funded loan (not grant) at a reverse IRR backload interest rate, then wave energy becomes very inexpensive based on CSR. "Since wave energy farms are front loaded with very large equipment costs, the commercial IRR route doesn't work, but the CSR route of financing makes the project very competitive with fossil fuel." - Dr. Jim Wilson

Insofar as desalination- reverse osmosis is just one process. Further, as Peter pointed out, we did not analyze with the correct set of assumptions.

Nonetheless I'm satisfied with much of the critical thinking that Kistler applied to the article. Even though our cognitive preferences vary widely, and he operates within a much narrower industrial context, I wish I had someone as capable to bounce ideas inhouse and before publication. I had no idea when the article was first published that we were up against the 10- actually 15 TW- ceiling today. In my own mind it explains a lot about our current failings in transmission and capacity.

Incidentally:   Electricity as high as $.13 kwh, using gasoline; pollutes air & water”

 Can somebody tell me where there is even a single power plant that runs on gasoline?

Lots of automobiles run on gasoline, - ocean energy can provide hydrogen fuel as an alternative

  “money flows out of the community”

"Why does it flow out of the community for conventional power plants but not wave generators?"

wave or could be tidal, OTEC, current or salinity gradient. Few municipalities own and operate their own electric utilities or oil companies. But many coastal communities/municipalities are faced with increasing expenditures for beach upkeep, jetties, harbor dredging, erosion control, public transport fueling, potable water and wastewater management.

Ever since I got into this business late in 2001, my take has been if the electric utilities plants don't want to muck with ocean energy- developers should not preoccupy themselves and consider them the customer of last resort. Other qualified prospects such as coastal municipalities have problems that ocean energy can address and resolve. But we need public ocean demo sites for developer test and refinement and some commercial implementations.

Peter Manos
10.31.03
You can bounce your future pre-pub stuff off of me if you wish at the address below. To mix puns, we all don't want to just skim the surface on this subject !

Peter.Manos@WBCausey.com

John K. Sutherland
10.31.03
Ann, your objections to Paul Kistler's post are entirely unfounded. It is also a case of the pot calling the kettle black from where I stand. In your first reponse you seemed to be putting both Ron and me down by quoting Mark Twain's lies, damn lies and statistics as though what we had written could be so easily bushed aside and discarded. You then went on to talk down to Jack by nitpicking elementary math conversions in a way that was insulting. Sometimes, ad hominem is hard to avoid. If you would try to address more of the science pushed back at you by the commenters, we might all feel that progress could be made.

Paul Kistler
10.31.03
Finally, a logical well thought out response to my critique without a lot of name calling and accusations. And after I typed up a point by point response to each accusation last night with the intent of posting it this morning. At this point I believe that posting it in it’s entirety would only serve to drag this debate back into the accusations and name calling and serve no useful purpose so I am going to delete everything except the first and last paragraphs before I post it since I believe they are still somewhat relevant.

I would like to say though that if anyone feels that I have argued ad hominem, argued provocatively, been abusive, not been informative, made untrue or unfounded accusations about who someone is, their associations or what they represent, please provide me with specific quotes and I will apologize to anyone I may have unintentionally offended.

And Ann, calling an engineer emotional is really insulting and a low blow 

I have skimmed your response Ann, and although I do not have time to respond in detail today, I will look at it more in depth this weekend and provide a response on Monday.

There are some key issues in your article though that I still do not believe have been addressed and I and I am sure some other folks out there would like to see a response to.

The title of your article is “Is There Enough Renewable Ocean Energy?” I assume that if your article does nothing else, it will answer this question. Originally your article said that there is enough wave energy to supply the entire world with all of it’s electrical needs. After I presented data that proved this to be untrue, you said that your statement used data that was out of date. What I simply want to know is this, do you have more up to date data that either proves or disproves this statement? If so where did this data come from and is it theoretical, experimental or other? If you cannot prove your statement do you plan to withdraw your article and re-write it using up to date data. I am not accusing anybody of anything here or trying to inflame anyone. I am simply asking a question that any logical thinking person would like to have an answer to.

The second issue is the statement that electricity generated from waves can supply 1.1 billion people with safe drinking water through the desalination of seawater. When I proved this statement to be untrue you responded that reverse osmosis is just one process. This is true, brackish water reverse osmosis and electrodialysis reversal are the other two desalination processes that operate on electricity that are in use in the world today although not to the extent that seawater reverse osmosis is. Both of these methods do require less power to operate, but not the orders of magnitude required to come close to supplying 1.1 billion people fresh water from seawater. I might point out also that brackish water reverse osmosis requires brackish water, not seawater to be processed. Again I do not intend to offend anyone here or accuse anyone of anything, but the logical question is, are you going to retract your article and re-write it using this data?

The final issue I would like to see addressed, it is a minor one really, but I am curious. You make the statement that, “we have made little or insufficient progress towards a posited world demand of 10 terawatts by the year 2050.” You then later make a statement in one of your posts that, “I had no idea when the article was first published that we were up against the 10- actually 15 TW- ceiling today.” Where do these figures come from? Again, not accusing you of anything, but the DOE says that in 2002 the U.S. had a total installed electrical generating capacity of 813 gigawatts. As has been pointed out previously there is a difference between W and Wh, but in order to calculate the total world demand, I would assume that the ratio between U.S. electrical energy use and world electrical energy use would be roughly the same as the ratio between U.S. installed capacity and the total world installed capacity, i.e., 25%. This would mean that total world installed capacity would be 3252 gigawatts or 3.2 TW. I should point out that this is installed capacity, not actual demand which would be lower. Can you please explain this discrepancy, I can’t. Did I make an incorrect assumption somewhere?

As stated above here is what is left from my typing last night after I deleted the stuff that I no longer want to get into. Ann, this statement:

“Hey, what happened to the rest of my post? I was on a roll. Have I been censored? It must be a conspiracy.”

Was meant to be tongue in cheek as a way to express my surprise and frustration that there was a limit to length of my post. As someone who deals in verifiable facts and data, I would be the last one to believe in conspiracy theories. Call it engineer’s humor. If it was directed at anyone it was to EnergyPulse, not you. Please accept my

Paul Kistler
10.31.03
As stated above here is what is left from my typing last night after I deleted the stuff that I no longer want to get into. Ann, this statement:

“Hey, what happened to the rest of my post? I was on a roll. Have I been censored? It must be a conspiracy.”

Was meant to be tongue in cheek as a way to express my surprise and frustration that there was a limit to length of my post. As someone who deals in verifiable facts and data, I would be the last one to believe in conspiracy theories. Call it engineer’s humor. If it was directed at anyone it was to EnergyPulse, not you. Please accept my sincerest apologies if this statement offended you in any way. The rest of my statements I will stand by.

Now can you quit the name calling and respond to my arguments? I am rarely 100% right on anything, surely you can find something I have said that is incorrect. You should a least be able to reference a source that disagrees with one of my sources. For an engineer I am actually pretty poor at math, check mine carefully, maybe I made a mistake there. If you return to my second post you will find that I am more than happy to admit when I have made a mistake. The crow is already on the barbie and I am more than willing to eat a generous portion if I have to.

Paul Kistler
10.31.03
Just re-read my post. This statement, "And Ann, calling an engineer emotional is really insulting and a low blow " is supposed to have a smiley face at the end which did not come out in the post.

Peter Manos
10.31.03
I want to go back to fundamentals—the following calculation is totally my own—at attempt to answer the question of how much wave power there is.

The following conversion factors were used:

0.001356 foot pounds per second = 1 kW 62.5 lbs = one cubic foot of water

Let’s assume a 100 foot long section of wave is on average 4 feet high and 4 feet thick (same result if you say 8 feet high and 2 feet thick):

100 x 4 x 4 x 62.5 lbs = 100,000 lbs of water.

Let’s assume it travels on average at 5 mph, which equals 8 feet per second.

8 feet per second x 100,000 lbs = 800,000 foot pounds per second

800,000 foot pounds per second x .001356 fps per kW = 1,085 kW

Let’s say there are 6 such waves per minute. Therefore the average power is 6 / 60 = 10% of this figure, or 108 kW per 100 linear feet of “beach plant” if you will.

A good sized power plant is 500MW, which is the same as 500,000 kW, so that if we divide 500,000 by 108 it looks like it would take 4,629 of these 100 foot units to get the 500 MW. That would mean a plant 80 miles in length.

I admit this is a rough calculation—it could be off by a factor of 2 to 4 let’s say—but even an 40 or 20 mile plant is quite an undertaking….besides which I assumed 100% conversion of wave power to electricity with no losses….which probably means a 2 to 4 fold error in “favor” of wave power just to be conservative and give wave power a fair shake…. And a good sized US city does not just need 500MW, or 80 miles of plant, it needs 10 to 20 times that….in other words New York City would need about 1600 miles of such plant.

