Over the course of the 20th Century; coal, oil and natural gas became the dominate energy providers enabling mankind’s advancements in the industrial and technology revolutions. A heavy reliance has been placed upon them to bring mankind into the modern age and many of the world’s industrialized nations have developed fossil fuel dependencies.
Recent energy price spikes, occurring between 2005 and mid 2008, are indicative of how prevalent the world’s reliance upon fossil fuels is and how severely world economies that are dependent upon them can be negatively affected by extreme price increases.
Furthermore, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are increasing in response to man’s heavy use of fossil fuels. This is increasing the green house effect our atmosphere has on the planet surface. Potentially severe consequences may result from our actions.
Evidence linking global climate change to carbon dioxide emissions coming from fossil fuel usage has been mounting since the mid 1990’s. And, the current worldwide scientific consensus indicates: a continued reliance upon fossil fuels to power our modern lifestyles and advanced economies poses significant environmental risk.
As more and more information becomes available, efforts to find alternatives for fossil fuel usage has increased. However, in the U.S., finding alternatives for fossil fuel use was not initiated by the onset of global climate change. Concerted efforts began over 30 years ago, when this nation faced a crisis due to diminished oil imports. Since then, our federal and state governments have implemented programs and/or sponsored research seeking methods to sever our need for imported oil and/or reduce overall fossil fuel consumption.
But, from the oil crisis until now, we have not broken our dependency upon oil imports. Now, we must also reduce our carbon dioxide emissions coming from fossil fuel use. Can we achieve energy independence and reduce carbon dioxide emissions simultaneously?
Combined, reducing fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions and severing our reliance upon imported oil may appear daunting; too complex to solve or too expensive to accomplish. But we are Americans and human, with a history of finding ways to overcome adversity.
However, the longer it takes us to find and implement a viable solution the greater risk of economic and/or environmental collapse we face. We can not afford to assign a less than immediate sense of urgency for finding a solution to these problems. We must act and act now and America is coming to realize this. Its governments, businesses, organizations, academia and people are now actively seeking to address this issue with a viable solution.
In this time, when opportunity awaits, reflecting upon all alternate and advanced energy knowledge gained over the past 3 decades can be beneficial. Through understanding the abilities and limitations of each technology it is possible to project if a potential exists that has not been properly explored or applied. Having insight into technology’s unused potential can help identify an appropriate solution to the complex problems we are facing.
Thorough review of known technologies indicates: no single technology currently meets the challenge to decrease oil imports and reduce carbon dioxide emissions individually. There is no “silver bullet” that will solve our problems, at least not in man’s current level of knowledge. This means, we must apply multiple independent technologies or achieve an integration of technologies to successfully overcome the complex obstacles we face.
Part of the complexity falls with our existing energy infrastructure. Our fossil energy infrastructure represents a significant investment and a solution that works with it will be more readily received. Also, businesses need profits, a solution that lacks profitability such to encourage and sustain business endeavors will not be widely adopted and applied.
Thus, to develop an appropriate solution all of the following must be met:
- Achieve a sustainable energy independence
- Commercial profitability and economic advancement
- Existing energy infrastructure compatibility or a rendering of it as obsolete
- Significantly reduce our total atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions
The Algae Energy Center (AEC) concept is an Advanced Energy Technology in which multiple existing technologies are integrated to achieve a single complex purpose. Some of the technologies incorporated in AEC are well known and widely used commercially; others are not and some need further development to achieve their fullest potential.
Algae have a known capacity to sequester carbon dioxide and are the fastest growing plants on planet earth. Their biomass is known to produce alternate fuels that can replace fossil fuels and petroleum oil products. Developing quality renewable fuels from carbon dioxide sequestration is a fundamental aspect an appropriate solution would exhibit.
Another fundamental aspect is the alternate fuel supply must contain a sufficient stored energy potential. Without this, alternative fuels can not adequately compete with their high demand fossil fuel counterparts in well established markets. Therefore, the AEC concept integrates Commercial Algae Farming (CAF) and Algae Fuel Production (AFP) with supporting technologies to obtain quality fuels with high stored energy potential.
