20 years until decommissioning or built to last lifetimes?

Europe has a 2000 year history of building survivable constructions, Roman aqueducts and roads, castles, monasteries, channels, railroads, highways, skyscrapers, the Eiffel tower, the Atomium, and more recently the Dutch Deltaworks and the Chunnel. All these constructions were built to last lifetimes, some intentionally, other less so.

And if we believe NASA, in a not so near future, we will even be able to build the famous space elevator Arthur C. Clarke imagined.

But what about current windmills and wind farms, what is their estimated lifecycle?

The world´s first offshore turbine passed into history after faithfully providing its services for our benefit for a bit longer than 20 years. What is striking is the short life of this construction, 20 years! It does not seem very long in relation to the investment made. We know that technology advances at an astonishing speed, and for a PC or phone model 20 years is an unimaginable long life. However, for a system with such a high cost and serious implications, 20 years can be considered too short a duration. I believe we all expect at least several lifetimes or more, like the artefacts mentioned earlier.

In this context, is there anything that can be done so that if not all, at least a considerable part of the initial investment survives the test of time? Maintenance activities are obviously needed, but not a complete dismantling of the whole wind farm. That is if we design it smartly!

The Wind Energy System, Wind-Dam, proposes a modular construction model, making it possible to replace parts, and not the whole construction. The Wind Dam system itself proposes an optimised, maybe smaller turbine, attached on a mesh of very resistant cables hung between very high towers. Most probably in a few years’ time these newly designed turbines will be replaced by more powerful ones, and the cables possibly replaced by nanotube based technologies. However, our proposed modular approach allows for keeping up with the technological advances at a comparably very low cost. The aim of this proposal is to build a highly resistant structure, not only being able to bear the weight of the turbines, but also for surviving the strains of nature for up to 200 years, or even for considerably longer. The turbines, if it were necessary, can be replaced by ones that have a higher performance, without having to dismantle the whole structure. Also, the superstructure and mesh can be replaced by lighter, stronger and more durable versions as the (nano)technologies become available.

The implemented Wind-Dam will not only save decommissioning costs, such as having to destroy the undersea foundations, but also the related environmental cost.

This is what we call sustainable investment and sustainable development.

Adrian Rapas, Inventor

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The real wind energy problem

The design of a Wind power system should answer a correct wind energy problem. Many actions are taken today, but without addressing the right wind energy problem. It seems that we are running like headless chickens! On the one side we have targets from the EU political bodies, on the other side we have many industry initiatives to show how big and bigger turbines we can build.

The right Wind Energy Problem/the right wind energy question

Before going any further with overcoming the limits of materials for building turbines with more than 160 meters long windmills, the Wind-Dam proposes to stop and think about what we want from a wind energy system?

Do we want it to deliver energy only when there is wind? or do we want an independent wind energy system? Do we want to have electricity also when the wind doesn’t blow? I believe or at least I hope that the answer to this question is yes!

Many people are worried and taking actions to increase the percentage of total energy consumption covered by wind energy. We see so many initiatives, so many companies and private persons, so many public sector institutions, national and regional energy agencies, and public private partnerships. However, relatively little progress is to be seen, and so far, the problem of stopping current fossils based power stations has not been asked.

The question is:

Do we ask the right question when designing wind parks, and wind turbines, Do we address the root cause of the wind energy problem? Have we identified the right problem to which the wind parks shall answer?

wind energy problem
WIND DAM INDEPENDENT WIND ENERGY SYSTEM

Read the Could wind power systems replace fossils based power stations? industry paper to find out which is the correct wind energy problem that the design of the wind energy systems should answer!

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Viable Wind Energy

The Wind-Dam brings an essential contribution to achieving the Energy Union objective by designing a viable wind energy system that is able to cater for the current and future energy needs.  By looking at the  traditional power stations, we notice in fact that the characteristics of the energy carrying agent determine their viability.

Could we design a viable wind energy system with a view to offsetting the existing energy plants?

First, let us examine which attributes determine the viability of the traditional power systems. Existing power plants can be classified based on the type of primary energy carrying agent:

a) Thermal (coal, oil, natural gas).

Any type of fossil fuel electric power plant always implies a stock of energy carrying agent. The energy is liberated by a chemical transformation. It passes through several transformations, until finally reaches a state of effective energy. The stock allows fossil-based power plants to regulate the amount of energy carrying agent consumed in function of the energy demand.  This means fossil-based power plants are flexible due to a stock of energy carrying agent. These plants work independently and are predictable as they can supply energy according to the pre-established amount of energy demand expected.

