Friday, 29 December 2017

The Energy/Environment Algorithm

Webster defines an algorithm as a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end, especially by a computer. Increasingly the global economy, which is the production, distribution, or trade, and consumption of goods and services is being governed by these programs which as Kevin Slavin points out in his excellent TED talk are shaping our world. They establish stock prices but not satisfied with speculating on tangible assets, the latest craze is to make the algorithm itself a proof of work that purportedly has intrinsic value.

Surely there are enough real-world problems requiring solutions for which funds now being pyramided on speculation schemes would be better put to work and to that end the following algorithm is submitted.

The Legend for the energy/environment algorithm is:

1 Singularity University      
2 Bloomberg        
3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The first line of this algorithm relates to the current mix of primary energy sources now dominated by fossil fuels.

The second line relates to the nominal value of energy1 and introduces the environmental cost of business2 that is the fossil fuel discount mandated by the negative environmental implications of this form of energy production. Whereas gross domestic product counts the total value of goods and services, the true value of energy is its net benefit and since we need to be weaned off fossil fuels by the end of the century, its total value is estimated at $207 trillion.

The third line estimates the planetary consequences of fossil fuels which have been estimated at 335 terawatts3 a year, escalating to 640 terawatts by the end of the century in a business as usual scenario.

The next line shows the temperature of the Earth’s surface prior to the industrial revolution, the current temperature, the annual increase, the estimated temperature by 2100, average temperature at the North Pole, the estimate at the pole by 2100, the average at the equator, the temperature of a 1000 meter long column of ammonia reaching into the ocean, the ocean temperature at 1000 meters, the Carnot efficiency of a heat engine moving surface heat to 1000 meters, the parasitic losses of the system modeled and the net Carnot efficiency which may range between 4 and 7.5 percent. The essence of the model is; heat removed from a tropical ocean surface to deeper water is unavailable to produce polar ice melt or tropical storms.
The sequestered heat will be replaced by heat from outside the tropics which will lead to an overall cooling of the surface. Some suggest that such a scheme would melt the deep ocean clathrates but the more sensitive climate models predict that methane hydrates at greater water depths than 500 meters are not threatened by warming of 3 degrees of warming. These however suggest that warming of only 1oC along the continental margins and in the Arctic would melt the clathrates, which is a consequence avoided by the conversion and sequestration of the heat of warming to productive energy.

Line 5 calculates the economic benefit of converting warming heat to productive energy. At a conversion of 7.344%, the current ocean heat accumulation rate of 335 terawatts would produce 24.6 terawatts or about 70% more energy than we now derive from fossil fuels while avoiding their environmental cost of business.
The ocean is essentially a thermal battery. Like all batteries, it has a negative and a positive terminal and in this model a heat conduit through which heat flows to the deep and through a turbine to produce power. With a conventional battery, a chemical reaction causes a movement of electrons through a circuit and the ultimate discharge of the battery. The ocean surface too losses some of its charge producing energy which is replaced by heat from beyond the tropics. Once we stop producing greenhouse gases, the 1.2 degrees of warming we have experienced to date could then be drawn on to produce power. Heat however rises. The heat moved to a depth of 1000 meters is therefore back at the surface in about 250 years and becomes a new energy input for another energy cycle.
Essentially the ocean battery is self-charging and therefore can produce power for as long as it takes to convert the heat of warming to useful work. So regardless of the efficiency of the conversion, the ocean produces the same total amount of power, with the only variable being the amount of energy produced annually, at a minimum 13.4 terawatts, and the number of years the energy is available, which may vary from between 3,400 to 6,250 years.

The bottom line is: ocean heat can produce 137 times more energy than fossil fuels and do it at least 40 times longer.

The viability of the approach is confirmed by the following schedule that compares the cost of a 200 megawatt OTEC system with current North American nuclear and hydroelectric undertakings.
The savings are between 35 and 147 percent.

Instead of trying to pull of money out of thin air with our algorithms, we need blockchains that use these procedures to their greatest economic and social effect. Environmentally sustainable energy can be a force multiplier that resolves the next great needs of mankind, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism and war, disease, education, democracy and population growth. This iteration of the energy/environment algorithm is subject to improvement and further development but the current computer model is available upon request.

No comments: