Solar Powered Boats

Some years ago, while visiting Clearlake in California and watching various crafts cruising the waters, I wondered if solar power could propel a boat. Back-of-the-envelope-calculations indicated it could. Since then the earth has been circumnavigated by solar power – both in flight and by sea. Recently I had the opportunity to return to Clearlake and had access to an old 14 ft Capri sailboat. Using two left over 170W solar panels from a prior project, an off-the-shelf charge controller, Costco RV battery, and 55 lbs trolling motor, I decided to go for a simple proof-of-concept project. Here’s a clip from this last weekend;

 

There are too many ideas for improvements from this weekend, and I’m sure as we’ll look back at this in ten years, as we now view an early model Ford. Sailing in a Sunboat is a lot of fun. No exhaust fumes, no noise, and no worries about paying for gas. Just pure silence. Did somebody say silence is golden? This has got to be it!

Cheers – Mogens

 

2017 – Time to roll up your sleeves!

First, on the upside, in 2016 the world finally could agree on a climate action accord. The accord sets a goal of arresting global warming below 2C. Considering how many times the world has tried to come to a ratified agreement, this is a major milestone in combating global warming.

Now for the not-so-good news…

It was thought that global warming had had a hiatus in the first decade of this century. Recent analysis indicates not so. New measuring methods, which have an intrinsic lower bias value, caused averaged data to be lower. When temperature analysis is analyzed within categories of measuring devices, the data indicates an ever increasing temperature!

An often overlooked side effect of global warming is the ever increasing ocean acidification. As oceans become more acidic, corals will start to dissolve – thus removing large fish habitats. There is nothing we can do to substitute this loss. The corals that flourish near ocean floor thermal vents where seawater is locally more acidic are proven poor fish habitats. Since these vents have persisted for many millennia, it’s reasonable to expect there’s no solution.

It is a fact that ice coverage at the poles is rapidly decreasing. This winter, temperatures in Nuuk/Greenland measured over +5C when typical temperatures should be -10C or below. In September, on my return trip from Denmark, the ice coverage on the south western part of Greenland was non-existent. Unprecedented.

Still in doubt? Current state of the art computer models that are fed historical data can correctly predict weather phenomena, historical, current and future. In fact, the simulators can render visual cloud covering pictures of the earth that you can readily compare against actual satellite pictures. The pictures eerily match!

Still in doubt? We are now able to measure stratospheric temperatures. Global warming theory predicts that with additional CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane/natural gas), and other man made gasses, form a blanket in the atmosphere causing low-altitude planet warming. Conversely, the stratosphere which is above the human caused blanket is predicted to cool. The new stratospheric measurements indicate just that. The stratosphere is cooling!

The arctic tundra contains vast quantities of frozen biodegradable plant material. As arctic temperatures increase, the material will decompose and methane (natural gas) released. There’s no way we can capture the gas, and it will readily accelerate the warming effect. As a global warming gas, methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, albeit, it quickly breaks down, within 8 years, in the atmosphere. I fear this mechanism has the potential to cause a quick and unanticipated global warming acceleration.

We know from fossilized northern European tree ring studies that climate change can rapidly occur. A massive release of fresh water from the Greenland inland ice sheet, which has already been initiated, will create a fresh water north Atlantic cold pool – effective shutting down the Gulf Stream. The consequences will be immediate and felt worldwide.

Here in California we also see the effect of global warming. A recent drought ended in the winter 2015/16. Wintertime is when we should see a Sierra mountain snow accumulation. This winter, as of this writing, we have had slightly above precipitation – but most has come as rain. Mountain snow is regularly being washed away. Aside from poor Alpine skiing conditions,  this matters because we use the snow pack as water storage from year-to-year. Unless we accumulate a decent snow pack, we will have insufficient storage to help us through a multi-year drought.

Mankind has never had to be greatly concerned about nature. There has always been room to expand. Mines to be dug. Land to be plowed. Cities to be build. We are faced with a very different set of survival criteria than our forefathers just 100 years ago. Whereas our ancestors always had the option to immigrate, there’s no such option for people displaced by climate change – there’s nowhere else to go!

For us to survive, we need to quickly switch to renewable living, as well as population control.  It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. And yes, the election of Trump can be nothing short of disastrous. His agenda is completely misdirected and will only cause additional hardship.

Cheers & Happy New Year – Mogens Lauritzen

US Presidential Election 2016

Nov-9-2016, Mountain View, California

In memory of Professor Filson Glanz, UNH.

First; I apologize to the world for the election outcome. It stands in contrast to our California values and vision.

Contrary to popular campaign rhetoric, this election was not about health care, student loans, women’s rights, equal rights, trade, immigration or jobs. All those issues can comfortably be dealt with over time and as we mature as a society. No, the current situation is dark, and the future very sinister because Climate Change has been ridiculed and all our work stands to be steamrolled. The atmospheric greenhouse gas load has achieved a level where it is likely a self-feeding run-away phenomena. Certainly, the quickly accellerating melting of Greenlands icesheet, and beginning methane release of melting tundra organic matter, indicates so.

What can we do? With persistent low fossil fuel prices, there’s little incentive to switch. A carbon tax is now out of the question. The Obama EPA rules will undoubtedly be rewritten. Automotive electrification efforts will surely suffer a serious setback. The same goes with all other fuel efficiency efforts.