Independence, flexibility, and predictability make fossil fuel plants a viable power generating system, as are atomic power plants.

b) Hydroelectric power plants

The water is the energy carrying agent. It carries potential energy, which is accumulated in a natural way, under the action of the gravitational force in a dam. This energy will be transformed into kinetic energy by a turbine. A generator is the charged that produces electric energy. In this case, the transformation chain is shorter and therefore the process is more efficient.

Conclusion:

A stock of energy carrying agent provides the system with several very important characteristics: independence, flexibility and predictability. These qualities ensure the viability of the system. They are of utmost importance because they form the basis of the technological progress.

Can we create a stock of wind?

Find out more at the Wind Energy Summit,  Hamburg:  Adrian Rapas Poster 210

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32% in renewables is not the correct problem

32% from renewable sources is not the correct energy problem. The percentage of existing installed power to be replaced by renewables is the real energy problem.

The percentage of installed power in exhaustible fuel power plants to be replaced by renewable source power stations is the real energy problem to be addressed by the EU Energy policy. 

Nothing was known about this percentage until now, simply because this problem was not addressed. When the real problem is defined, meaning the complete decommissioning of classical power plants, only then can it be said that sustainable, viable solutions are being sought.  Unfortunately, the current suggested solutions are just palliative.

There has been no clear data about this percentage until now. This problem has not been addressed from a global and holistic perspective. Calculating the cost of the complete decommissioning of classical power plants and installing renewable systems is at best done by energy providers and some National Governments. However, there seems to be a lack of EU policy to support a full conversion using sustainable and viable solutions.

This palliative planning needs to be offset by policies and incentives that speed up the process of adopting renewable source power stations and significantly increase their corresponding percentage of the total energy budget.

Regardless of the percentage of energy they supply, both hydroelectric and wind energy systems can function only as auxiliaries to the thermo-electric power plants. The proposed increase in the percentage of renewable energy will not change the fact that they will always be considered as back-up systems rather than the main source.

The Wind-Dam is a different way of thinking wind energy. It may be a viable alternative. The Wind-Dam solution design departs from the need to supply an amount of wind energy installed power able to supply the expected amount of energy also when the wind doesn’t blow!!!

Can you imagine that? Wind energy without wind?

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Wind parks do not guarantee constant supply of electricity

Setting the objective that by 2030 32% of produced energy should stem from renewable sources does not address the real problem. A sustainable solution for the replacement of exhaustible primary energy resources will not be reached unless the energy policy is changed significantly!

In order to provide a continuous supply of energy, classical power plants cannot be dismantled even though the target to produce renewable energy is set above 100% because wind parks do not guarantee constant supply of electricity

Why?

Simply because the wind is not a predictable and thus not reliable source of energy. Wind energy produced in the currently designed wind parks depends on the action of the wind. So, if we have wind, we have over production, and if there is no wind, we use candles to lighten our houses. How romantic, right?! Even with abundant financial resources available the real energy problem remains unsolved.

Energy needs to be supplied continuously and constantly even though its consumption varies randomly in time and volume. The challenge lies in predicting the consumption and distributing the energy to where and when it is needed. Although renewable energies – like water, wind and sun – can tap into nature´s unlimited quantities of energy, they cannot be supplied in a continuous and constant way. The water accumulated in hydroelectric dams varies seasonally, wind varies over time and so does sunlight.

The Wind-Dam proposes as solution to compensates this discontinuity by taking advantage of when the energy is abundant, storing it and then regulating its release when there is less available.

What can we store?

Definitely not the wind! In the case of wind turbines, there is no possibility of a permanent supply of a combustible primary energy carrying agent. Consequently, these systems cannot operate independently like thermoelectric power plants do. Thermoelectric power plants use a combustible fuel, which even if it is not supplied continuously still covers the consumption. Therefore, the thermoelectric power plants are and will remain the only self-sufficient, secure systems with an unlimited source of electric energy that are able to work independently. Only thermoelectric power plants can tap into natural resources and secure an unlimited, continuous and constant energy flow, even though they cause a high level of pollution. Unlike hydroelectric power plants, wind and solar farms, the thermoelectric plants depend on the availability of a continuous energy source (coal, oil, gas, nuclear).

There is a widespread consensus that any viable energy system based on renewable energies will need to find a way to capture and store energy to compensate for the discontinuity of the primary energy source (water, wind and sun).

The Wind-Dam is such a viable energy system! It answer the 3 main characteristics of an energy system: independent of the wind or any other factors, flexible because the yield can be upscaled and downscaled in function of the consuptions needs, and predictable, because it can deliver a pre-established amount of energy.

