How does our "Blue Green Building" concept apply to the serious electrical supply shortfall developing in California (and to the West Coast in general on account of the drought in the northwest)? I believe our powerful new construction technologies for building sustainable communities will be central to winning a victory for both the people of California and for the environment. We need a win-win.
What I find very disturbing is the temptation to abandon the clean air regulations in the face of this crisis. If this happens the path is opened to simply increase the electricity supply by building many more thermal power plants. I believe that this battle must be won by achieving a substantial improvement in the energy efficiency of cooling and lighting buildings because this where the majority of the demand (I estimate a peak-load near 25,000 Gw in California ) for electricity originates.
I would like to share with you my insight in relation to the above that may provide some answers by means of a new and advanced construction technology, which I call the SOLAROOFGARDEN. This is a transparent roof construction method that, while it provides shelter and daylighting to buildings and ground level spaces beneath, also is equipped to grow an extensive plant leaf-canopy at the roof-level to capture and transform the sunlight for various uses. The urban landscape would be transformed by this technology into vibrant, productive, cool and verdant garden-like spaces.
Perhaps you share my concern that the timing of these electric power blackouts occurring in California is very important. Though they may appear relatively minor and unimportant - these events can be early warnings of bigger problems ahead. I hope they can heighten our awareness to issues that have been long avoided. Let us face the problem squarely and find real solutions before larger crises overtake us. Solar energy and other alternative energy (electrical from wind as well) technologies have not yet delivered on their great potential. The current volume of production of these new products results in unit costs that are still too high and this situation seriously limits any expansion (installed capacity is less than 1% of the energy demand). We have at present no viable, large-scale (manmade) solar energy conversion systems that are cost effective.
Look at Phytotechnology this way: sunlight is clean energy for plant growth but CO 2 is the input that most limits their efficiency in the production of hydrocarbon. In a closed atmosphere controlled environment we can use elevated levels of CO 2 in the range from 1000 to 3000 PPM (several times the normal atmospheric levels). Not only food and horticulture crops but also algae can be produced (in a CO 2 enriched atmosphere) at greatly enhanced rates of growth compared to field conditions.
I believe that the 21st century can be the beginning of a Green Millennium that will rely upon plants for the production of biomass and bacteria for the conversion of this hydrocarbon to methane (and nitrogen rich nutrients for plant root-zone fertilizer). The methane so produced can be processed by steam reformation into hydrogen rich gas that is then used to feed fuel cell reactors that will chemically produce electrical energy. The CO 2 that would be emitted by the fuel cell can be delivered to a CO 2 enriched atmosphere plant production system (like our SOLAROOFGARDEN). New (high-pressure) clean coal combustion technologies or gasification/fuel cell systems will produce both clean electric power and liquid CO 2 that is a resource to be bottled and shipped to the Phytotechnology crop production systems.
Together we can build the Blue Green revolution
By comparison the energy cost of simply pumping cold ocean water to building developments built in proximity to the coastline is 50 times more efficient than the electricity/air-conditioning scenario described above. We must remember that 80% of the population live on the coastal plains. Using the cooling water resource directly simply requires building envelopes (especially roofs) better adapted to liquid cooling. Our SOLAROOFGARDEN technology is designed with this capability to build the Blue Green revolution (See the "energy solutions" page and the "district cooling" link to learn about the Hawaiian origins of Deep Ocean Water cooling). Not only does this roof system not overheat -- but additionally it provides cool, modulated daylight under a leaf canopy and transparent membrane -- which is stripped of the heat producing infrared radiation and the damaging ultraviolet radiation.
This concept will blow the lid off the constraints on economic growth in California. Can you picture the extent of the Green Communities and sustainable building developments that could occur inland of the coast between LA and San Diego? Instead of massive new thermal power plants along the coastline there would be much smaller electric powered (no air pollution) ocean water pumping stations (district cooling) to supply the air-conditioning needs of these communities. Publicly financed residential developments could draw away development pressures from older, in inefficient city centers. Additionally, our SOLAROOF structure systems are extremely resistant to earthquake and the structures pose no collapse risk whatever. I believe we only need a couple of well-placed demonstration projects to trigger a massive interest in our products this summer.
I look forward to receiving your thoughts on the above.