CAF sustains organic material production via algae’s natural ability to sequester carbon dioxide (photosynthesis) and Advanced Algae Fuel (AAF) technology uses that material to develop high quality fuels that are compatible with existing petroleum networks. These two primary AEC components are supported with solar and wind energy, carbon dioxide capture and other technologies to achieve maximum benefit and stored energy potential.
Through integrating multiple technologies, AEC supports limiting factors in technologies with the strengths of others, allowing the collective grouping to be more effective. Viable high demand products, that reduce our total carbon dioxide emissions and support energy independence, can thereby be developed and supplied to existing high revenue markets. This enables AEC, as a business venture, to compete and win in well established markets with substantial long term revenue potential and develop high value niche markets.
The concept, Algae Energy Center, seeks to develop replacements for fossil fuels by mimicking their formation to achieve modern day replications in significantly less time.
The natural processes that formed fossil fuels still occur today. An example is modern Peat lands; new material is laid on top of existing material every year. Peat is a relatively young type of fossil fuel and is used in its current state. In sufficient time and under the right conditions, future coal resources will develop from modern peat deposits.
Picture courtesy of Clean Coal Technology Foundation of Texas
Quite simply, fossil fuels are photosynthetic derived carbon products that did not fully decay or were not metabolized back into carbon dioxide. Understanding how they were formed can allow us to design processes to make new generations of similar fuels.
Photosynthesis formed energy carrying organic materials. Amounts of materials produced exceeded what was consumed by other life forms and unconsumed plant material began the decay process. Some of the material did not fully decay creating a build up. Over time partially decayed plant material and remains of plant eating life forms grew into deposits. As the deposits became bigger, or were covered over, the material in them began to be compressed. As time passed, heat and pressure developed by compression forced non-energy carrying impurities out of the deposits, concentrating what remained. This series of processes naturally took abundances of photosynthetic developed energy carriers and transformed them into the various fossil fuels we now use.
The natural formation of fossil fuels did not occur from a single process and no single process can be used to replicate substitutes for them. Understanding the need to have multiple processes working together to sustainably replace a portion of our fossil fuel use is a key to successfully achieving that goal.
To effectively produce alternative fuels, a combination of technologies must mirror the natural forces, processes and sequence of events that formed fossil fuels in considerably less time. This principle helped guide the development of the AEC concept. AEC had to:
- Produce a large surplus of organic material through photosynthesis
- Collect the organic materials; purify and concentrate their energy carrying compounds into quality fuel products in a timely manner
- Operate primarily absent fossil fuel energy, except where fossil fuels function as a source providing carbon dioxide
- Integrate multiple technologies to function in a single complex system capacity and overcome limitations affecting the individual technologies
- Operate with minimal waste to be cost effective and offer profitability
Some technologies (with brief summaries) integrated into the Algae Energy Center Technology are:
Commercial Algae Farming (CAF): refers to commercial scale aquaculture of algae.
Note: CAF can offer alternative waste management mechanisms.
Algae Fuel Production (AFP): refers to the production of renewable fuel products from a conversion of algae’s organic materials into fuel or directly produced by algae.
Advanced Algae Fuel (AAF): refers to hydrocarbon fuels, equivalent to hydrocarbons found in petroleum oil, derived from algae biomass.
Air Gas Systems (AGS): refers to mechanically obtaining, storing and transferring highly concentrated or pure streams of individual gases present in a mixture of gases.
High Intensity Lighting (HIL): refers to artificially illuminating an area near natural sunlight conditions.
Note: Can promote plant growth in areas void of natural sunlight.
Integrated Control Systems (ICS): refers to multiple system controls routed to a single multi-function control point.
Waste Management (WM): refers to the receiving, processing and disposing of municipal and/or industrial waste products in solid, liquid and/or gaseous form.
Clean Coal Technologies (CC-T): refers to a group of technologies having the primary intent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the combustion of coal.
Note: As a group, CC-T has adaptability to any carbon dioxide emitting fuel source.
