Category Archives: Cool Tech

First OTEC Plant Connected to US Grid

On August 21st a dedication ceremony at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona was held to celebrate completion of the world’s largest operational ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) power plant. This was a major achievement for Hawaii, the U.S. and marine renewable energy. This test plant will generate 100 kilowatts of clean, continuous, sustainable electricity and is expected to be a stepping stone to larger plants that will be cost competitive options for electrical power for Hawaii and other island locations in Asia Pacific

OTEC uses the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm surface water to boil liquid ammonia, which can then drive a turbine to generate electricity. It is estimated that ocean thermal energy conversion has the potential to generate over four times the total electricity usage of the planet.

See the Pacific Business News.

Category: Cool Tech

Solar Desal Plant Addresses Two Serious Issues

Solar power and desalination have typically been employed separately, with solar power converting the sun’s energy into electricity and desalination removing unwanted minerals from saltwater so it can be used for drinking or agriculture. WaterFX, a San Francisco-based water producer, has found a way to merge the two technologies and plans to build California’s first commercial solar desalination plant. The plant will be located in the Central Valley, where sunshine is plentiful, and will ultimately generate up to 5,000 acre-feet, or 1.6 billion gallons, of clean water per year — enough water for 10,000 homes or 2,000 acres of cropland. It will turn unusable irrigation water from a 7,000-acre drainage area into freshwater by removing unwanted mineral and salts.

The system uses heat generated from parabolic solar panels to evaporate clean water out of the original source water. The condensate is then recovered as pure water at over 90 percent efficiency. When the sun isn’t shining, thermal heat storage allows the process to continue.

The implications are far-reaching. In a state that has endured 4 years of drought, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of water used and results in an estimated one million acre-feet of irrigation drainage that could be treated and reused if solar desalination catches on.

For more information, see Climate Progress “Have You Heard of Solar Desalination?”.

Category: Cool Tech

Toyota Mirai – The Turning Point

Today, Toyota started taking orders for the new Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) with delivery estimated in late 2015 at an MSRP of $57,500.  Toyota has been developing their FCV technology over the past 20 years and believes that the Mirai will be a game changer in the transportation industry, much as the Prius hybrid vehicle was a decade ago. The Mirai uses no gasoline; rather, it converts hydrogen to electricity using a fuel cell battery with the only emission being water vapor.  It will be the only zero emission electric vehicle on the market that tops the 300 mile range milestone (an EPA estimated driving range rating of 312 miles) and offers an EPA estimated 67 mpge city/highway/combined. As part of the announcement, Toyota also identified the current and planned refueling stations (all in California) over the next 2 years. There are 4 stations currently available, with an additional 7 scheduled to open by the end of 2015 and 31 more in 2016.

You can visit their order web site at: Toyota Mirai Order Request Site. See also OWOE What is a Fuel Cell Vehicle?

Category: Cool Tech