Peter Manos
10.31.03
Just to clarify:

Conversion factors were two separate lines that got melded once I posted them:

1) 0.001356 foot pounds per second = 1 kW

2) 62.5 lbs = one cubic foot of water (a bit under 8 gals = 1 cubic foot = 62.5 lbs)

Also the fourth paragraph is numerically correct but should have said:

800,000 foot pounds per second x .001356 kW per foot-pound sec = 1,085 kW

Peter Manos
10.31.03
Ann, the idea of my above calculation is to very roughly scope--within a factor of ten--what the possibilities are for wave power. Perhaps rather than getting into these details if you prefer to specify for existing plants how many linear feet per kW they provide, we can get to a better answer.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.31.03
John and Paul- Smiley faces or no- the human signal on the internet is very much reduced from what we normally use to make decisions. The web creates much possibility for projecting our own experiences with the kinds of people we are normally limited to attracting and interacting with in our day to day existence onto unseen people with very different experiences and values. We project a deeply personal movie upon strangers as if they were a blank screen and not a unique human being.

Nonetheless John- it is still inconceivable to me the reasonable reader would assume that me quoting Mark Twain about statistics would only apply to their use of statistics which I didn't find favor with, and not my own or whoever I happened to find favor with. I made a blanket statement... done wryly and dryly.

I presume you are no longer being cute or smiley, Paul- in asking me three different times if I am going to retract the article- for all the reasons that appear to make complete sense to you and none whatsoever to me. You read the words, missed the gist and overlooked the conclusion entirely.

Therefore along with my written response, I shall help you "cast" me a little more specifically so that your personal vision of who you expect me to be doesn't interfer as much. Please envision me as Jack Nicholson ala Five Easy Pieces communicating with the waitress-

If you like you can also imagine mood music in the background-- Mick Jagger softly moaning "you can't always get want you want" .

The conclusion was "Ocean energy may not be ultimately enough - but it could be an invaluable and irreplaceable approach in garnering an optimal understanding of energy collection and management in our universe"

And as I said further down in the commentary "My subtle article theme was- not that there was insufficient energy in the ocean- but insufficient thought had been given by mankind to harnessing it. It might not give us all we may one day require- but we have failed to scratch the surface of this immediately accessible energy workbench. "

Wildfires are still burning in San Diego. Thank goodness for the bit of rain. You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

Peter Manos
10.31.03
Ann, you said "you read the words, miss the gist, and overlooked the conclusion entirely."

Your words describe what you are doing, not what Paul is doing.

So you refuse to weigh anything involving numbers unless it is a quote of somebody you consider to be "on your side". Is that it? You won't scratch one bit deeper?

Ann Marie Harmony
10.31.03
Peter-

Vis a vis desalination- Dr. Stephen Salter at the University of Ediburgh http://www.mech.ed.ac.uk/research/wavepower/Spray%20turbine/shs%20rain%20paper%20Feb.pdf and http://www.designboom.com/eng/funclub/dillerscofidio.html

has been working on spray turbines to increase rain by enhanced evaporation by the sea. Dr. Salter figures you need about 80 MW to desalinate 100 million gallons a day- or 4.3 cubic metres a second- via reverse osmosis.

This information is on the POEMS website- and is fully text searchable.

Theoretical modeling only goes so far. There is so much science, and not a single "optimum solution" at this early stage.

We'll take incident wave energy as an example Worldwide, and even in America, from University to University, ocean scientists and researchers have not standardized on wave spectrum shape when they are doing modeling. Incident wave energy calculations depending on who is doing them and with what spectra, incorporates a constant that ranges between .45 and .979, which is a significant variance.

J= Wave energy flux ( kilowatts per meter of wave crest) H= Significant wave height in meters T= Dominant Wave Period (in seconds)

J= 0.5T xH(squared)

for more information see http://www.nesea.org/buildings/images/S%20New%20Engl%20Wave%20Energy%20paper.pdf

Insofar as desal processing- since you don't need electricity to desal seawater- why not incorporate distillation, or even a venturi approach? The Hydam people have been using wave power to produce potable water although their devices could alternatively produce electricity. http://wave-power.com/ For a standard 1.5 metre wave, the potable water output is 275,000 cubic metres per year at an operating cost of $0.25 per cubic metre or $0.95 per 1,000 US gallons.

The output for a 2.0 metre wave is 460,000 cubic metres per year at an operating cost of $0.16 per cubic metre or, $0.61 per 1,000 US gallons.

They come in clusters of up to 5 units.

I'm delighted that many are intrigued.

Peter Manos
10.31.03
Ann, that is a lot of bouncing around without directly answering the questions but okay, I do believe you are trying your best to address things. So I read one of the papers you reference (George Hagerman of Virginia Tech – paper titled “Southern New England Wave Energy Resource Potential), and he cites a large number of actual measurements around Cape Cod that vary from 4 kW to 16 kW of power from waves per meter of shore.

The 1.085 kW per foot of shoreline for raw available wave power which my above calculation derived, converts to 3.6 kW per meter. So it turns out that my results were accurate for the waves a bit weaker than those found around Cape Cod.

So my 1600 mile calculation for a wave power plant long enough to supply all of the power needs of NYC would instead be 480 miles long if waves were the stronger 16 kW per meter mentioned above.

I think your best shot is to try to convince Bill Gates to fund it alongside the world's largest shrimp farm or something, because even if a huge amount of engineering know-how improves these numbers ten fold, it is hard to imagine how it will be economical in our lifetimes.

mauk mcamuk
10.31.03
Dear Anne-Marie,

I went and read the .pdf you posted:

http://www.nesea.org/buildings/images/S%20New%20Engl%20Wave%20Energy%20paper.pdf

That paper states ranges of energy as annual averages. Lets assume you "cherry pick" your sites to maximize your exergy, and you get a spot with an average wave power of 50 kilowatts per meter of shoreline.

Thus, for a wave power station one kilometer long, the incident power would be a whopping 1000 times 50,000 watts, or 50 megawatts!

Sounds good so far!

However, the real problem arises when we try and convert that energy into a form with higher exergy, for example, electricity.

As I posted before, the amount of efficiency you can extract from a system is based upon the extremes that the system endures. In a heat engine, this means you can either make the hot side hotter, or the cold side colder.

In a kinetic energy system, this means you have more or less "head." Head is basically the distance water falls. The further it falls, the more energy you get.

Simple enough.

In conventional hydropower, water is stored behind a dam, and essentially falls huge distances, up to a thousand feet or more. This means there is a lot of energy in a small volume of water, which makes it easy to extract that energy mechanically at great efficiency. Some water turbines exceed 90 percent efficiency.

A wave generator can be thought of as a hydropower device, except that the amount of head, the distance the water can fall, cannot ever be greater than the height of the waves, and indeed, is actually on average half the height of the waves.

Say, 5 feet or so.

There is a tremendous VOLUME of this water, which is where the 50 megawatts comes into play, but the energy is very diffuse. We are not very good at extracting energy from diffuse sources, because the laws of thermodynamics are LAWS. Not suggestions. To make matters worse, the unique property of waves dictates that the same volume of water participates in multiple waves. IE, there is little naturally available energy to extract the water from the wave generation plant.

So, while 50 megawatts of power are entering the 1 kilometer station, I would be surprised if we could extract more than 10 megawatts of electricity from it. Indeed, I would not be surprised if it were considerably less.

Also, to be blunt, 10 megawatts is not a great deal of power. To replace a large nuclear plant, you need to generate 2000 megawatts. This translates to 200 kilometers of wave plant, to replace ONE current plant.

I suspect this will be prohibitively expensive to build, and we haven't even started talking about operating costs and the inevitable protests from "environmentalists."

Does that mean wave energy is useless? Of course not. But it DOES mean that it is only useful for a very small niche market.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.31.03
You just performed an excellent unpaid demonstration of achieving the right answer in theory for the wrong question, Peter and thereby reaching a conclusion (knowledge set) that won't provide optimum benefit to you.

The first right question whenever any renewable is involved is- "This is the geographic area I have in mind- what are the optimum renewable resources for this area ?"

1. What is the Ocean Power Resource?

The second right question is "What are the optimum efficiencies are available in energy conversion devices apropriate to the renewable resource and within the context of the task I have defined?

2. What are the Operating Parameters?

See flowchart (http://www.poemsinc.org/OceanTest.html) halfway down the page

In general, wave energy is strongest at extreme latitudes and on the west coasts of continents. There are exceptions. The northern east coast of the US has the Gulf current and tides- and very predictable brisk offshore wind.

Generally the current resource is largest where the water depth is relatively shallow and a good tidal range exists. In particular, large marine current flows exist where there is a significant phase difference between the tides that flow on either side of large islands. Sea water is 832 times as dense as air, providing a 5 knot ocean current with more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h wind.

