Note: Please see an update to this report at http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Update--Energy-Island-a-Solution-to-Global-Warming.html, dated Feb 2, 2012.
By Thomas Manaugh, PhD*
Scientists are almost universally agreed that global warming is a real problem and that it will have devastating consequences for life on Earth. A first step toward solving the problem is to recognize the impact of greenhouse gases. The second step is to stop using fossil fuels, thereby reducing the warming effect caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
That second step is accomplished by producing electricity from sources of energy other than fossil fuels (i.e., "green" energy sources like the wind and sun) and using that electricity to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water by a process of electrolysis. Those gases can be recombined later, as needed, to supply clean energy to replace the energy that would otherwise have come from fossil fuels.
The solution offered here, described in more detail below, could only have a real impact on global warming if it were realized in a public works project funded at a level never before seen. Could the people of planet Earth come together to initiate and carry out the biggest project ever conceived? Yes, they could.
In the past several hundred years, Man’s geometrically increasing population and use of carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) has set in motion a process of global warming. Higher global temperatures result from the Earth’s inability to rid herself of excess energy in the form of thermal pollution.
Radiant energy comes from the Sun through space to heat planet Earth. Historically, Earth had not become too hot for life because Earth re-radiates energy back into Space, thereby keeping its temperature moderate. That is changing. Temperature is now increasing in the air, oceans and on land with devastating effects on the planet’s ability to support life. Earth is presently in a process of mass extinction of thousands of species of life every year.
Using fossil fuels for energy represents only a small fraction of what warms the planet – less than 1%. However, burning such fuels has changed the atmosphere of the Earth by creating polluting green house gases. Those gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming. Green house gases continue to be generated at a high rate, and temperatures will continue to rise on Earth – for decades at least – even if the use of all fossil fuels were halted today.
The invention, called “Energy Island,” invokes a combination of processes to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels by generating electricity in abundant amounts and by making available hydrogen gas to serve as a replacement for carbon-based fuels used for heating and transportation.
Energy Island (EI) uses a platform that floats in oceans or lakes; but it could also be land-based with minor and obvious changes to its design.
EI comprises the unique combination of known devices that capture and transform energy from the air, water, and solar radiation. It also uses known devices for generating and storing hydrogen gas – a low-polluting fuel that can be burned with oxygen and can also be used to generate electricity in fuel cells. Hydrogen gas that is generated by EI becomes available as a fuel to replace carbon-based fuels. Energy Island employs known devices that are highly scalable, non-polluting, and cost-effective for generating hydrogen gas and storing hydrogen gas as a fuel to replace carbon-based fuels. The resulting reduction in generation of green house gases will reduce the amount of global warming that would otherwise occur. Hydrogen is a low-polluting fuel as compared to carbon-based fuels because it combines with oxygen to produce heat and water vapor and produces neither carbon dioxide nor carbon monoxide.
Note: An update on the feasibility of the Energy Island invention is available at http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Update--Energy-Island-a-Solution-to-Global-Warming.html.
Energy Island must be quite large to have any significant effect on global warming. However, its scale is within feasible limits. It is estimated that a square surface that is less than 100 miles on each side receives more energy from solar radiation than all the energy that is used by humans for heating, lighting, cooling, transportation, manufacturing, etc. Therefore, one very large EI (or a number of smaller Energy Islands) could be constructed and operated in a way to capture solar-based energy on a scale large enough to replace use of fossil fuels by using the energy of the sun, wind, and water to create hydrogen gas as a replacement fuel.
The specific method of generating the hydrogen gas is by electrolysis, using electricity derived from clean energy sources that are captured by elements of EI. The energy-collecting elements of EI include (a) arrays of solar photovoltaic cells, (b) wind turbines that drive electricity generators, (c) generators that capture kinetic energy from ocean waves, and (d) other sources, including ocean currents, thermal differences between ocean layers, and salinity differences between ocean layers.
Figure 1, below, outlines how EI uses green sources of energy to generate electricity and to produce and store hydrogen gas. Wind that blows across Energy Island drives wind turbines that generate electricity (1111). Waves in the vicinity of EI cause devices to bob in the water and generate electricity when that kinetic motion is used to generate electricity from fluctuating electromagnetic fields inside the devices (1121). Solar photovoltaic cells that are arrayed across the surface of EI produce electricity (1131). Currents of water flowing through a duct under EI’s platform surface drive turbines that generate electricity (1141). Other sources of energy can be used to generate electricity, including differences in temperature between layers of ocean water (1151) and differences in salinity between layers of ocean water (1161).
Figure 2 depicts major structural elements of Energy Island’s floating platform. The top of the platform (2111) is where most of EI’s mechanical and electrical devices are located. Specific locations for the devices are not shown except for the location (2121) shown for a generator that is driven by ocean currents (2131) that flow beneath the top of the floating platform. Other elements shown are side panels of the platform (2141) and (2142) and a bottom panel (2151). Those three panels are configured so that ocean currents are directed toward the top of the platform, where water turbines intercept the current to generate electricity. The current is depicted in Figure 2 by double-headed arrows (2171). Narrowing of the path of the water at the location where the top and bottom panels are closest in proximity (2161) concentrates the force of the current that is intercepted by the water turbines.
Figure 3 depicts the shape of panels that serve as the major structural elements of EI’s floating platform: the top panel (3111), the side panels (3141) and (3142), and the bottom panel (3151).
Figure 4 is a schematic representation of how equipment can be positioned in relation to the top panel (4111) of EI’s floating platform. Each “.” on the panel represents the center point of an array of thousands of photovoltaic cells (4121). Each “W” on the panel represents a location that contains a wind farm (4131), where hundreds of large wind turbines generate electricity from wind blowing across the top panel. Each “G” on the panel represents the placement of a bank of multiple generators (4141) that are driven by water flowing under the top panel. The “B” placed to the side of the top panel represents thousands of bobbing wave generators (4151) that are deployed in the water near to the top panel and are linked to the panel by electrical wires (4152). The “S” on the panel represents the above-water location of equipment (4161) that goes below the water to extract energy by making use of differences in salinity between various layers of water. The “T” on the panel represents the above-water location of equipment (4171) that goes below the water to extract energy by making use of differences in temperature between various layers of water. The “E” on the panel represents the location (4181) of a plant where electrolysis is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases from water. The “C” on the panel shows a location near the electrolysis plant where canisters (4191) are used to store hydrogen in compressed or liquid form.
|Step 1, Generating Electrical Energy -- Electrical energy is created by capturing and converting energy from sources including Wind (1111), Waves (1121), Solar Radiation (1131), Water Currents (1141), Temperature Differences in water layers (1151), and Salinity differences in water layers (1161).
|Step 2, Using Generated Energy to Produce Hydrogen Gas -- Electrical system takes feeds of generated electricity and uses them to energize processes on EI, including electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen gas (2111) or to store electricity in batteries.
|Step 3, Storing Hydrogen Gas -- Hydrogen gas is compressed (3111) and/or liquefied (3121) for storage in canisters.
|Step 4, Generating Electricity from Stored Hydrogen Gas -- Compressed or liquefied hydrogen gas is fed to fuel cells, as needed, to produce electricity (4111). Electricity could also be available from having been stored in batteries.
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*Thomas Manaugh lives and works in Dallas, Texas. He can be contacted at tmanaugh(at)aol.com.