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Sci Tech

A Little Bit Of History: In The Days Of Cholera

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Ridgecrest was envisioned to be a trigeneration facility, using a combined cycle power generation system topping a cascaded process heat system for food preparation and dehydration, and a water desalination plant. It was designed to use nearly 90% of all collected heat from the tower ranging from 1500 F down to 200 F. Its design scale was 560 MWe with over 1.0 GWth of cogeneration. It also had a million ton thermal storage unit using iron orthosilicate (copper slag). The field covered 6 square miles. It would produce all the water for a town of 60,000 people, power for 300,000 people, and food for three million people.

The solar field at Hidalgo copper smelter was to have had 10,000 tracking heliostats and an 800' tower with four downward facing cavities to collect and trap the light from a square mile of mirrors. It was designed to produce 80 MWe of power while cogenerating process heat for smelting copper using the Outukumpu Oy oxygen flash smelting process. The smelting enhancements would have quadrupled the plant's throughput of copper, and virtually eliminated all of its fossil fuel requirements and noxious emissions of sulfur through its unique capture process.

The new design, which would build on these two, takes the exhaust heat from the gas turbine topping cycle at just over 1000 F to produce steam for a solid state ammonia synthesis system. About 60% of the energy required for ammonia synthesis would be replaced by the steam, and the new solid state process eliminates the need for electrolysis of water to retrieve the hydrogen. Air liquefaction is still needed to capture the nitrogen which is then combined with the hydrogen to produce ammonia with a Haber Bosch technique.

In this manner, no carbon dioxide is produced and only sunlight, water, and air are the feedstocks. The plant output in the area of the Mojave Desert would be about 400 MWe at a capacity factor of 0.34 and 175,000 MT of ammonia each year.

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At $15 per million BTU ($1.50 per therm of natural gas equivalent) the plant ROI is well over 15%.

The ammonia market today is already importing 58% of our needs. The potential, including both agriculture and turbodiesels for cars and trucks, is over 200 million MT per year. It's a big deal.

The groundwater is what they use in Ridgecrest. It's mostly salty water left from long ago deep underground. The surface is bone dry. The groundwater at China Lake is too brackish to drink.

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Then, there's ocean energy. Global cooling was a possibility if we developed ocean thermal energy conversion. These plants would cruise the oceans searching for the hottest surface waters to power their ammonia-based Rankine cycle engines. If more than 30,000 of them were built, they could lower the temperature of the ocean about 1 degree C per decade, nearly enough to offset global warming!

On my Pickens Web page, you'll find a link to a discussion on just that point from 1977. I was aboard OTEC-1 during its shakedown tests in 1979. It worked.

Hidalgo is gone. The last US copper smelter closed its doors over a decade ago, and Phelps Dodge died with it. Couldn't compete with Chilean copper. DOE shut down all OTEC research and development in '83. Death to the invaders! Only the strong survive. Oil and gas are the kings.

We have fought wars over oil, and destroyed our economy. Yet politicians still sing out, "Drill, baby, drill!" at their conventions. Madness.

There are technological solutions, some of which I have begun to reveal, but leadership is the unmeasurable factor that can make or break the ultimate solution. My life is an an example of what can happen when you're ahead of your time and no one listens because they perceive no threat.

We still have that problem. The idiots in power still believe that we have centuries' worth of fossil fuel, unlimited amounts of nuclear fuel, and that global warming is a myth. The myth is their role as a leader: They do not understand the importance of technical know how, the power of invention, and the extraordinary creativity within the human spirit. They have exceptionally poor education, and cannot allow people with vision to take power.

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We are electing a new crop of leaders tonight. How many have a good, solid technical education to balance their political "science". Guess -- maybe 2% at most?

Many of you are correct in assuming that we have a serious, if not insurmountable crisis in leadership. We have solutions, just no will to take the risks necessary to carry them out.

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Designed first all-solar home for Ryland Homes in 1974. At MITRE, led a group of 35 of the best minds in the world (including Dr. Edward Teller, among others) who performed detailed engineering, scientific, socio-economic, and political analyses (more...)

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