I would imagine the east coast has decent salinity gradient potential as well.

What really needs to happen is to build a few geographically disperse test/demo stations for public use and allow developers to do some rapid prototyping and refinement. And consider converting some about to be decommissioned oil platforms into additional test/demo stations while minimizing the attendant liabilities.

It's not as straight forward as setting up solar panels on your roof or windmills in your back pasture. Consider that group Insurance was invented to cover the risks of seagoing vessels. With environmental impact, et al. ocean energy developers need our support.

Ann Marie Harmony
10.31.03
Hello Mauk-

Interesting approach you took- You are still constrained by a tidal concept- the barrages do pretty well- in the right geographic location, they can generate between 600-and 800 megawatts apiece. Insofar as wave energy devices are concerned how about instead of thinking about "falling" say 5 feet- think about rising inches instead? the principle of the oscillating water column- where the displaced or "pushed up" air turns the turbine. Paul Koola's proposed Wave Carpet is another approach. http://www.drkools.com/ There are hydraulic solutions as well like the Pelamis- in fact there are over 1000 wave energy device patents world wide.

What might be helpful is to visit the POEMS industry links page and see the representative variety nationally and internationally http://www.poemsinc.org/links.html

mauk mcamuk
10.31.03
Dear Anne Marie,

I just went and prowled through your links. I have seen most of those concepts before, with the notable exception of the Float Inc. multi-use concept and the truly weird OWEC "three-headed alien" design. Gotta love how it looks, but I really doubt it is practical in an open-ocean environment.

The Float Inc concept is notable for its multi-use design. IE, it isn't expected to be economical by making power from waves, it just uses that as a bonus to it's primary duties. This is a very sensible thing, because the low exergy of ocean power is very, very difficult to overcome.

That said, all of the air-column designs are simply using the air as a working fluid to couple the wave energy to a mechanical extraction device. This is how inventors seek to address the unique problem wave energy has of the same water being used for multiple waves. As always, adding another loop to the system reduces the already low exergy of the system, as efficiency is degraded by converting from water to air to mechanical motion.

As a concrete example of the low exergy I am referring to, the author of the www.seasolarpower.com OTECS site made the very courageous decision to post efficency figures. He claims his improved cycle has an efficiency of 3.4 percent. Compare that to the 33 percent of a nuclear reactor, or the 55+ percent of a combined-cycle gas turbine.

The problem is even worse for OTES, continuing to use the data he provides, as the electricity which is produced is generated on a ship at sea! How is that electricity to be sent to Kansas, for example?

Again, ocean power is interesting, and will probably have many niche market uses, but for the real "heavy lifting" of providing the world its power supply, we need other solutions.

Peter Manos
11.1.03
Now don’t do a bait and switch Ann.

Your paper and your organization’s website make statements and cite tables from experts, about the total available wave power, and needing only 0.2% of it to supply the world’s needs, but when we do the math, it turns out that all 336,000 km of the world’s coastlines would need wave generators netting 100% of the 10kW per meter average wave strength to meet the claim being made.

It is fine to get practical as you are in your recent post, but it is also fine for me to do the calculations I did to answer the big theoretical question wouldn’t you agree?

One issue--the word "available" is not being used properly in the above context. It should have said "total existing wave power" because "available" implies some subset is being discussed and some kind of "here's the percent we can tap into" judgment has been applied. But as your experts have written, waves transfer power from storms and mid-ocean winds very efficiently to the continental shelf and shore areas, so taking the above 336,000 km is effectively doing a "fair" calculation.

Ann Marie Harmony
11.1.03
Bait and switch? Is this your idea of intended promotion for this forum? or are you just expressing your personal values?

" It is fine to get practical as you are in your recent post, but it is also fine for me to do the calculations I did to answer the big theoretical question wouldn’t you agree?"

I see what blows your skirt up, Peter. I conceded Dr. Jones' quote immediately. I did not agree to share my pre-pubs with you as you publicly and privately offered.

Your calculations were after the fact and at your insistence. I quote you: "I want to go back to fundamentals—the following calculation is totally my own—at attempt to answer the question of how much wave power there is."

Nonetheless, the original article's theme, emphasis and conclusion, is supported throughout the POEMS website http://www.poemsinc.org/cause.html

You might take the time to read the entire "Problem Statement" This is one line: "Appropriate and sufficient alternatives to fossil fuels are not available at this time."

Although it was updated last February- I wrote it when POEMS opened for business in March of 2002, not too long after the Float people first introduced me to wave energy in December of 2001. And yes- they have a unique concept for floating real estate, such as an airport extension, that incorporates wave power as ancillary.

A little more history: The reason I formed POEMS and broadened the original concept from achieving a public channel of funding for wave energy devices- into education, funding and test for ocean energy- and ocean energy management- which includes erosion control, desalination, and other non electricity generating areas , was in anticipation of too quickly encountering the capacity limits of electricity generation from waves. I wanted to make sure the nonprofit was positioned to address a number of approaches and solutions- hence the origination of the name Practical Ocean Energy Management Systems, Inc. POEMS instead of the original nonprofit- Pacific Ocean Wave Energy Research- POWER.

Peter, I have work to do. Make it a great day, sir.

Peter Manos
11.1.03
I have work to do too. I will close with a thanks and a plea.

Thanks...Fundamentally, both using tables from your website and my above separate calcuation, it is clear that if we could harness all the wave power in the ocean at 100% efficiency, it would equal roughly all the currently installed electrical generating capacity in the world. That is a big deal! Thanks for the insight! Yes there would be lots of seemingly insurmountable problems involved to realize a significant portion of that power. I would not want to underestimate human ingenuity's potential to accomplish great things.

Plea: Between Paul's and John's and my calculations and comments, you have been given a tremendous amount of free fact checking and correction. Paul's text in commentary amounts to about four times more verbage than your original paper. But apparently you would prefer to throw that away and refer to Twain, your wryness, and our need to view you as Robert De Niro and pretend the Stones are in the background..... Anyway, several posts ago, you said you were never going to retract the statement that harnessing just 0.2% of the world's available wave power would meet our energy needs. Then I showed that it is a huge exaggeration--about a 500 fold exaggeration. (last bit of math is 1/.002 = 500). You said in reply to my calculation "You just performed an excellent unpaid demonstration of achieving the right answer in theory ..." which seems to be an admission on your part that you recognize the need to issue the correction Paul requested.

You should place more importance on your professional credibility than your pride, and issue the correction directly rather than in the indirect way you did in the last prior post.

Ann Marie Harmony
11.1.03
>>Plea: Between Paul's and John's and my calculations and comments, you have been given a tremendous amount of free fact checking and correction.

Absolutely. Thank you.

I am satisfied that I elected to pursue further discussion rather than turning off and leaving the forum.

> You said in reply to my calculation"You just performed an excellent unpaid demonstration of achieving the right answer in theory for the wrong question, Peter... which seemed to be an admission of....

I gave you some examples ahead of your results to get you thinking about geography, theoretical wave variances, broaden your perspective, and also answered some of Paul's issues about desalination processes in the same post. After your conclusion, I showed you where you went wrong and gave you some specifics of where to look for better answers in terms of New York.

>Anyway, several posts ago, you said you were never going to retract the statement that harnessing just 0.2% of the world's available wave power would meet our energy needs.

I never wrote that. How can you commit to this when you have all the evidence immediately in front of you? 10 comments into this article - Paul came up with his refutation of Dr.Jones' assumption based on the WEC's calculation of available wave energy. I had quoted Dr. Jones in the article.

My next response begins- "Thank you Paul- I will now dispense with that out-of date quote. Hurrah for mathematics and mathematicians, even the fuzzy kind!"

It was a done deal early on! The quote was a single premise, one argument- one of many. But just because I agreed to sever the quote, that does not invalidate the entire body of the article. Paul understood this early on.

The title was not "is there enough wave energy to convert to electricity to fill all the world's immediate needs?" Nor was the conclusion "electricity generation is the main reason to improve upon ocean energy management systems"

>You should place more importance on your professional credibility than your pride, and issue the correction directly rather than in the indirect way you did in the last prior post.

Professional credibility over personal pride? Interesting prioritization. We are not specialized insects, neither bees nor ants, but a uniquely neotenous kind of men.

"Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it."-Jordan. Virtue is personal and takes a superego, pride, to manage it. A professional is simply someone who does what they do in exchange for money. In my view- the professional is subordinate- a subset of the individual, not the other way around.

PS it was Jack Nicholson and not Robert Di Niro - the actor was key to the character. Five Easy Pieces revisits "The Prodigal Son" but set in the context of music and oil riggers. Nicholson's character is a human caught between "the silent majority" and the troubled counterculture, who frustratedly tries to communicate how others can afford him what he needs and desires without breaking "the rules."