Included in the group referred to as CC-T are the following individual technologies:
- Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)
- Oxy-Coal (OX-CO)
- Carbon Dioxide Capture (CO2-C)
- Carbon Dioxide Sequestration (CO2-S)
Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC): refers to the production of a synthetic gas (syngas) from coal and the application of syngas to a combined cycle generating facility. Note: The process forms higher carbon dioxide concentrations in its exhaust gas streams than would be present in traditional flue gases raising removal efficiencies.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
Oxy-Coal (OX-CO): refers to the application of pure oxygen to a boiler’s combustion chamber instead of atmospheric air with approximate 21% oxygen 78% Nitrogen content.
Note: Applying high concentrations of oxygen instead of air reduces the volume of gas needed to support complete combustion, thus increasing the volumetric concentration of carbon dioxide in the mixture of gases exiting the combustion chamber.
Carbon Dioxide Capture (CO2-C): refers to the removal and storage of carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. Note: Primarily applied to situations where high concentrations of carbon dioxide are present in the gas mixture it is removed from.
Carbon Dioxide Sequestration (CO2-S): refers to the prevention of carbon dioxide emission sources entering the atmosphere. Note: Includes the currently viewed as acceptable practices of injection into geologic formations and deep ocean burial.
Closed Loop Systems (CLS): refers to the repeated cycling of material contained within a closed system and each cycle achieves virtually the same work.
Modified Closed Loop Systems (MCLS): refers to loop systems with ability to operate either as closed, open or partially closed and open.
Solar Thermal Energy (ST-E): refers to a high heat source produced by directing an area of sunlight to a focal point. Applying the heat source to a given process achieves a desired work output. Note: Also known as (AKA): Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy.
Photovoltaic Energy (PV-E): refers to an electrical current developed directly from sunlight by inducing materials to release electrons by photon interaction. Note: Includes Concentrated Photovoltaic Energy.
Wind Turbine Energy (WT-E): refers to an electrical current developed by the transfer of wind energy across the blades of a turbine. The resulting rotation drives a generator.
Centrifugal Separation Systems (CSS): refers to a constant flow inline separator using differences in volumetric mass to effect the separation of materials suspended in a liquid through applied centrifugal force.
These listed technologies are deemed essential to the primary purpose of AEC. However, it is not an all inclusive list of technologies necessary to achieve an Algae Energy Center.
Some of these technologies are well established with long histories of use. Others are in their infancy and new technologies commonly face opposition to their implementation.
An example of this is: US Senator Harry Reid; (D) Nevada, is on record as saying “There is no such thing as clean coal. There may be cleaner burning coal, but there is no such thing as clean coal” (3). With all due respect to the Honorable Senator; he was premature or misinformed, unless he was also including “dirty” mining practices in his statement.
When a technology is new, it may be difficult to see potential beyond its original intent or application. A potentially controversial new technology can have better acceptance when additional benefit(s) and/or useful application(s) can be demonstrated.
CAF has an Achilles’ heel: atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are insufficient to properly support AEC biomass production requirements, making it dependent upon high volume carbon dioxide sources. CC-T offers opportunity to achieve the carbon dioxide volume and density needed to effectively supply commercial fuel production with algae biomass.
Due to mobility, recovering carbon dioxide emissions from individual transportation vehicles is unfeasible. Sequestering carbon dioxide from high volume fixed sources is currently one of the most reasonable methods to achieve maximum emission reduction.
A mathematical example: 5 tons of carbon dioxide will be produced and emitted to the atmosphere from carbon based (fossil) fuel usage; 3 tons will come from fixed location sources and 2 tons from mobile sources (transportation). If 2 tons of the carbon dioxide produced at the fixed location sources were captured and sequestered through a method producing an equivalent fuel that replaced the transportation fuels originally used. Upon its use, like the original fuel used, the replacement fuel would produce 2 tons of carbon dioxide and emit it to the atmosphere due to mobility. The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions would then be: 1 ton, which was not sequestered from fixed locations and 2 tons, from transportation, totaling 3 tons. The carbon based fuels used would still produce 5 tons of carbon dioxide; but, only 3 of the 5 tons would enter the atmosphere.
Clearly, replacement fuels developed from carbon dioxide capture and sequestration for use in situations where these are not feasible is a key element to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing fossil fuel usage. The greater the amount of replacement fuels we can develop through carbon dioxide capture and sequestration the better our chances of achieving energy independence and reducing our total carbon dioxide emissions can be.
