Guest blog by Mr. R. U. Cirius: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven't gotten much media attention that OWOE readers might have missed.
Very Small Modular Reactors There has been a lot of press coverage for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) recently, with some touting them as the solution to the world's energy challenges to others expressing doubt that they can actually be successful (see also OWOE blog Nuclear Power: Climate Solution or Hype). However, a new version of these nuclear reactors has just been announced that may actually meet the high expectations. William Fences, the entrepreneur and philanthropist, and his company MicroPower, claims to have developed the first Very Small Modular Reactor (VSMR). This is a stand-alone suitcase-sized micro nuclear reactor for both private and commercial use. The reactor includes: molten salt nuclear fuel module, molten salt pump, thermo-electric battery with inverter to export power at 480v, water coolant system that connects directly to the home or business water supply, and auxiliary air cooling motor that plugs easily into a standard 220v power receptacle, all enclosed withing an easily movable case (see Figure 1). Although not yet available for purchase, MicroPower is planning to sell units with power generation capability ranging from 5kW to 50kW.
HPZ Rigid Dirigible Aircraft On March 15th, accompanied by the soaring lyrics of the rock classic "Stairway to Heaven", the first modern-day commercial hydrogen powered rigid aircraft made its inaugural flight from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. The HPZ, which stands for Hydrogen Powered Zeppelin, is a so-called rigid dirigible aircraft, consisting of a fabric-covered rigid metal framework made up of transverse rings and longitudinal girders and containing individual gasbags. The gasbags are filled with a lighter-than-air gas, which gives the buoyancy necessary to fly. The HPZ is approximately the size of the ill-fated Hindenburg Zeppelin at 800 feet long (more than three times the length of a Boeing 747) and with a diameter of 135 feet. It can cruise at 75 mph and travel as high as 20,000 feet above sea level. Hydrogen gas is used both as the fill gas, but also as the fuel to power the aircraft. By utilizing the same gas, the HPZ was able to eliminate costly and heavy fuel tanks.
The HPZ was built by start-up technology firm HydroFlight. When asked whether there was a concern over safety using hydrogen gas, given the history of the Hindenburg Disaster, a media spokesman for HydroFlight responded: "There is absolutely no risk of such a thing happening to the HPZ. For one, we have very strict rules against smoking on board. But also, we are using 'blue' hydrogen for our gas that is provided by major oil companies. They have assured us that the 'blue' hydrogen they provide is much safer than the 'green' hydrogen that many other companies are trying to sell."
The HPZ will attempt a cross-country flight later this year from Seattle to New York City.
Wind Turbine Recycling No energy system is entirely neutral in terms of waste produced, including wind power. Fortunately, there are several consortiums of researchers and industry taking on this challenge, specifically how to reuse or repurpose the composite material wind turbine blades:
Bio-power Research Growing Corporate America is looking to improve their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standing by using more animals for tasks, such as blog editing and remote tech support (see Figure 3).
Quote one corporate CEO. "To be truly carbon neutral, you have to return to animal power for many activities." Animals are part of the green cycle and they consume fewer critical minerals and require less power per kilogram than humans for many labor intensive and high tech / high cost solutions.