Peter Manos
11.2.03
Your last comment provides a good example of how engineers and non-engineers need to communicate better. Apparently you considered your saying "Thank you Paul- I will now dispense with that out-of date quote. Hurrah for mathematics and mathematicians, even the fuzzy kind!" to constitute a correction on your part.

Your calling it an out of date quote implies that when the statement was originally made, it was correct. Unless Jones made the statement about 60 or 80 years ago,when electricity demand was a tiny fraction of what it is today, the statement was always an error, and it was important to determine how big of an error it was, which after several posts I did.

After all this commentary, I hope you have changed your understanding of how it comes across, to an engineer, when you respond to numerical calculations in the ways that you have done above.

It has to do with not just having a number sit like something dead on the page, a right (or wrong) quote which you can use (or should not use) in your future writings about this subject, but instead about your making some judgments about what the numbers mean in the scheme of things. If you had done this in your mind before your "out of date" quote, you probably would have issued a clearer correction. Weighing the numbers, if something is off 10% or 50% perhaps it can be called out of date, but 50,000%?

Ann Marie Harmony
11.2.03
>After all this commentary, I hope you have changed your understanding of how it comes across, to an engineer, when you respond to numerical calculations in the ways that you have done above.

I have been a "pro," working directly with engineers in various emerging technologies, for well over 2 decades. We have produced some highly successful commercial results. I have also lived with engineers a significant part of my life...but I'll admit the best results came by way of a real estate appraiser- two wonderful daughters...a grandaughter... and a grandson on the way.

Don't you agree this EnergyPulse scenario would be better served by a comparison of the difference between cats and dogs?

....publicity hounds to be more precise.

Paul Kistler
11.3.03
“Does that mean wave energy is useless? Of course not. But it DOES mean that it is only useful for a very small niche market.” You da man Mauk. Thank you. I have been hoping someone would look at the data objectively, do a little research, do a little math and come to this logical conclusion. I think Peter is there also, hope I am not putting words in your mouth Peter. Hope your pockets are not too heavy now from all of that money you must have in them.

“Dr. Salter figures you need about 80 MW to desalinate 100 million gallons a day- or 4.3 cubic metres a second- via reverse osmosis.”

Ann, again, do the math. Assuming you are running full tilt boogie at 80 MW for 24 hours, this would be 1920 MWh over 24 hours during which time 100 million gallons of water would be made. This calculates to 0.0192 KWh/gal. vs. my original calculation for currently available equipment of 0.0216 KWh/gal. OK, so we can now provide water for 21,633 people per year. Now we only have 1,099,978,367 people without water. Again, according to the UN, the problem is not one of water availability, it is one of mismanagement. The problem is that most third world countries do not have proper waste water treatment plants. It would make far greater sense to me to invest in a proven technology, i.e., waste water treatment, than to invest now in not just one, but two, underdeveloped, unproven, expensive technologies that do not have the capacity to do the job anyway.

"’Since so few commercial installations have been completed $/kWh are difficult to come by’ That's right- although Massachusetts just funded tidal turbines for half a million, New Jersey and the Navy funded wave energy conversion, San Francisco agreed to fund $2 million for tidal, and Norwegian Hammerfest in the Arctic circle is building out their existing 300kW tidal current generation facility to 700kW. Additionally the UK in investing substantively in wave and tidal energies, South Korea is building a commercial plant, etc. etc. In the US, financing is the hangup.” You are not answering the question. What is the current unsubsidized cost for electricity generated by wave power? Just because governments are funding them does not mean that they are economical, in fact just the opposite. If they were currently economical, private industry would be investing in them. Anyway I think this will be my last post. My temporary membership is almost over and contrary to what Patrick (whatever happened to that guy, didn’t he start all of this) thinks, I don’t have a lot of money in my pockets from this and cannot really justify the cost of a full membership. If anyone does want to directly answer any of the questions I have raised I will be reading your posts. Ann, when I asked if you would be re-writing your article, I perhaps naively assumed that most people take a professional pride in their work and when things are pointed out to them that are incorrect they would take steps to correct them. Come on, at least change the statement that fusion has been a solution to our energy problems for the last 30 years. The only thing fusion has been used for is making H-bombs. It seems that one of the major problems with your article hinges on the statement you quote by Dr. Anthony Jones. When that statement gets in the way of your conclusions you explain it away by saying that that is an out of date statement without offering any evidence as to why you now consider it to be out of date and what the up to date numbers are. Part of the problem is not that the statement is out-of-date but the fact that you mis-quoted Dr. Jones. It took me about two minutes of searching last night to find his actual quote. It still will not save your conclusions from being incorrect but it will make them seem a little less ridiculous. Apparently it is so inconceivable to you that you could have made a mistake that you do not even take the time to double check your work when possible errors and inconsistencies are pointed out to you. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. My challenge to you is to do a search, find Dr. Jones’ statement and report back here to the forum. For extra credit report back when Dr. Jones made this statement and where he is on staff at. Anyway I stand by my two major conclusions from all of this. Wave energy when properly developed will fill some niche energy markets but does not have the capacity to fill a significant percentage of the world energy demand. Secondly, wave energy when combined with desalination will not come close to providing the world with it’s water needs and to invest in expensive, undeveloped technologies when a proven technology, waste water treatment, is available is foolish.

Peter Manos
11.3.03
Thanks Paul--I agree totally.

Ann, your last post ended with the words "to be more precise". Why don't you try it? Or will you just be giving us more of your personal attacks and wryness?

Rodney Adams
11.3.03
Ann Your article and the subsequent discussion encouraged me to do a little research on Ocean Wave Energy.

According to a Financial Times article published April 20, 2001, Anthony T. Jones - oceanographer - described one state of the current art power plant as "the Mighty Whale" a 50 meter long, 1000 ton power plant with a 110 kW capacity.

Knowing that most floating structures of this size are made of steel or similar material and knowing that the average energy input into a ton of steel is about 18 Million BTU according to the US DOE Office of Industrial Technology (OIT), I decided to do a rough calculation to determine how long the plant would have to operate before it produced enough energy to produce the steel required to make it.

18 Million BTU = approximately 5275 kW-hours 1 year = 8760 hours

Therefore a 110 kW plant would have to operate at 100% capacity for 5.47 years before it would produce enough energy to manufacture 1000 tons of raw steel.

Considering all of the other inputs required to make this plant a reality, the time value of money, and the inescapable fact that ocean waves are notoriously fickle over time (more than 90 months at sea over a very broad geographic area makes me feel pretty qualified to make that statement) I think I have learned enough in the last couple of hours to know that there is ZERO hope of an economic return from any investment in Ocean Wave energy systems.

If you were investing your own money in the technology, I would gladly wish you the best and go off quietly, but it appears from your web site and your other publications that you are actively involved in soliciting government funds to pay for ocean wave energy systems and seeking government mandates to force industries to support investigations into systems that do not make any sense. As a taxpayer, I wish that you would take out an envelope, do a little fundamental scratching on the back of it and look for another line of work.

I found one paragraph on your site very enlightening -

"POEMS is unique. There is no other charitable or trade organization with a similar mission and reach, worldwide. We are fortunate to be based in San Diego, America's sixth largest city. We have an exceptionally strong base of marine expertise and interest in the public, private and academic sectors. Too, California, fifth largest economy in the world, is home to 40 percent of the world's geothermal plants, 20 percent of the wind-powered turbines and nearly 80 percent of solar generators. Recent legislation has been passed to double the renewable portfolios of electricity retailers in the state of California by 2017."

What the statement does not happen to mention is that California is also home to some of the most expensive electricity in the country, with many ratepayers (aka taxpayers) paying 2-4 times as much as they would in states like South Carolina or Virginia.

I also found it rather amusing that your site seems to ignore the vast potential of uranium - an emissions-free, non fossil fuel energy source that currently supplies more than 20% of the electricity in the US, more than 75% of the electricity in France, and about 17% of the world's electrical power consumption.

Rod Adams www.atomicinsights.com

Max Carcas
11.4.03
Well what a lot of fun and games!

Here are some numbers: roughly 1% of the world's solar energy is converted into wind energy, roughly 1% of this energy is converted into wave energy. The good news is that in each of these stages the resource becomes more concentrated - average energy densities of roughly 0.1kW per square metre on the ground for solar to 1kW per square metre 'window' of wind to 40-70kW/metre width of wave off the coasts of W.Europe or 5-35kW/m off the US coasts.

Of this (maybe 20TW) the total 'accessible' wave resouce has been estimated at around 2TW (NB NOT 2TWh/year as quoted right at the start!!! - 2TW is 17520TWh/year - slightly more than current electricity production).