Individually or as a group, CC-T can apply to any carbon based fuel. Accordingly, the AEC technology concept is tailored to sequester high volume carbon dioxide emissions originating at fixed locations, from any carbon fuel source, and yield replacement fuels. Clean ____? Yes, used with AEC ____ releases no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and enables production of alternate fuels to develop and sustain our energy independence.
During development of the AEC concept, each incorporated aspect was painstakingly evaluated for limitations and benefits. Capability, compatibly, feasibility, functionality, profitability, reliability and sustainability were all given significant priority status in the evaluation processes. The unique way technologies are deployed in AEC and integrated for maximum benefit and efficiency allows limiting factors to be overcome, untapped abilities to be accessed and additional revenue streams to be achieved.
The AEC concept is not only able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a level that can achieve and sustain energy independence, it is capable of further carbon dioxide emission reductions and extending the time of availability for limited fossil fuel resources.
Plants, Algae and Cyanobacteria
Algae are the lowest (simplest) form of plant life. All plants, including algae, have chloroplasts which contain chlorophyll giving them photosynthetic ability.
Plants naturally sequester carbon dioxide thru photosynthesis producing the carbohydrate known as glucose (C6H12O6) (4) and releasing oxygen. Plants form a glucose molecule using 4 photons of light energy to chemically react 6 molecules of both: carbon dioxide and water. The release of 6 diatomic oxygen molecules occurs as a reaction byproduct.
Chemical equation: 6 CO2↓ + 6 H2O + 4 photons ► 1 C6H12O6 (glucose) + 6 O2↑
Mass relation: 1.4657(X) CO2↓ + 0.60(X) H2O ► (X) C6H12O6 (glucose) + 1.0657(X) O2↑
Where X is a value >0 in units of mass. Based on atomic weights: Carbon (C) – 12.01; Hydrogen (H) – 1.0079 and Oxygen (O) – 15.9994 (5).
With photosynthesis, plants are mechanisms for converting solar energy and storing it as physical matter. Using biosynthesis of glucose, plants produce a wide variety of organic compounds; including energy carriers such as carbohydrates (sugars and starches), lipids (oils, fats and waxes) and proteins.
Plant materials are compounds primarily consisting of carbon-hydrogen-oxygen (energy carrying) groupings and can be used to derive hydrogen; hydrocarbons and other carbon based fuels. Energy storage ability is an important characteristic of plants, allowing access to energy resources that is separated by time and/or distance from point of origin. These attributes formed fossil fuels from the remnants of ancient plants and appropriate technologies can be used to develop quality replacement fuels from modern plants.
Algae are aquatic. Their cultivation occurs in volume; instead of area, like land crops. Algae are also the fastest growing of all plant species on earth. These 2 characteristics give algae exceptional biomass output and fuel conversion potential versus land crops in per unit area comparisons. But, expressing algae production rates in terms of areal units can be misleading and lead to improper conclusions because light will penetrate up to four inches (4”) in most algae aquaculture systems (6) bringing depth into the equation. The expression of algae production rates solely in areal terms, without expressing the depth of water the production rate was achieved in, could be deemed as mathematically incorrect or improper due to a failure in expressing all units on both sides of the equation.
Cyanobacteria have qualities that are similar to algae and may have useful application in its large scale cultivation. They are photosynthetic bacteria sometimes referred to as blue-green algae with alternative fuel production potential. Heterocyst forming Cyanobacteria are able to fix nitrogen gas into compounds like ammonia (NH3), Nitrites (NO2-) and Nitrates (NO3-) and may be beneficial to CAF. However, they are bacteria with toxin producing ability and appropriate safety measures should be observed in their application.
Properly supported, large scale algae cultivation presents an achievable opportunity to significantly replace fossil fuel usage.
Commercial Algae Farming and Advanced Algae Fuel
AEC has a multipart mission: “To sustain the production of new generation fuels while reducing carbon dioxide emission levels.”
The AEC concept centers on large scale algae production to provide the raw materials for fuel production. The primary mission of Commercial Algae Farming (CAF) is simple:
“Achieve an algae biomass quantity capable of deriving a volume of fuel to establish and sustain energy independence in the United States.”
