Sunday, April 10, 2016

Renewable Energy Innovations in the Private Sector

Subtitle:  An Open Letter to Secretary John Kerry re Renewable Energy Innovations 

"Government can provide the structure, the incentives, the framework.  But I know – and so do you – that it’s the private sector that will ultimately take us to the finish line.  And it will be the private sector – innovation, entrepreneurial activity, maybe something we haven’t discovered yet – the breakthrough on battery storage, a breakthrough on a clean fuel burn – I don’t know what it is, but I trust in the ingenuity and the capacity of the American people and of our allocation of capital and our capacity to make this work." -- Secretary of State John KerryBloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City, April 5, 2016.   

Dear Secretary Kerry, 

There are already several important innovations in the private sector that meet or surpass the criteria you described at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit on April 5..  Among them are the following seven innovations:

1) the patented process to convert human waste to clean-burning synthetic methane, invented by University of California at Riverside professor Dr. Chan Park; see link

2) the patented process to convert landfill-clogging municipal solid waste to useful energy, invented by Peter A. Nick and his team of Southern California chemical engineers; see link

3) an improved method to create ethanol from cellulose through genetically modified lignin in fast-growing poplar trees, so that much more of the cellulose converts to ethanol compared to unmodified trees, discovered and published by Dr. Rebecca Van Acker, see link  

4) offshore wind energy that stores the power, until it is needed, in underwater hydroelectric hollow spheres as invented by engineers at MIT; see link

5) much larger, 50 MW wind-turbines with blades that flex and fold to prevent damage, similar to the fronds on palm trees, as published by Sandia National Laboratory, see link,  

6) the patent-pending, vastly enhanced battery that uses modified polyacetylene invented by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Alan Heeger, from University of California at Santa Barbara. see link   and 

7) renewable energy via river-mouth osmosis, in which fresh water produces hydroelectric power before passing through osmosis membranes, then mixing with ocean water, see link

Each of these innovations would benefit from additional investment.  

I would be pleased to provide more details on any of these, or introductions to Dr. Park, and Mr. Pete Nick. 


Roger E. Sowell, Esq., BS Chemical Engineering
Marina del Rey, California

UPDATE 1 - 4/11/2016:  There may be a quibble about including an innovation from Sandia National Laboratory as a private sector item, but then, two of the items of this list are from public universities, which are state-supported.   MIT is private, Pete Nick is not affiliated with government, and the river-mouth osmosis technology is decades old and patented.  

Also, almost all of these innovations are related to chemical engineering, with the large wind turbine and the underwater storage spheres not.   

All but one are sustainable, renewable, and have essentially zero adverse environmental impact.  Dr Park's process uses organic solid material in a slurry form from waste treatment plants.  With 7 billion people on the planet, plus billions more animals, there will be no shortage of feedstock for Dr. Park's process. 

Pete Nick's process uses any organic waste material, from bio-medical hazardous wastes to organic wastes that would otherwise go into a landfill.  With the millions of tons of waste thrown away each year around the planet, there will be no shortage of feedstock for Mr. Nick's process, either. 

Dr. Van Acker's modified lignin process uses fast-growing poplar trees that can and do grow on hillsides and other marginal lands, so no valuable crop-producing lands are used.   Trees are, of course, the very definition of sustainable and renewable.  

Dr. Heeger's modified polyacetylene is a petrochemical, no doubt, but actylene is a byproduct of many chemical processes, one of which is ethylene production from steam cracking of ethane.  There will be no shortage of feedstock for Dr. Heeger's battery. 

The river-mouth osmosis process has some limitations with rivers near 300-foot deep ocean areas, but those are plentiful around the world.   A river is also entirely sustainable and renewable, as long as the rain falls somewhere in the river drainage area.  

The two that use wind-power are of course, forever renewable and sustainable.  

-- end update 1

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