So what can we store?

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A Day at the Wind-Dam

Imagine what a day working at the Wind-Dam would be like?

We can build the mega-construction taking into account working and living spaces for the onsite supervision, construction and maintenance crews. It would be similar to actual offshore drilling sites.

Suppose an engineer starts his shift rotation today, he is transported to the offshore site using an environmentally friendly means of transport, by air or by sea. These can be automated drones or boats powered by hydrogen or derived fuels which have a lower carbon footprint.

The towers of the facility could host living, leisure and working quarters built with durable and environmentally friendly materials. Of course, any waste would be 100% recycled and re-used. Why not even consider using space-age techniques to desalinate water, grow bio-vegetables and marine products onsite? There would of course be ample energy available!

The crew monitors the wind, hydrogen and eventual electricity production and its transportation onshore from an Operations and Maintenance center (OMC) onsite. This OMC could monitor multiple sites at the same time or act as a backup for another site. An onshore OMC could be an option for economic reasons.

Of course, the crew is supported by a vast array of sensors, probes and inspection devices (drones) which keep a constant eye on the efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the whole facility.

Maintenance work is mostly done by expendable drones which are supervised by technicians and engineers. As we are working at high altitudes and sometimes in stormy conditions, automated devices like robots and drones reduce the risks run by the staff. The hydrogen producing facilities would have a similar set-up.

Construction work, essentially for further enhancing the facility can also be done by robots and drones, which are supervised by engineers, as we are using pre-fabricated, massive modular building blocks which are prepared onshore and assembled offshore.

Crews rotate in 24 hour, 4-6 weeks shifts, similar to today’s offshore rigs.

However, a major challenge has to be overcome to make working and living in such an environment possible. This deals with the movements and vibrations stemming from a huge number of generators hanging from the large mesh and constantly pulling at the towers. A sensation rather like walking and working on bridges nowadays.

The envisaged technologies could be borrowed from space research and applied to the construction. This could even create sufficient economies to make orbital earth or off earth (e.g. Moon or Mars) travel more affordable.

Would it not be a challenge to participate in the process of such a Mega-Construction? Why not contact us and tell us how you see yourself collaborating with us. We are interested in reading your proposal.

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Fostering new service models

How fostering a new way of harvesting wind can create new products and services in the utilities market.

What if we were able to tap into a virtually inexhaustible source of energy?

There is a cost for producing and distributing electricity, but what if we could make it more affordable and accessible for all European citizens alike?

How would a revolutionary way of producing, storing and distributing electricity disrupt the existing marketplace by making it more open and transparent, thus creating new business models? What new innovative technologies, products and services could stem from such a disruptive force?

Let’s start with the way such a new approach could be financed. We could take a classical approach, government – taxpayer’s money to fund such an endeavour. This would need a local player to take the lead. Alternatively, the European Investment Bank could fund the research and piloting of the first Wind-Dam and leverage from the intellectual properties created, co-owning sites or by simply issuing bonds and loans to finance such mega constructions and operations.

Another, perhaps complementary investment could come from individual Government Investment Funds, like the ones Norway/Liechtenstein/Iceland have. Long term investors e.g. Pension Funds could be interested parties and also provide loans or bonds for the long term project risk, co-financing the lifecycle of these large installations.

And why not, crowdfunding and cooperative funding where a group of interested parties invest in return for usage of the service, or the intellectual property against an agreed lower price? This could foster smaller, more innovative aspects of such a huge construction; e.g. the development of smaller, lighter high performance turbines, nanotech based cables and meshes, smaller, optimised hydrogen factories and combustion sites, hydrogen storage and transport, as well as independent systems to maintain the Wind-Dams and other related facilities.

So, let’s assume that the mega-structure would be funded by large public and private institutions, whereas for example, the turbines could be co-owned by communities who have the benefit of using the produced electricity. Imagine a company could invest in one or more turbines in the mesh and use the produced electricity for their business, be it manufacturing or services. We could even allow different utility providers to fund a partial mesh and allow them to sell the produced electricity to consumers, or even factories converting water into hydrogen. The hydrogen, can then be sold on to other consumers who combust the hydrogen for further electricity production or their own consumption.

Any surplus, either hydrogen or electricity, not needed for local or regional use could be offered and brokered on a digital marketplace.

The oxygen released in the atmosphere also has a value. Remaining – potentially needed – polluting players could finance the oxygen release to offset their pollution effect. This marketplace already exists and Europe is a leading player.