Being conservative and applying further technical/economic constraints could limit this to around 2000TWh/year - broadly similar to the current installed base of hydropower - perhaps something worth investigating?!

The fuel is free and will never run out and the generation of electricity results in no waste products, emissions or pollution. By the way it can potentially also be used for seawater desalination without having to go through the intermediate stage of electricity generation.

The technology is not yet in commercial production but various companies worldwide are developing and installing pre-production prototypes. Early projects that do not have the economies of scale will require finanical support to get them into the market place as there is no 'early adopter' market for wave power electricity.

As an aside nuclear power has benefited from some $200bn of government sponsored R&D in Western countries alone over the past 25 years - yet despite this massive investment Sizewell B - one of the last nuclear power stations built in the UK (to an American design) cost around $4,500/kW of installed capacity. The current estimated cost of decommissioning the UK's 12GW of nuclear power stations in the UK is $75bn which works out at $6,250/kW to remove them..... none of these figures include operating costs!!!

It is believed that early wave power schemes will cost around $3,000-1,500/kW installed, however it is expected that costs will quickly fall as machines are deployed into the market and the technology 'productionised'. Compare with wind turbines where early 50kW machines initially cost around $4-5,000/kW but today cost around $1000/kW for 3MW machines and are competitive with conventional power stations on the best sites BUT produce no CO2 or use up our rapidly diminishing reserves of fossil fuels...

Rodney Adams
11.4.03
I take serious issue with the quote below. If a 110 kw plant requires a floating structure that is 50 M long (as long as an Olympic swimming pool) and weights 1000 tons, it seems to me that any kind of volume production will have a serious impact on the ocean environment.

Though landlubbers may stand on a beach consider the vastness of the ocean to be a wasteland just waiting to be harvested, the ocean is a vibrant ecology. It is the source of a large portion of the protein supply for human beiings and the home of tens of thousands of very interesting creatures.

How will a fleet of barges affect sea mammals? What impact will the loss of light have on plankton development under the barges? Will the shadows confuse migrating schools of fish to the point where they might not be able to find their home? What about sea turtles, birds, etc.?

"The fuel is free and will never run out and the generation of electricity results in no waste products, emissions or pollution. By the way it can potentially also be used for seawater desalination without having to go through the intermediate stage of electricity generation."

I also challenge Max's figures related to nuclear power research. A major portion of all research ascribed to "nuclear energy" is in fact related to national defense weapons programs and has nothing at all to do with energy production.

Even if it were completely true, it is a specious argument. Any economist or business strategist would label those costs as sunk costs that have no role in future decision making.

The real question is how much will electricity from future plants cost?

Anti-nukes always point to the costs of the last plants constructed, ignoring the fact that most of those costs were interest costs in a period where capital cost 12-20% per year and plant delays caused by an enormous variety of factors were involved. A factor that is not often discussed is the inescapable fact that the people building the last plants had every reason to take it easy and to delay the end of the project as long as possible.

Why work hard to put yourself out of a job, knowing that there were not going to be any plants built for a very long time?

It has not just been nukes that have not been built in the last two decades - try to find a single large coal project in any large established economy.

Here is a little known, but easily discovered fact - the average cost per kiilowatt hour of electricity from nuclear power plants in the US is a bit less than 1.8 USD cents. That is about 10% less than the cost from the average coal plant and less than 1/2 of the cost from oil or gas.

Here is another little tidbit that can be found on the site of the Energy Information Agency of the US Department of Energy - the GROWTH (difference in production in Twh) in nuclear produced electricity last year was greater than the total production of electricity produced by wind, solar, ocean thermal and all other "alternative" energy sources. Pretty good considering the often repeated fact that we have not built any new plants in a couple of decades.

Rod Adams www.atomicinsights.com

Peter Manos
11.4.03
Max, your approach of taking a seemingly small percentage--ten percent to be specific--of a large number (20TW) does not yield a credible result as best as I can tell, sorry to say. Really it would be great if these results were 10x or 100x in favor of wave power, as it would be a breakthrough for meeting the world's future energy needs. Even if you add in the other power sources of ocean power, you don't get the 10x or 100x increase--just a 2 or 3 x increase at best, at least from the tables on Ann's poems website. And anyway, for now let's just talk about wave power.

I suggest you review the following bottom up approach, instead of your top down approach.

Specifically, how many linear feet of wave power plant is required to get to your 2 TW result? Let's be "generous" to the cause, and take 100% of the world's 336,000 km of coastline. Let's say the average wave power is 10 kW per meter. To get to your 2TW would require wave plants covering all 336,000 km, operating at a 60% efficiency level.

Here is the calculation:

336,000 km of shoreline = 3.36 E 8 meters

multiply by 10 kw per meter yields 3.36 E 9 kW

multiply by 60% efficiency level equals 2.02 E 9 kW.

This last number equals 2 TW.

In some of the literature it states that waves transfer mid-ocean power to the continental shelfs very efficiently, So I don't think it makes sense if we were to also count mid-ocean power, since presumably if we tap into it there, less wave power will make its way to the continental shelf areas.

I want to thank you for your post because it is clear you are trying to address things from an engineering perspective, and if I am missing something or making an error in my calculations I would be pleased to learn otherwise.

Peter Manos
11.4.03
I should add Max, to be fair, that you did take a second small slice of a big number, the ratio of 2000 TWh to the 17520 TWh -- 11%. And you stated higher power levels than the 10 kW per meter I had assumed to make my calculation easy to follow.

So let's see, as you suggest, whether this is something worth investigating:

At my original 10kW per meter power figure for wave power, your 11% slice would involve 38,000 kilometers of wave power plant instead of the world's total 336,000 km. ... and at the rough average of the wave power figures you cited --50kW per meter instead of the above 10 kW-- you would be talking about 7,600 kM of plant.

Do you want humanity to try to build something like that? Do you think it is a reasonable goal?

James Hopf
11.4.03
Nuclear Economics (response to Max):

I have more comments in addition to those made above by Rod Adams.

I don't know what the British industry's problem is, but nuclear is quite successful and economic in many other nations, including the US, France, the Far East, etc.... Right now, in the East, modern reactors are being built for ~$1500-$2000 per kW. These costs are proven by actual recent experience, as these plants are being built on budget and on schedule. Cost estimates for advanced designs to be built in the near future range from ~$1000-$1500 per kW. Of note is the fact that GE is offering a reactor at a capital cost of $1400/kW, on a firm, fixed-price contract basis (i.e., they are guaranteeing that price, and are willing to take all the cost overrun risk).

Even with the older technology (currently in service), very few nuclear plants ended up costing as much as $4,500/kW. Only the most delayed, and unsuccessful efforts, combined with a very high interest rate environment at the time (much higher than today) resulted in these costs.

Such episodes will never be repeated, due to superior designs, a much greater level of design standardization, much more design and operation experience, a much higher level of design detail being established before construction (resulting in very accurate cost estimates), a greatly improved regulatory process where the reactor is licensed (i.e., all questions are resolved) before construction begins, and the fact that (unlike earlier) utilities will not build a nuke unless they are sure that the demand is there. In the 70s and 80s, many projects were delayed simply because the rate of demand growth fell drastically, and the power wasn't needed. This led to great cost escalation, due to interest effects.

Finally, such costs (and cost overruns) will never occur again because the (new) free market for power would never allow it. One reason such overruns were allowed to occur is that utilities could just put it all in the rate base, and therefore they had no reason to care (i.e., no reason to perform). This has all changed. Believe me, under this new environment, utilities won't build nukes unless they're sure that they will be competative.

With respect to decommissioning, costs in the US are ~200-500 million dollars for a 1 GW plant. This equates to $200 to $500 per kW of capacity for decommissioning. Once again, if Max's estimates are true, I don't know what the British industry's problem is. However, it is inappropriate to lump an end of life cost in with an up-front cost into a single, per-kW cost. The two are entirely different economically, due to the time value of money effect (i.e., interest). Due to the interest effect, up-front capital costs have a huge effect on generation costs, whereas back-end costs have very little effect.

This effect is huge, given that a nuclear plant can be expected to operate for at least 60, and perhaps up to 100 years. Due to the long operating life, an extremely low amount of money, per kW-hr generated, needs to be put into an interest-bearing account, in order to have sufficient funds for decommissioning at the end of life. The 200-500 million dollar decomissioning cost of a typical 1 GW reactor can easily be paid for by a contribution of 0.2 cents/kW-hr, at the very most. Thus, an upper bound estimate of decommissioning costs on overall nuclear power economics is ~0.2 cents/kW-hr. Not a big effect.