California, with our Air Resource Board, will continue to be a bright source in setting new standards. Yet, our local efforts amount to nothing but a trickle in the efforts needed to curtail global warming. George W. Bush cost us a trillion++ dollars and untold lives. I see no reason why D. Trump wont cost us additional trillions, and who knows – perhaps we just lost our last chance to curtail Climate Change.

Congratulations America, you picked a real winner!

Cheers – Mogens Lauritzen

Happy New Year 2016

This last year, it was interesting to learn that the Syrian civil war may have been related to global warming

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150302-syria-war-climate-change-drought/

Clearly there are additional circumstances that make the Syrian crisis worse than just global warming. Let us be clear, the Syrian refugee crisis is made worse by, in particular Russia’s efforts, including China, to prevent an expeditious settlement. That, however, is a topic for another day. Never the less,  as warming consequences continue to worsen, this will become an all too common sight – and with ever increasing refugee floods.

NASA released a very interesting computer model video of how CO2 travels around earth across a calendar year. Check it out (see link below). I find it fascinating just how much CO2 plants are able to pickup during the growing season. Now if we could just capture that carbon and store it away…

How peculiar it is how natural gas (NG) has come to the rescue of the the US’ CO2 emissions. Together with a bit of regulatory pressure, a large scale coal-to-NG conversion is taking place. There’s no doubt this will continue world wide. China is now in the midst of converting their plants, and I’m convinced India will follow if they can get access to reliable and inexpensive NG resources. Perhaps Iran, with its vast NG resources, can come to the rescue? Wouldn’t that be ironic?

Solar PV technology continues to improve. 10 years ago it looked like standard PV module conversion efficiency would be limited to less than 25%. There are now indicators that new material and manufacturing research may boost efficiency to 28%. This will prove to be significant to bring down solar PV cost, and possibly throw solar tracking a badly needed lifeline.

Happy New Year 2016!!!

 

 

 

Global Warming, New Year 2015

Palestinians fighting Israeli’s, Hutu’s fighting Tutsies, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda – what do they all have in common?

We will never be able to combat global warming unless we, stop fighting our insignificant wars. Why even bother picking a fight with your neighbor, when the end result spells doom for both. It’s time to stop squabbling, and focus on the big picture.

Happy New Year 2015!!!

ABOUT LAURITZEN BLOG

Replies are very much welcome, but please try to stay on topic. If the topic is “global warming and ice melts”, let’s talk about just that and not “solar PV”! I will in the future try to moderate replies by deleting off-topic comments.

Another point; don’t waste yours and my time with offers for commercial services. This site is meant to be informative and we don’t need any third parties to promote it. Let the site promote itself!

Thank you for the feed-back so far. – Mogens Lauritzen

Hydro Power; the end or here to stay?

With resent efforts to promote the tear-down of Hetch Hetchy dam and restore the flooded valley, one must ask why, and not only in the sense of resurrection of the lost valley.

With the approach of global warming, we can expect a continued decrease in snow pack levels. Future precipitation levels are as of yet unknown. If decreased, we need all available storage to last through dry seasons. If increased, we need storage to prevent catastrophic flooding. Above all, with global warming, the snow pack will be replaced by rain, effectively removing our snow pack water storage, and increasing our need for alternative storage.

From the electricity grid point of view, Hetch Hetchy, when water is available, provides a robust predictable and dispatchable power source with no greenhouse gas emission. In addition, the system can also be used to store electricity/energy on a short-term basis through “pump-up” technology. Pump-up is equivalent to having access to a gigantic battery, and is a key component in stabilizing the electric grid. This is especially needed as we introduce alternative and unpredictable power sources such as wind and to some extend solar power.

There’s no question that California hydro power dams have caused severe environmental harm. Almost 3000 miles worth of upset creek/river habitat. But if you compare that to the added safety of flood control, predictable water supply, and reliable and clean energy supply, the end result should favor our dams. We have seen experimentation with fish ladders, and forced water release to preserve smelt populations. Surely there must be more mitigating ideas we can study and introduce.

The bottom line must be this; we need dams and water storage systems. They are a cornerstone of our future survival. Removing dams to restore ecosystems amounts to nothing but a utopian notion.

Solar Trackers & Reliability

Looking at a solar tracker, and one sees a simple mechanical structure. Probably something anybody could build? Now add to that a requirement for it to operate over a 20 year lifespan, and the picture has quickly changed. Try to think of a electrical/mechanical structure which has operated non-stop, during all types of weather, for the last 20 years.

When designing and building a solar tracker, a goal of 20 year operational life must be considered because the additional performance gain can quickly erode with unexpected maintenance costs. Baring lightning or other extreme power surges, the electronics and software will easily last 20 years when designed correctly. The main problems are mechanical, gears, motors and bearings.

If you are about to venture out and design a new solar tracker, please give us a call to discuss your options. With our remote managed controllers, we see the day-to-day operational troubles, and have helped many tracker manufacturers improve their designs. There’s no need to retry paths leading to troublesome designs.

A Local Content Perspective; why Solar Trackers?

We often hear solar PV systems promote job growth, but conveniently overlook where the bulk of capital is flowing. Solar PV modules, inverters, and racking systems all consume the lion’s share of a solar system’s capital investment. Adding a solar tracking system, can increase a solar system’s energy yield by as much as 45% or higher, while also benefiting the local economy. Most solar trackers can be designed by local machine or steel fabrication shops – thereby increasing local content. The additional Operational & Maintenance effort, usually reduced to an annual lubrication visit, also increases the local labor component.