2013 November 10 Sunday
People Like To Live Near Water

Margareta Wahlström points out people like to live neart water in spite of greater risks of disaster.

The risk of economic loss from floods is increasing particularly quickly in OECD countries. In the United States, for example, 2010 census data indicate that 39% of the population lives in shoreline counties. There are already 49 million housing units in these coastal areas, with an average of 1,355 building permits issued daily. Last year, this settlement pattern severely exacerbated the impact of Hurricane Sandy – the second-costliest hurricane in US history.

The 39% number is a surprise. Measured by desirable land the United States is much fuller than it looks.

If the plains states heat up and dry out due to atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation we'll see an even bigger shift of people to the coasts.

Those plains states are key to keeping the United States calorie self-sufficient. Did you know that only 15% of US corn gets exported? The popular image of the United States as a large crop exporter is looking dated. Population growth due to immigration is going to boost domestic demand while causing more farm land to get converted to suburban subdivisions.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 November 10 08:00 PM 

James Bowery said at November 11, 2013 12:33 AM:

The Breakout Labs test of the Atmospheric Vortex Engine physics model against a physical model is happening. If the physical model turns out to support the physics model, the consequences are huge.

When deployed there will be a potential supply of a petawatt of baseload electricity available in the tropical doldrums.

The question then arises:

What are the markets for a petawatt of baseload electricity located in the tropical doldrums?

One possibility is synthetic limestone produced by the Calera process (http://www.calera.com/), which fixes CO2 as CaCO3. If the AVE were constructed of concrete, a rough calculation shows that a 200MW AVE could reproduce itself with about one year’s electrical output using NaCl electrolysis to produce the NaOH for the Calera process, drawing CO2 from the environment.

Moreover, the flotation collar of the AVE’s arena would provide what amounts to half kilometer in diameter concrete structure, most of which would be a deck. The AVE’s arena being 100m high and 200m in diameter would provide the superstructure of a high rise overlooking the deck.

A problem then becomes what to do with all that chlorine.

One use of all that chlorine is to recombine it from the hydrogen gas evolving from the production of NaOH, to form HCl. The problem is then what to do with all that hydrochloric acid?

Fortunately, there are a lot more uses for hydrochloric acid than there are uses for chlorine. Unfortunately, unless an in situ use can be found, they require shipping the hydrochloric acid great distances.

One possible in situ use for hydrochloric acid would be pre-digestion of algae biomass for human, animal and industrial consumption. The hydrolysis of algae biomass grown in photobioreactors associated with the seastead would solve several problems. For example, one problem with algae biomass as the base of the agricultural food chain, is the large proportion of DNA in the biomass. DNA, if consumed directly by animals not adapted to algae consumption (such as humans), causes gout. Acid hydrolysis of DNA provides sugars, phosphorus compounds (in an increasingly phosphorus limited global economy) and a variety of organic compounds, some of which are precursors to resins and plastics. Hydrolysis of vegetable protein, such as that found in algae, breaks them up into constituent amino acids, which, if separated, renders them more amenable to composing optimal nutrients for different target species.

The main problem then becomes how to economically construct the and operate the photobioreactors.

As part of my work a a research analyst for the Diogenes Institute on a comprehensive plan for energy independence and the environment, I investigated photobioreactor technologies as a means of creating a market for food-grade CO2 produced by fossil fuel (primarily coal) electric generation plants. The profits from CO2 sales would pay for the reengineering of those plants to clean up the CO2 and capture all emissions for use or shipment back to burial in the mine of origin. See:


Large amounts of capital for photobioreactor technology have been wasted on pipe-dreams. This was primarily due to the fact that areal capital expense was far to great for the technologies pursued. This has been addressed primarily by going to open ponds. Open ponds are generally cheaper per area but the loss of productivity — primarily from contamination and invasive species — is so great as to render that approach unworkable.

After a years of frustration, I finally decided to try designing, myself, a photobioreactor that would be rendered low-cost per area by the huge number of units required to photosynthesize all of the US CO2 emissions from elex plants. While I came close enough to the economic threshold required for a ‘go’ decision on more serious investment in feasibility studies, I just may be able to discard that work as I believe I’ve found a PBR technology that is economic at ordinary scales of agriculture. It requires additional validation but it would be economic even if deployed in the desert southwest of the US, as shown in the aforelinked Diogenes Institute economic model. Since this PBR technology is optimized for oceanic deployment I had included an option in that model for “EquatorialOcean” which is currently set to “0″ which means the numbers currently shown do _not_ represent the numbers achievable from the deployment in the equatorial ocean. If I set “EquatorialOcean=1″ the model will recompute and display those numbers.

aandrews said at November 11, 2013 3:27 PM:

"Did you know that only 15% of US corn gets exported?"

It could be that a huge portion of overall US corn production is devoted to ethanol fuel formulation stupidity.