Nuclear power has the lowest overall operation costs of any major power source, with costs (in the US) averaging ~1.75 cents/kW-hr. Depending on financing terms, this corresponds to a power price of ~4-5 cents/kW-hr. This is similar to the cost of a new gas plant with gas at $5 per million BTU. A new coal plant under current regulations would cost about 0.5-1.0 cents/kW-hr less. More stringent air pollution rules (which are expected in the future) will bring coal into line with nuclear. Any type of limit on CO2 emissions would change the situation drastically, giving nuclear a clear advantage over coal.

Max mentioned a wind capital cost of ~1,000/kW. This may be true, but he fails to mention that the average capacity factor for windfarms is ~30%. By contrast, nuclear plant capacity factors exceed 90%. Thus, for an equal comparison, the windfarm is like a nuclear plant with a capital cost of ~$3000/kW. While the operation cost for the windfarm will be lower, the overall cost of power should be higher than a nuclear plant with a capital cost of $1500/kW (and perhaps about the same as a ~$2000/kW nuclear plant).

Based upon what I've read, the overall generation costs for wind range from 2.5-4.0 cents/kW-hr, after the govts. 1.8 cent/kW-hr subsidy. Thus, the true, unsubsidized cost of wind ranges from ~4-6 cents/kW-hr; not too different from nuclear. Thus, it could be said that wind generates intermittant kW-hrs at about the same cost that new nuclear generates steady kW-hrs.

One

James Hopf
11.4.03
Nuclear Economics (contd....):

One final point concerning govt. nuclear research costs. As Rod said, most of this is not actual nuclear power research. Nuclear technology is a very broad area of knowledge, and it is not correct to lump it all up and call it nuclear power reasearch (or subsidy). Much of it is general research, much is defense releated, and a lot of it is for long-term fusion reasearch. The US research budget for actual nuclear power (i.e., anything that could be considered of any benefit to commercial nuclear power) is on the order of 100 million per year. This contrasts with Max's estimate of ~8 billion per year by western countries. There is a clear disconnect here. Less money is spent, on an absolute (dollar) basis on nuclear power research than on renewable energy research. On a per kW-hr of electricity generated basis, renewable reasearch funding is greater by an order of magnitude or more.

Getting back to ocean power, and comparing it to nuclear, it must be stressed that the nuclear price projections given above are based upon actual plants recently built and operated, i.e., upon actual experience, whereas all the ocean power discussion is purely theoretical. Nuclear is shown to be competative (or very nearly competative) based upon actual, proven, recent experience. We have no hard data, or experience, to back up any wave power cost estimate.

Once again, I DO think the idea should be explored. I think that some more money should be spent on research into these concepts. Any proposed development should be granted the same subsidies that are offerred for other renewable sources of energy. Wind gets 1.8 cents/kW-hr, and solar gets considerably more. A wave farm should get at least 1.8 cents (for the first few units, at least). If the research produces a design that may produce power economically (with the subsidy, at least), I'm sure that it will be persued. If not, it won't be persued. It will all boil down to economics, and don't worry, they'll be able to figure out the economics before building any large number of these things.

I have an open mind about this, although it seems that the simple, theoretical calculations presented by many commenters (here) so far do not look that promising.

Len Gould
11.5.03
Further to James Hopf's response to Max. You don't need to go the GE to get current cost figures, AECL Technologies is ofering to come to your site and install a set of CANDU reactors for guaranteed $1000/Mw and 4 yrs start to finish. The ones they just commissioned in Guanxiu?? sp ?? in China were done 2 months ahead of schedule in under 4 yrs, and for fuel use material which is very similar to the US / British Military armour piercing amunition, which no-one complains about being sprayed randomly over test ranges in western states or small middle eastern countries. ("Depleted" uranium ammunition = 0.5% radioactive 233, CANDU fuel = 0.7% radioactive 233).

Until I hear Sierra or Greenpeace discussing how they intend to protect themselves from that stuff, I would appreciate they stop blathering on about a few carefully managed fuel rods.

Pretty crass if "its ok because it's just Iraqi families affected", or is there a HUGE double standard?

BTW, what's Sierra Club's take on 500km of shoreline turbine installations?

Len Gould
11.5.03
Sorry, of course thats $1,000 per kilowat. Getting late.

John K. Sutherland
11.5.03
Len, Some minor nitpicking corrections. You mean uranium-235, and not radioactive 233. Uranium-233 is the fissile uranium fuel bred from thorium-232 either from neutron interactions in a fission reactor, if Th-232 is part of the fuel load, or is deliberately bred in a breeder reactor. Depleted uranium is mostly about 99.8% U-238 and 0.2% uranium-235 (although the definition of DU is any uranium less than 0.7% U-235). Because of its very long half-life, uranium-238 has a low specific activity, i.e. when pure, it is almost non-radioactive, as was noted with some surprise by Sir William Crookes about the beginning of the last century. Natural uranium (99.3% U-238 and 0.7% U-235 plus 0.0055% uranium-234) - refined to be free of all of their progeny and used to produce reactor fuel, either as-is, or after enrichement in uranium-235 - is about 14 times less radioactive than un-refined natural uranium as found in the ground, assuming all of its numerous daughters are in secular equilibrium with the parent.

Max Carcas
11.5.03
Ooops seem to have stirred it up! In response to your comments:

Rodney Adams:

- the 'example' mentioned a couple of times in these comments of a wavepower plant weighing 1000tonnes with a rating of 110kW is rather selective - this Japanese plant was merely a research vehicle and was never a commercial proposition. Currently there are a wide variety of concepts being pursued - subsea seabed mounted;floating offshore, shoreline, buoy type etc - the key is to get maximum energy capture for minimum capital cost (weight) but I wouldn't use the Japanese project as a particularly good marker.

Naturally environmental impacts must be considered as with any power project - these will depend on the type of machine and where its located - 'shadows causing migrating fish not being able to find their way home' sounds a bit implausible to me but thats up to the experts to decide. Generally offshore/ subsea structures encourage the growth of marine aquaculture rather than the reverse, hence wavepower could play a part in helping to replenish fish stocks particularly if these were made 'no-take' zones.

Regarding the $200bn of sunk costs in nuclear energy R&D (figures from the IEA incidentally - actually $158bn from 1974-98) my point was that new energy technologies have always required support in some form or other to get into the market - nuclear just happens to be a excellent example of how much support had been required to get it into the market....

"Anti-nukes always point to the costs of the last plants constructed" - well what else should be used? (NB I didn't say that I was 'anti-nuke', but find nuclear statistics an interesting comparison given that this is now a very mature technology). Certainly the experience from 'pro-nukes' who have always said that the next ones will be much cheaper, has not been terribly positive. If nuclear is so much cheaper why do commercial power project developers build gas turbine power stations but not nuclear?

Peter Manos:

Thanks for your coments. In answer to the question 'should humanity build 7,600km of plant?' the answer is if it makes environmental/economic sense and enhances security of supply then yes, but it won't happen overnight! Obviously 7,000km is a very big number although to put this in perspective it would result in a generating capacity in the same ball park to that currently installed for nuclear. As another comparison there are over 7,000 offshore oil and gas installations worldwide and many tens of thousands of kilometres of subsea gas and oil pipelines - clearly it made technical/economic sense to do this, hence it was done! Will it make sense for wave power? Well that remains to be seen but you definitely won't get a tree unless you plant the seed! Another point commonly misunderstood is that wave energy converters do not need to be monolithic structures solid across the waves - it is well known in wave energy theory that waves can be absorbed at a point, ie a device can have a capture 'wave capture width' several times greater than its own width, the 'footprint' of machines can actually be quite small.

James Hopf: Many fair points however I think the costs you quote for decommissioning in the US may perhaps be future costs discounted backwards? Not too sure about 60-100 year lifetimes either... I can only relate to our experience in the UK the taxpayer has had to shell out another 5bn to British Energy (the virtually bankrupt nuclear generator) which is unable to produce electricity at the market level even after capital costs have been written off. If GE's (or CANDU's for that matter) economics for nuclear are so good why don't they build one? GE are actively building wind farms - last year 7,000MW of wind turbines were installed of which a good proportion were GE's.

I find it somewhat hard to believe that more money is spent on renewables R&D than nuclear - have you got a source for this? Again UK stats I'm afraid but the total govt budget for *all* renewables R&D last year was around 14m, nuclear was 25m. Total spending on wave power research in the US was what?? Glad to hear you think its worth giving support to though and agree for the need for a 'feed-in' tarrif as a market enablement mechanism! For whoever develops the market/ technology first there's a potential market-size of $800bn or so out there with potential for jobs etc....

Peter Manos
11.5.03
Thanks Max. You've raised the level of discussion admirably.

If you don't mind, pls drop me a line at the address below, as I'd like to stay in touch.

Regards, Peter Manos Peter.Manos@WBCausey.com

Len Gould
11.5.03
Max: I think tou have it backwards.