We can actually create a whole new ecosystem of small, medium and big players, European, regional and local, all contributing and forming part of a “blue” factory production chain.

Using smart meters enhanced by smart contracts, consumer, private, public or individual enterprises can set policies for establishing these smart contracts to acquire and/or deliver energy to a smart grid.

For example, consumers can decide to buy part of their electricity directly from a wind turbine, at a certain price and when available. They can also decide to get energy from hydrogen combustion via a local provider in which they are cooperative shareholders.

Companies can for instance, buy hydrogen from an offshore provider and have it transported by a pipeline to produce onsite electricity using their own generator system. They can then decide to buy extra energy from e.g. a leased turbine unit on a Wind-Dam. Any excess energy they produce can then be sold back into the grid.

This will require a brokerage system which negotiates prices between all the providers and all the different consumers. A truly open and liberal energy ecosystem could be built which would be regularized by EU laws.

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Europe cooperates for its energy independence

Europe sets itself a very ambitious energy objective for 2050. Currently the Energy Union objective mentions Energy Security. Are we sure this objective is ambitious enough?   Probably, but only under the assumption that current limitations, such as energy storage issues and the capacity of the electricity grid, will continue. The following solution goes even further and proposes Energy Independence, by covering all energy needs with European Wind Energy.

The Wind Energy System, Wind-Dam, challenges this objective, and proposes an alternative of 100% wind electricity in Europe. Could this be possible? On top of this, the Wind-Dam project proposes a much shorter project duration, with a maximum of 5 to 10 years.

I envisage Energy Union as a strong cooperation among all EU member states for ensuring European energy independence. This presumes the possibility of financial or in-kind (e.g. knowledge, strategic locations, energy and gas transportation means, etc.) contribution from all member states for building and later operating large wind energy systems, Wind-Dams. The primary wind energy will be supplied into the grid for covering normal consumption, and excess energy, when there are high winds or when consumption drastically decreases, e.g. at night time, could be used to power hydrolysis plants to obtain hydrogen, which could be used as fuel for vehicles designed in the future, or simply stored e.g. in existing depleted natural gas wells. Later the hydrogen will be re-converted into electrical energy, thus ensuring a continual supply of electricity despite wind discontinuity. Of course, the energy obtained will be distributed among EU member states, for the benefit of the whole of Europe.

This is Energy Union.

Adrian Rapas, Inventor

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Wind-Dam large but not bulky construction

Wind turbines, especially offshore ones, are becoming mega-constructions.
The largest are rising up several hundred meters and have rotor diameters of two hundred meters or more which can potentially generate upwards of ten MegaWatts.

At higher altitudes there are higher wind speeds hence more wind power to be harvested.

These mega-constructions are still affected by the discontinuity of the wind and the surface density at which they can be implanted has limitations as well (3 to 10 times the distance of the rotor blade diameter).

Instead, what if between two towers, each a couple of hundred meters high and a kilometer or so apart, we could span a mesh and within that mesh hang a set of turbines?

This set of aerodynamic compact high power turbines, the size of an airplane propeller engine, could be optimally spread in a vertical mesh to fully use the wind power at different altitudes, and generate several tens of MegaWatts!

What if we could use such a construction to generate an excess electric output to which we can apply electrolysis, generate hydrogen, then store, distribute, combust it and later reconvert it back to electric energy, and so compensate for the discontinuity of wind?

This is what the Wind-Dam is about.

Why the brakes in a wind turbine?

The wind turbines’ design includes a braking system (mechanical or electric). This means in fact, that the wind turbines stop working in high wind speeds. The higher the wind speed, the higher the energy potential, right? Then, why do all wind mills have an embedded braking system, and literally waste so much potential energy?

Is there anything that can be done in order to take the most benefits possible from the highest wind speeds? There is already a technological solution for that! The one used in airplane propellers! Exactly! They do indeed rotate at very high speeds! Why not apply the functioning principles of airplane propellers to take more advantage of the wind energy and so produce a LOT of energy?

What can be done with this excess energy and how could it be stored, in another post.

Adrian Rapas, Inventor

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Inventika Bucharest and IENA Nurnberg

Where can one test innovative and ground-breaking ideas other than at Invention Fairs?

October 2017, the Wind-Dam concept was exhibited for the first time at a Romanian fair, Inventika. We received some very good feedback and a first contact from a Scandinavian innovation fund.

We then prepared to exhibit at the IENA, in Nurnberg.

Both surprised and proud, the potential of the concept was recognized by being awarded the Bronze medal for the Wind-Dam invention.

Several inventor associations encouraged the team to further seek support to make a feasibility study and find partners.

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