Picture courtesy of environmental graffiti
CAF facilities are the mechanisms that will produce that quantity of algae. Highly efficient, high volume production capacity is an aspect of their design and integrations with other AEC components are tailored to maximize sustained algae yields.
CAF is an interconnecting multiple component system, enabling it to function with abilities beyond the production of algae; increasing its overall value in the AEC concept.
Picture courtesy of environmental graffiti
A major component in CAF is the algae production enclosures, virtual seas of algae, water and nutrients maintained in a controlled environment within an induced stable environment within the natural environment. This allows the algae production enclosures to achieve multi purpose function. Grow pool design looks for simplicity while mimicking natural cycles. Proper light source availability is essential for maximum algae growth. Periods of darkness are also useful, providing rest and challenging the algae to increase algal health; potentially decreasing the probability of algae ecosystem crashes.
Sealing the grow pool and the enclosing structure, separates the grow pool’s environment from the surrounding natural environment. This helps remove unwanted contamination in both the natural and enclosed environments. But, continual production of algae for fuel conversion is their primary function. External connections: providing nutrients; water and carbon dioxide “necessary for algae to grow” and allowing the removal of photosynthetic by-products and algae “developed by continual operation” must therefore be established.
The photosynthetic process is a natural chemical reversing process. Carbon oxidized by combustion, metabolism, or decay is reduced by photosynthesis; releasing, back to the environment, the exact amount of oxygen bound to it in oxidization. A loop can thereby be established where CAF enclosures provide oxygen for combustion which returns carbon dioxide for algae growth which returns oxygen to CAF enclosures.
The ability to form this loop gives mankind a unique opportunity. One where current and future energy demands can be meet with significantly less use of fossil fuels.
To make this opportunity achievable AEC assigns the following to support CAF:
- Wind Turbines, Photovoltaic Arrays and/or Concentrated Solar Energy systems individually or in combination – to supply operational energy
- Air Gas Systems – to separate, store and deliver as needed: carbon dioxide; hydrogen; oxygen and various other atmospheric gases
- Centrifugal Separation Systems – removes and transports algae from grow pools
- Closed Loop and Modified Closed Loop Systems – as operationally required
- High Intensity Lighting – to allow low or no natural light operation
- CAF is itself a Carbon Dioxide Sequestration technology with the ability to function as an oxygen generator for IGCC and Oxy-Coal technologies.
The AEC concept integrates CAF with the Algae Fuel Production (AFP) component at two interfaces; one delivers algae’s raw organic material and the other delivers hydrogen.
Algae are known to have ability to act as feedstock in ethanol production and methyl esters “biodiesel” production. However, neither Ethanol nor Methyl Esters individually or collectively can provide substitutes for the entire line of hydrocarbon products petroleum oil supplies. It was clear an advanced processing technology, one that allows algae’s fuel producing capability to replicate all of the hydrocarbon products delivered by petroleum oil, had to be incorporated into the AEC concept.
An Advanced Algae Fuel (AAF) technology became a necessity to fulfill the goals of the AFP component in the AEC concept. That goal being; “Produce, from algae, a petroleum quality hydrocarbon base product and deliver it to existing petroleum refineries. Enabling the refineries to develop non-fossil versions of hydrocarbon products and transportation fuels that are equivalent to the products currently developed from petroleum crude oil.”
Picture courtesy of Changing World Technologies, Inc.
The Thermal Conversion Process (TCP) developed by Changing World Technologies, Inc. (10) and in commercial use at their Carthage, MO facility offers an ability to identify the AEC concept’s AAF process intent and warrants inclusion in this document by name.
The Thermal Conversion Process is a proven flow through process effective at producing hydrocarbons, similar to petroleum diesel fuel, from organic feed stocks with minimal waste (11, 12). Though TCP is unproven with algae as feedstock, at the time this document was drafted; it serves as an excellent reference marking the minimum requirements the AEC concept places upon its AAF process with an existing technology.
A process having at least the petroleum equivalent hydrocarbon output capabilities of TCP would enable AEC to provide a hydrocarbon oil product, derived from algae, that is completely compatible with existing petroleum networks. With cracking and reformation technologies; modern refineries could use this replicated version of oil and yield many, if not all, of the hydrocarbon products currently produced from petroleum crude oil.