If you read the above, you'd know that two new CANDU's were just commissioned a few months ago in China, there will very likely be more built in N Amer. shortly.

If wavepower economics are that good then ..?? is the real question.

James Hopf
11.5.03
Max:

I'm not sure what "future costs discounted backwards" means. In the US, operating nuclear plants are required to contribute a certain amount of money every year towards a decommissioning fund. The annual contribution must be satisfactory to the financial analysts, based upon conservative estimates of appreciation, and of final decommissioning cost. This annual sum can be simply divided by the annual kW-hr generation to yield a cost per kW-hr. The necessary contributions for plants operating in the US equates to no more than ~0.2 cents/kW-hr.

In fact, if anything the annual (or per kW-hr) contributions are "too high" because they were calculated assuming a 40-year operating life. As is becoming clear in the US, however, virtually all plants will operate for 60 years (perhaps even more). A large fraction of plants have already recieved regulatory approval for a 20-year extension of their original 40-year operating license. Most of the remaining plants have already submitted their license extention applications, or are planning to shortly. It is expected that virtually all plants currently operating in the US will operate for 60 years.

When you operate for 20 more years, not only do you contribute to the fund for 20 more years, but there is also 20 more years of growth from interest. Thus, the required annual contribution calculated based upon a 60-year operating period would be much smaller (less than half) of the contribution required for a 40-year operating period.

We could do the math ourselves, here. Assuming 8000 hours/year of operation, a 1 GW plant generates 8 billion kW-hrs per year. If they contributed 0.2 cents/kW-hr, this equates to an annual contribution of 16 million dollars. Even over a 40-year life, and even totally neglecting interest effects, this would sum to 640 million dollars after 40 years of operation; more than enough to decommission any plant. Over 60 years, the required cost is even less, and the effects of interest over such long periods are quite enormous. Factoring all these effects in will yield a required per kW-hr contribution that is negligibly small. Suffice it to say that it is much less than 0.1 cents/kW-hr (now that I think about it). Thus, it is fair to say that nuclear plant decommissioning costs are not a significant contributer to overall nuclear power costs.

James Hopf
11.5.03
Nuclear/Renewable Research Funding:

Concerning nuclear and renewable research funding, data for the year 1999 is given in a table from a DOE report which is at:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy/table_es1.html

The table shows a total annual subsidy of 1.07 billion dollars for renewables, most of which (740 million) is for tax credits for renewable energy production. These are direct operating subsidies that directly reduce the per-kW-hr cost of renewable energy, on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The 1.8 cent/kW-hr production tax credit for wind power, which results in a power cost reduction of exactly 1.8 cents/kW-hr, is an example of this. Similar subsidies for solar PV correspond to over 10 cents/kW-hr. The table shows 327 million for govt. research for renewables in 1999.

For nuclear, the table shows 640 million dollars for research, with no other subsidies (i.e., direct operating subsidies) of any kind. Notice that nuclear is the ONLY energy source that does not recieve any direct operating subsidies (i.e., it gets NO help from the govt. in terms of reducing direct or indirect costs).

Even the research funding number is misleading, upon further investigation. If one reads the general report that the table is from, and looks in the Federal Energy Reasearch chapter at:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy/research.html

one finds that most of the 640 million for "nuclear energy research" is actually for cleanup of old govt. nuclear WEAPONS sites that were contaminated way back in the late 40s and 50s. The cleanup is 466 million out of the 640 million total.

This area of "research" has absolutely NOTHING to do with commercial nuclear power. The cleanup funds to not aid commercial nuclear power in any way, directly or indirectly. Also, US commercial nuclear power did not create any of the mess that is being cleaned up. It is all from DEFENSE activities. The DOE's choice of words (and titles), calling it "nuclear energy R&D", is extremely unfortunate and misleading.

When you look at programs that would actually help the US commercial nuclear power industry, directly or even indirectly, the only programs that are applicable include programs like the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (research into advanced reactor designs) and the Nuclear Plant Optimization Program (which studies improved operations at existing plants). Another program, the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, is devoted to reprocessing, fast breeders, and means of consuming weapons plutonium etc..... It is very unclear if this program could be called beneficial to the industry, as the industry is not interested in reprocessing (or in any closed fuel cycle reactors) for the forseeable future.

Even including the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, these nuclear R&D programs that are actually useful to the commercial nuclear power industry amount to less than 100 million dollars per year. This is less than 1/3 of the money being spent on renewables research.

Furthermore, most of renewables support comes from direct operating subsidies. As stated above, nuclear recieves NO such subsidies, and is the only energy source that does not. Thus, commercial nuclear power in the US actually recieves less than one tenth the overall support that renewable energy does (i.e., less than 100 million vs. over 1 billion).

Even the above statement equates research funding with direct operating subsidies. It is very unclear whether such a practice (i.e., simply summing research with direct subsidies to yield a "total" subsidy) is meaningful or correct. in practice, research funding (dollar-for-dollar) is FAR less useful than a direct operating subsidy. After all, if it were as useful, the industry could (and would) just fund the research itself.

As stated above, and by others, much of the nuclear energy R&D budget is actually for other areas in the general field of nuclear technology, and/or is in areas of research that are of little interest to the industry. I gave some examples above, but many other examples exist of research in areas that the govt. believes is important, but that the industry has no interest in, and would never fund itself. Certainly many areas of research do not result in a decrease in nuclear power costs, on anywhere near a dollar for dollar basis, the way direct subsidies do.

Thus, it is clear that direct operating subsidies are always much more useful (i.e., are a much more direct benefit) than govt. research funding. This is even more true for mature technologies like nuclear. Thus, one can conclude that govt. support of nuclear power is truly negligible, and that it is treated worse than any other energy source.

Once again, as the table shows, nuclear is the ONLY energy source that recieves absolutely no direct govt. support (tax breaks, incentives, etc...). This on top of the fact that fossil fuels get away with having no penalty applied for their very signifi

James Hopf
11.5.03
Nuclear/Renewable Research Funding (contd...):

This on top of the fact that fossil fuels get away with having no penalty applied for their very significant external costs (i.e., pollution effects) whereas nuclear is required to emit no pollution, and basically give absolute proof that it never will. Nuclear very much deserves some kind of tax break to reflect its huge environmental advantages.

James Hopf
11.5.03
Why Nuclear Plants Aren't Being Built Now (response to Max):

First of all, a bit of history. After the nuclear plant construction boom of the 1970s and 80s, the US was over-capacity (as the rate of demand increase had fallen drastically, and we massively over-built). For this reason, no large (baseload) power plants were built for a decade or so after that. By the mid-to-late-1990s, we started to build some baseload plants, but those were ALL gas plants, due to the very low gas costs at the time, and the fact that building a gas plant involved far less political hassle than building any other type of plant. For this reasons, NO other form of generation could compete with gas (not just nuclear).

In summary, NO type of power plant, other than gas, has been built since the early 80s. The fact that "no nukes have been ordered since then" is a bit less meaningful, when you consider it in that context.

As I stated in my earlier discussion, new nuclear plants are close to being competative with coal and gas plants, but they are not quite there. Under current regulations, coal is about 0.5-1.0 cents/kW-hr cheaper, based upon the nuclear plant cost estimates that I presented. Gas plants at $5/MBTU would be a little bit more expensive (depending on financing terms), but gas has only cost this for a little while now, and some executives are under the impression that it will come back down in the future (many "long-term" projections think it will be ~$4 over the long term - which equates to a cost "about equal" to nuclear).

As we all know, the utilities make their decisions strictly on cost, given the current set of regulations. They don't let considerations like environmental effects, global warming, etc... affect their decision unless they are forced to. Thus, under current laws (and unless these laws change) they will still opt for fossil fuels, as fossil fuels still remain SLIGHTLY cheaper.

A small amount of renewable capacity has also been built recently (and is being built now). They are building renewables for the following three reasons:

One, they recieve massive subsidies (an order of magnitude higher than those given for any traditional source - 1.8 cents/kW-hr for wind, over 10 cents for solar).

The second reason is govt. mandate, in addition to (and going way beyond) any subsidy. Basically, "thou shalt build renewables no matter what the cost". Many US states have implemented "renewable portfolio standards" which require (by fiat), a minimum percentage of generation by renewables. (Don't get me started on what I think of this approach. I believe that external costs should be reflected and applied through pollution taxes, etc..., and then the market should be left to decide the winners).

The third reason is public releations. Keep in mind the actual amounts of generation ionvolved here. Wind power is still far less than 1% of US generation, and solar is negligible. The PR benefits are well worth taking a small loss on a negligible amount of renewable generation in your overall portfolio. I don't want to sound too cynical. I believe that the first two reasons (above) are the main reasons for the investment in renewables. It may have crossed their minds, however.

