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Power Science

Open Project to Develop Renewable Energy System 154

rohar writes "We have been working on a system that combines some existing indirect solar technologies to build a location independent, renewable, reliable and economically feasible indirect solar electrical power generation system. The idea is to 'roll-your-own' geothermal source by capturing heat from the ambient air with a solar powered absorption heat pump, store it underground and generate electricity from the air cooling convection. When the air is cooler the stored heat is then used in a reverse process to generate electricity by transferring the heat back to the air when it is cooler (at night or seasonal). There are many additional benefits including clean water capture from the "dehumidifier" effect of the air cooling, construction from common materials and thermal storage that may be incorporated into dwelling heat systems." After reading over their description, how likely do you think it is to work?
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Open Project to Develop Renewable Energy System

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  • Re:hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:45AM (#17505412)
    This sounds too good to be true.

    The problem is that I don't see any reason why it shouldn't work; and there are plenty of people who don't understand that just because something works doesn't mean it's not too good to be true as well.

  • by mwilliamson ( 672411 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:48AM (#17505428) Homepage Journal
    here's a project using solar heat to drive a ammonia absorption cycle freezer. [PDF] []
  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CookieOfFortune ( 955407 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:54AM (#17505464)
    So this relies on a difference in ambient temperatures. You could also drill a hole deep into the ground and send in heat pipes, since it's pretty hot underneath the ground. The issue here is economics, how much power you get out compared to how expensive it is to build the system. Drilling a deep hole probably isn't cheap, and I don't think building a tower is either. At least you don't have to worry about temperature swings underground (sure it could happen, but I'd think air temperature would change more drastically). I think the issue is pretty much based on economics, there are cheaper ways to get energy, and the concept of using ambient temperature isn't new.
  • by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:55AM (#17505468) Homepage Journal
    They cite a mistaken analogy to Linux as one of the reasons they feel their project could succeed, but in fact the problem is that such a system will require capital to run. This in fact makes it the opposite of the situation obtaining with Linux, when one of the key ingredients, low-cost commodity PCs, helped drive and unify development.
  • Re:Thin Air (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2007 @03:57AM (#17505480)
    And i suppose you think that generating electricity from wind turbines or solar panels is impossible too?

    Generating electricity from a heat difference is entirely possible, its just a matter of how efficient the whole process is as to whether its worth it. Actually if your after more information on that (it works both ways too!), then have a read here: t []

    And the water thing is just a by-product [] :)

  • Geothermal.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2007 @04:01AM (#17505496)
    This design seems to be a complicated form of utilizing geothermal energy. I don't see any reason why the geothermal energy shouldn't instead simply be used for space heating instead of electricity generation, especially in areas with low levels of geothermal energy availability.

    In areas such as Iceland or Hawaii, this technique would be more feasible, but simply using the more abundant geothermal energy sources to drive steam turbines without the use of refrigerants or air turbines would probably be more efficient.

    When considering alternative energy sources, we need to be careful to exploit the most abundant and economically feasible first. In the same way that we did not begin investing in hard to refine oil sands or deepwater oil before we exhausted all the easily available sources of light sweet oil, we should not invest in capital that is designed for diffuse, "use it anywhere" sources of energy before we install windmills in all the major windy mountain ranges and coastal areas, solar panels in all the worlds equatorial deserts, and hydroelectric plants in all the worlds damable rivers.

    Doing so would be like buying 2% yeild bonds when 10% yeild bonds with even lesser risk are available.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:17AM (#17505832) Homepage
    "The problem is that I don't see any reason why it shouldn't work..."

    Think harder. The logic seems to be that we pump ambient heat from the air into the ground... which is where things seem to fall apart. For example, just how MUCH heat can we gather and store in the ground? What's the differential? How much can we get back?

    More to the point, how do we keep the heat we pump into a point in the ground from radiating away and disapating?
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:17AM (#17505840) Homepage
    After reading over their description, how likely do you think it is to work?

    Not very likely at all - because the creator doesn't really have any idea how steam engines, or refrigerators work. Also, like most armchair engineers he's really, really light on the math.
    I find this part particularly amusing;
    2. The principles and project management of Linus Torvolds with Linux and the many other contributors to Open Source and Free Software has shown such success with large projects.
    3. There are many people with good ideas and a willingness to help, but Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Physics are not their field. The project is based on bringing people together to work on something that has benefit for everyone.

    I think the creator quite misundertands how F/OSS works - he somehow thinks that people who aren't programmers get together and somehow create the programs, and that the same magic wand will work for making this kludge a reality.
    Then he makes laughable statements like this:
    In the capital investment for energy sources that are renewable, the capital investment is not important. Once the system is built and producing electrical power, it doesn't run out.

    I guess in his world structures and machinery aren't subject to wear and tear - but here in the real world they are.
  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:48AM (#17505970) Journal
    Yes, but as he points out as long as there is a gradient there is energy to be had. The wider the margin, the better the efficency, and possibly you could design in two or three working fluids that can be switched as appropriate? It should be nominally more expensive to introduce a decent vaccume purge cycle to minimize contamination?

    All I know is that I applaud his making it "free". Likely if he had tried to make money off of this tech it would fail, but now enough tinkerers may pick it up that it has a hells chance (kinda like the EV).
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @06:08AM (#17506046) Journal
    I guess in his world structures and machinery aren't subject to wear and tear - but here in the real world they are.
    The miracle of modern technology is that consumer grade stuff just works, with very little extra input required. I'd submit that is why someone can seriously suggest such a project without factoring in maintenance.

    Other than a car, I can't really think of many consumer grade pieces of 'equipment' (which people regularly interact with) that require regular maintenance.

    Even newer cars don't require the same level of maintenance that they used to. Modern diffs, transmissions, bearings and spark plugs can all (supposedly) go for ~100k miles... Radiators don't really need to be flushed anymore. Heck, you don't even need to change your oil every 3,000 miles (RTFM, YMMV).
  • Re:Thin Air (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2007 @06:35AM (#17506178)
    Point I was making is that once it costs less than gold to make gold, then the market for gold (as currency) will be broken.

    And I think the point KFG was making was a parallel one, that alternative sources of energy, right now, net so little gain in comparison to the fossils fuels that there's little point. And when the fossil foils become horribly expensive unfortunately so will all the the alternatives, since producing and maintaining them depends on a rather nontrivial amount of fossil fuels. It's easy for people to shrug off fossils fuels as just another energy source but really, think about what they are... millions of years of condensed, stored, solar energy, with a dash of geothermal thrown in too. And we're burning through that million years of energy in decades. When the oil is gone, I think our descendants (assuming any survive the bloody resources wars) are going to be absolutely furious with us that we just burned the stuff.

  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Monday January 08, 2007 @10:56AM (#17508130)
    Slashdot ate his mu :)

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