Ultimately, TCP may not be deployed by AEC as the AAF process, other candidates do exist. But, the process that is; must enable substitution of all fuel grades currently used in transportation and a majority of all hydrocarbon products produced from petroleum oil thru converting algae’s organic materials into hydrocarbon products with minimal waste.
Modern oil refineries will need hydrogen to achieve some of the processes that would be used to produce fuels and other products from the base product supplied by AAF – AFP. The AEC concept recognizes this and adds support mechanisms for hydrogen production.
Some species of algae, under a particular set of circumstances, have ability to yield elemental hydrogen gas as a by-product of photosynthesis instead of oxygen. General CAF enclosure design should allow these algae to be grown, induce hydrogen production and harvest, store and transport the hydrogen to refineries for use in fuel production. However, the explosive nature of hydrogen suggests a specialized design be employed.
By dedicating a portion of CAF to hydrogen production and the remaining capacity to biomass production, supporting development of refine able base oil; AEC can support the sustained production of petroleum quality renewable hydrocarbon products, including all fuel grades used for transportation by land or by sea or by air.
The AEC concept defers to TCP design or other AAF process design for the primary design features of its AFP component. However, the concept does assign the following supporting mechanisms to the AFP portion of AEC:
- Wind Turbines, Photovoltaic Arrays and/or Concentrated Solar Energy systems individually or in combination – to supply operational energy
- Solid/semi-solid and liquid transfer systems – for biomass and oil product transfer
- CAF enclosures and water electrolysis systems – for hydrogen production
- Air and Volatile Gas Systems – for capture, storage and delivery of hydrogen, oxygen and gaseous hydrocarbons
Hydrogen, Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal and Wind Turbine
An important aspect of the AEC concept is mimicking the natural processes and forces that formed fossil fuels, allowing the development of modern replicas to replace them. The presence of fossil fuels suggests: past atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in amounts “higher than necessary to support all plant consuming ecosystems” occurred regularly or continually. Many natural reasons could be the cause; including lightning strike induced wild fires and volcanic activity. But, the carbon dioxide source has little relevance. The excess organic carbon material that developed due to the greater than necessary amounts of carbon dioxide, enabling the formation of fossil fuels, is the factor with relevancy.
Thus; all carbon dioxide source factors, other than being from a fixed location, are irrelevant to the AEC concept. Obtaining an amount of carbon dioxide that enables AEC to develop algae biomass quantities and derive replacements for fossil fuel usage in volumes that allow this nation to achieve, sustain and go beyond energy independence is the relevant factor. But, to achieve maximum effectiveness AEC must have its reliance upon fossil fuels limited solely to obtaining its carbon dioxide source.
The relevancy of a particular item, process, technology, and the order of application are all important considerations that helped guide the formation of AEC. An example is: the use of fossil fuels as a source of carbon dioxide has relevance to AEC; however, the use of fossil fuels as “an energy input” source for AEC operations does not.
The following clearly points to the fallacy of applying fossil fuel derived energy inputs to AEC: to replace fossil fuel usage we need to use more energy derived from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels did not originate because fossil fuels powered their own formation and AEC can not develop alternatives for man’s fossil fuel usage when the energy used to develop the alternate fuel supply is derived from fossil fuels.
To be effective at providing alternatives for fossil fuels, the energy sources that power AEC operation must be of non-fossil fuel origin. Mankind knows many energy sources of this type. Technologies that tap into these types of energy sources, allowing access to their use, have been developed. Geo-thermal, Hydro-electric, Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal and Wind Turbine Energy technologies are examples of man accessing non-fossil fuel energy sources to harness usable forms of energy.
With Wind Turbine, Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic Energies having the larger number of available energy source access points; giving them greater ability to serve in local and remote applications.
Because the wind is uncontrollable by man, wind turbines can not be dispatched based upon energy demand. Wind Turbines are “intermittent” energy sources that are dependent upon wind speed and direction; variations in these create fluctuations in Wind Turbine energy outputs. Fluctuating energy outputs and non-dispatch ability presents difficulties for WT-E to meet the supply-on-demand energy needs of AEC.