Two other effects (in addition to the slightly higher cost) are keeping nuclear power plants from being built:

1) Perception of large risks by financial institutions:

Things went so badly the first time around that both the utlilities and Wall Street are excessively gun shy about building the first new nuclear plant. I think they;ve gone overboard on this though.

No matter how much time, money and effort was spent over the last 15 years to improve and standardize reactor designs, to more precisely determine their cost, and to improve the licensing process (to reduce potential risk and delay), Wall Street still maintains excessive estimates of financial risk associated with building a new nuclear power plant. This despite all the improvements made over the years. This despite the fact that plants are being built, under-budget and on-schedule, in many other parts of the world. This despite the fact that only a few plants are being proposed (at first) and that this small effort will be divided amoung several huge utility entities (resulting in a very small level of financial exposure to each entity). This despite the cost guarantees being made by vendors like GE and AECL.

Despite all this, Wall Street considers nuclear to be more of a risk than coal or gas, despite the HUGE uncertainty in future gas supplies and prices (with much of the gas coming from unstable parts of the world - have you heard about what's been going on in Russia recently??). This despite the fact that any signifiant tightening of emissions requirements for coal (something many people support, and which is LONG overdue) would significantly affect coal's competativeness, and the fact that ANY type of CO2 emissions limits

James Hopf
11.5.03
Why Nuclear Plants Aren't Being Built Now (continued):

.........and the fact that ANY type of CO2 emissions limits would completely blow coal out of the water. Yet, Wall Street thinks nuclear is the bigger risk. Personally, I think they are insane!

The opinions of Wall Street matter, however, since the terms of the financing have a dramatic effect on the resulting power price, especially for a capital intensive source like nuclear. I've seen reports that show power price differences of more than a factor of two, even for a plant with a given overnight capital cost, merely due to differences in financing terms. Due to Wall Streets in accurate perceptions of nuclear risk, the financing costs remain excessive, and they render nuclear uncompetative, are least in terms of totally private funding.

2) Excessive short term focus of investors:

I heard that the rates of return demanded by investors for the set of merchant gas plants recently built (many of which are now standing idle) was ~25%. Can you believe that!! So much for thinking in terms of long term loans at the going long-term interest rate (you know, say 6% or so, like a home mortgage). I've been told things like "the investors want their money back in only 2-3 years". In other words, the lower operatin cost of a nuclear plant would have to cover the higher capital cost in only a few years. Apparently, investors (Wall Street) considers the fact that the nuclear plant will then generate power at half the cost of a gas plant for the rest of its 60-100 year life to be completely irrelevant.

Common sense tells any man that this thinking is completely out to lunch. Who regrets the fact that we are getting, and will be getting, power at ~ 1 cent/kW-hr for centuries from the large power dams that were built (by the govt.) in the western US? Despite the fact that their construction was OBVIOUSLY a good idea from an economic point of view, those dams would NOT have been built by the private sector, especially under the ways of thinking that currently reins on Wall Street. I think nuclear plants are very comparable to other large infrastructure projects like these dams, or the interstate highway system, etc... Can you imagine having to build our roads with private funding, and with investors that demand 25% rates of return???!!!

As electricity is indispensible, power plants should be considered part of the nations infrastructure, and they should be financed (i.e., be able to get financing terms) accordingly. Note that the effects of this excessive short term financial focus will also effect any capital intensive energy source, including all renewables. The current situation favors nothing except gas, and will drive us to be utterly dependent on it, no matter how insecure the supply becomes, and no matter how high its cost. This is a general problem that must be addressed.

One final point would be that, despite all the above effects, nuclear may indeed be built, entirely by the private sector, in the US in the near future. Many utilities and vendors are currently talking about it. They may build just one reactor, split amongst all of them, to reduce the potential risks. Once it is proven (or demonstrated) that they can by built on time and one schedule, at a competative cost, then the financing terms will greatly improve, and the costs will come down much further. If many plants are built, they may even benefit from volume of production.

I would also conclude by commenting on two other statements Max made. First of all, it IS inappropriate to single out the last reactors to be COMPLETED, to obtain a cost estimate. This is cherry picking the very worst (i.e., most delayed, and most expensive) plants. Perhaps a better measure would be to select the last plants ORDERED. After all, these plants would represent the most recent designs.

Also, it is specious to insist on only looking at Western countries, as all nuclear plants ordered and built in the last decade (and there have been a large number of these) have been built in the Far East. Based upon the experience in these countries, it is clear than nuclear plants ARE much cheaper than those of the first generation, built in the 70s and 80s.

Max states that pro-nukes continual projections of new plants being cheaper has not panned out. This is not the case. The newer designs that have been recently built (and are continuing to be built) in the East have clearly demonstrated significant reductions in cost, as well as predictability of cost and schedule. Cost are also continuing to come down. The plants being built in the East have power costs only about 1 cent or so higher than those of fossil fuels. Indeed, GEs "guarantee" of a $1400/kW capital cost is based upon actual experience building that same plant design in Japan, etc..., several times, on-budget and on-schedule.

mauk mcamuk
11.5.03
Dear James Hopf,

First, you are a wise and learned fellow, thank you for your information.

That said, I know what the problem is with the British nuclear power industry.

First a tiny bit of background.

There are many different ways to build a nuclear reactor. In the West, we mostly built so-called light water reactors, in Pressurized and Boiling subvariants. These machines have a long and impressive record of performance and safety, even with the comparatively primitive designs we came up with in the 50's and 60's.

A notable and excellent exception to this is the CANDU series of designs, which uses heavy water as a moderator. Heavy water is the best moderator allowed by the laws of physics that we have access to, and this allows the CANDU design to safely run on uranium "straight from the ground" as it were. No expensive enrichment needed.

Another notable, but much less excellent exception is the USSR's RBMK design. The RBMK uses graphite as a moderator and water as a coolant and is a simply AWFUL design, as evidenced by the poor performance during the accident at Chernobyl. Hopefully those monsters will be replaced with safer nuclear plants soon.

And finally, we have the design which our good friends the British inflicted upon themselves, the MAGNOX.

Note, this is a large reason why the British nuclear industry has such woes, but is not the only one.

A MAGNOX and it's more advanced children use graphite for a moderator (which is flammable, by the way). Graphite is a fine moderator, although not as good as heavy water, and allows the MAGNOX to use unenriched uranium fuel. However, the MAGNOX uses pure uranium metal, rather than the much safer and nearly indestructible uranium ceramics used in most reactors. Uranium metal is flammable, you see. To make matters worse, the cladding used for the uranium fuel was magnesium. Yes, it's flammable, too. And lastly, the MAGNOX doesn't use water for a coolant, it uses carbon dioxide. Poisonous AND flammable. Did I mention that it operates at temperatures twice as hot as a water cooled reactor?

The MAGNOX is a scary, scary device, and the British, bless their little hearts, built dozens of the things. I find it a testament to their character that they've mostly kept them from burning like candles, but they scare me half to death.

As a result, every anti-nuclear person on the planet points gleefully to the British nuclear industry as proof-positive that nuclear is on its last legs. This is rather like using the Yugo as the example to use when claiming that all cars suck.

Why do the anti's so carefully ignore the Cadillacs of the nuclear industry?

Because they know if the truth were told, we'd be building nucear plants like crazy.

Rodney Adams
11.6.03
As Mauk said, anti's ignore nuclear success stories:

"Because they know if the truth were told, we'd be building nucear plants like crazy. "

It might be logical to take a close look at just who would be seriously affected if we were, in fact, building and operating nuclear plants like crazy. Anyone in the business of selling or supporting dirty, expensive, dangerous, volatile fossil fuel based systems would be piling up at the exits in their rush to leave the business.

Perhaps there is a good reason why it has been so profitable for people to espose seemingly illogical anti-nuclear beliefs for so many decades. Any delays that their activities impose on the almost inevitable dominance of uranium in the energy markets allows more time for profits by fossil fuel interests.

As they say in the movies - "Follow the money."

Rod Adams www.atomicinsights.com

TERRY MEYER
12.29.03
For an article by HARMONY, it surely did GENERATE a lot of DISCORD.

Ann Marie Harmony
1.19.04
With respect to the final comment on the name Harmony and discord- I have only to ask- who is aware of the audience receptions of Igor Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring?" - or Disney's 40's movie "Fantasia" which used it as the score for "Sorceror's Apprentice?"

What it is. HARMONY works for me.

TERRY MEYER
2.23.04
I lost ya. Does the piece have DISCORDant tones that GENERATED audience disHARMONY at the time even though it has come to be admired since, just like the article here GENERATED

TERRY MEYER
2.23.04
[I swear, I only hit the spacebar]

Does the piece have DISCORDant tones that GENERATED audience disHARMONY at the time even though it has come to be admired since, just like the article here GENERATED discord but will come to be admired in the passage of time?