Not Japanese said at November 11, 2013 5:46 PM:

Maybe the population who lives in the shorelines is only getting ready to flee. Have you thought about it?
Living right in front of a borderless span of ocean water that stretches farther than the eye can see gives one the idea of freedom. One feels just like getting on a boat and leaving. I confess I have felt it myself sometimes.

James Bowery said at November 11, 2013 5:48 PM:

The Fukushima floating wind turbines are costing around $70M and generate about 7MW each. The first prototype is now afloat. They demonstrate the potential for energy-generating floating structures that, scaled up, could support real estate development. The picture at the aforelinked NYT article shows the scale of these turbines (about the same height as an AVE's "arena") and their floating platforms (tiny compared to the AVE flotation collar's deck which would be around 40 acres).

Michael L said at November 12, 2013 8:13 AM:

the Fukushima windmills story reminds me of the practice of building temples of the new religion on top the destroyed temples of the previous one, e.g. Christian churches in place of pagan temples and mosques in place of Christian and Hindu ones. Too bad that you cannot really run national electrical grid on the same "my cult will pwn your cult" principles, but that is beyond the ken of the dumb sheeple who are the target audience of the narrative. Tear down the steel plant and plant an "organic garden". Put up a windmill instead of a nuclear power plant. Replace a bustling city with a desolate wilderness. That's how it goes.

Michael L said at November 12, 2013 8:24 AM:

James Bowery, I notice that the "atmospheric vortex engine" you are talking about sounds really similar to a planned other people's billion dollars worth of wannabe Solyndra apparently planned for construction in Arizona as discussed here http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidferris/2013/03/26/your-energy-skyscraper-questions-answered/ . What's your take on that? Is the technology you are promoting actually entirely different? Or similar in spirit but vastly cheaper and more sensible? Or would it also cost a billion dollars for a working prototype?

James Bowery said at November 12, 2013 11:11 AM:

See The AVE development plan for the numbers you seek. When you're talking about a privately financed research prototype that costs under a million dollars, it is rather disingenuous to call it "other people's billion dollars", Michael. Nor is it likely to grow into a Solyndra since the development plan's milestones are all well within the current angel investor's resources as well as being in line with the current angel investor's vision for seasteading.

We're talking more along the lines of Galt than Obama.

Michael L said at November 12, 2013 6:56 PM:

I see, thanks. So your project is reasonably priced, and you have no comments about the Arizona one.

James Bowery said at November 12, 2013 7:25 PM:

I ran some preliminary numbers on "The Energy Tower a few years back and it just didn't seem to stack up well economically or environmentally against the solar updraft tower which has its own economic problems -- although environmentally the solar updraft tower is more defensible than increasing the humidity of the earth's desert ecosystems substantially as would the Energy Tower. The AVE is a lot cheaper than the solar updraft tower and is better in that its deployable in the ocean deserts (where it won't have nearly the environmental impact per capacity of any of energy production system so long as you keep the top of the vortex far enough below the tropopause that it doesn't introduce stratospheric humidity).

Gerard O'Neill asked "Is a planetary surface the right place for an expanding technological civilization?" My analogous question: "Is land the right place for an expanding technological civilization that wants an ocean view?"

James Bowery said at November 13, 2013 11:19 AM:

BTW: It looks like I may have been a factor of at least 2 conservative on the time it takes for a maritime AVE to reproduce its primary mass using the Calera process. These things may well have an initial doubling time of 6 months which could decrease not just based on industrial learning curve but also on off-peak elex available as the total baseload capacity grows.

James Bowery said at November 15, 2013 12:02 PM:

Concrete printing will probably prove important in these self-replicating seasteads.

BTW: The mature design (after several generations of faster replication designs) may end up with the general geometry I originally envisioned for the Solar Updraft Tower Algae Biosphere with the key differences being:

* The entire disk is supported by a sea-displacing Calera-process concrete-hull -- probably carbon (possibly graphene) reinforced.
* The Solar Updraft Tower is replaced by an Atmospheric Vortex Engine.
* The algae cultivation area consists of a thin layer of lower density growth medium supported by a shallow layer of higher density saline flotation medium (sea water), the two separated by polymer film, with the growth medium sealed from the environment by being in mechanical communication with an upper clear polymer film with pure CO2 delivered by aeration pipes. This provides tight control on the growing conditions for tight control on the biomass production. The growth medium is also quite dark so it provides a lot of heat for the AVE and the AVE, by consuming the heat, provides cooling to keep the algae temperature close to optimal.
* The outer rim of the disk is what I was earlier referring to as "the deck" with the same radially-bathymetric profile as a beach so that all the real-estate is beach-front, ocean view on outward-facing side, the inward-facing a controlled-environment aquaponic/recreational water area.
* All food and materials for self-replication are derived from the ocean and atmosphere using the copious baseload electrical power (500MW).

James Bowery said at November 16, 2013 4:34 PM:

BTW: The energy source can be any sufficiently cheap technology such as those promised by proponents of LFTR and LENR. The point is, with sufficiently cheap energy there may be enough tropical island beachfront property with full amenities for the whole planet's population.

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