In the 1890’s Poul La Cour constructed relatively advanced wind turbines that were used to generate electricity which, in turn, was then used to produce hydrogen (14). Hydrogen production allows storage of wind energy in physical form with multi-function capacity.
Both CAF and AFP need various amounts and/or combinations of heating/cooling and/or electric energy available “on-demand” during continual operation. Hydrogen production, with its multi-function ability, is the preferred method by which the AEC concept applies WT-E in support of CAF and AFP. This provides:
- augmentation of CAF hydrogen production – used to refine AFP output
- reliable on-demand electric generation capability
- on-demand heat source
Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy provide energy outputs that are more stable than wind turbines. But, they are susceptible to varying solar intensity i.e. the annual north-south procession of the sun and overcast conditions. Also, due to the day – night cycle of sunlight; they can not directly support night time CAF and/or AFP operations.
Photovoltaic Energy output is DC electricity. An inverter converts the DC output to AC electricity which is distributed for use. Solar Thermal Energy output is heat. The heat can be used to provide steam to power a generator to produce AC electricity which is distributed for use.
The primary difference between the two is the energy output from Photovoltaic Arrays is in the form of electrical energy and the energy output from Solar Thermal Energy is heat which can be applied in a variety of processes including electrical generation. Based on this primary difference, the AEC concept assigns Photovoltaic Energy and Solar Thermal Energy in different supporting roles; maximizing individual technology’s effectiveness.
Without an adequate battery storage system, PV-E is more like WT-E in capability and function. Lacking dispatch ability and susceptible to fluctuation because the energy output follows sunlight intensity. However, with a battery system of sufficient energy storage capacity in place; Photovoltaic energy outputs can achieve a degree of limited dispatch ability.
Electrolysis of water to produce Hydrogen uses DC electric current to power the process. Photovoltaic energy outputs are DC electricity and can be applied to electrolysis without the DC → AC conversion necessary for grid application. PV-E is thereby assigned, along with WT-E, supporting CAF and AFP by hydrogen production from electrolysis of water.
Solar Thermal, unlike Wind Turbines with direct energy conversion to rotational force and Photovoltaic’s direct energy conversion to electric current; directly produces heat energy. As a heat source, it can be used to generate a regulated flow of steam. This steam flow can be used to power on-demand generation of electricity. Though its availability is limited by overcast conditions, the day-night cycle of sunlight and the annual north-south procession of the sun; a supply-on-demand electric source can be achieved with ST-E.
The AEC concept recognizes the on-demand electric generating capacity of ST-E and assigns it, in support of CAF and AFP, as a primary daytime operational energy supplier.
And, to achieve night time operations, the AEC concept uses integrations built into it for solutions. CAF integrates with AFP by supplying algae and hydrogen. Both are integrated with WT-E and PV-E through their supporting capacity as hydrogen producers. Air Gas Systems integrate all four with a system for capturing, storing and delivering hydrogen.
As mentioned earlier, “Hydrogen production, with its multi-function ability, is the preferred method by which the AEC concept applies WT-E in support of CAF and AFP.”
Providing Hydrogen to refineries in support of refining the AFP algae fuel base product is only one function that the hydrogen production system performs in the AEC concept. The other function the AEC concept assigns to the hydrogen production system is as fuel, providing power for CAF and AFP operation during night time and low light conditions.
Hydrogen Electric Generating Systems and Hybrid Electric Generating Systems coupling Solar Thermal Energy and Hydrogen Electric Generation are the technologies seen to be the most applicable to the AEC concept. Through multiple integrations and innovative application of existing technologies, Algae Energy Centers can successfully support their own operational energy requirements via renewable energy resources.
Furthermore; a hydrogen transfer network between multiple Algae Energy Centers and/or tailoring individual AEC hydrogen production systems to the specific solar intensity and wind flows of the geographic area in which the AEC resides would allow each AEC to operate continually “24-7-365” in any natural setting. And, that ability gives the United States an unprecedented opportunity to achieve energy independence through the use of algae production and algal biomass to fuel conversion. It also enables facility placement near carbon dioxide producers, reducing the carbon dioxide transfer network AEC needs.
Continued at Part 2