Nanotube Heal Thyself

23rd February 2007

Last July I posted about how “Scientists at Argonne National Labs are modeling for electrical properties by adding defects in carbon nanotubes”. I thought this was interesting because the:

methodology looks like it could be readily adopted for desal research by adjusting the charge on a carbon nanotube to screen for Na or Cl–as was done for Hydrogen production purposes by collaborating researchers from UT and the Research Triangle Institute in the Research Triangle NC.

Now consider this article below about how an imperfection moves along the carbon nanotube. Perhaps the charge of a carbon nanotube couldn’t be induced to change as the blemish moved up and down the nanotube.

Nanotube, heal thyself
Atomic blemishes move, repairing molecular skin in their wake

HOUSTON, Feb. 15, 2007 — Pound for pound, carbon nanotubes are stronger and lighter than steel, but unlike other materials, the miniscule cylinders of carbon – which are no wider than a strand of DNA – remain remarkably robust even when chunks of their bodies are blasted away with heat or radiation. A new study by Rice University scientists offers the first explanation: tiny blemishes crawl over the skin of the damaged tubes, sewing up larger holes as they go.

“The shape and direction of this imperfection does not change, and it never gets any larger,” said lead researcher Boris Yakobson, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of chemistry. “We were amazed by it, but upon further study we found a good explanation. The atomic irregularity acts as a kind of safety valve, allowing the nanotube to release excess energy, in much the way that a valve allows steam to escape from a kettle.”

The research appears Feb. 16 issue of in Physical Review Letters.

Carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders of pure carbon that measure about a billionth of a meter, or one nanometer, across. They are much longer than they are wide, akin in shape to 100-foot garden hose, and they’re 100 times stronger than steel at one-sixth the weight.

The carbon atoms in nanotubes are joined together in six-sided hexagons, so when scientists sketch out the arrangement on paper, nanotubes look something like a rolled up tube of chicken wire. Yakobson’s “smart repair machine” is a deformity, a blemish in this pattern. The blemish consists of a five-sided pentagon joined to a seven-sided heptagon and contains a total of ten atoms. Yakobson, who specializes in using computers to decipher the atomic pecularities of materials, discovered several years ago that mechanically stressed nanotubes – like those being pulled very hard from both ends – are predisposed to develop these 5/7-defects due to the complex interplay of thermodynamic forces at work in the nanotube.

In the latest study, Yakobson, research associate Feng Ding and students examined the effects of other types of stress, including exposure to heat and radiation. The tests confirmed the predisposition of nanotubes to develop the 5/7 blemishes, and they revealed the blemishes’ unexpected healing powers.

“The 5/7-blemishes move across the surface of the nanotube like a steamship, giving off puffs of carbon gas,” said Ding. “In their wake, the skin of the tube appears pristine, in its characteristic hexagonal arrangement.”

Yakobson said the blemishes consume all larger defects, and chug along indefinitely, rearranging atoms and healing the skin of the damaged nanotubes. This explains how nanotubes retain their strength, even when severely damaged. But the healing comes with a price.

“In their role as a safety valve, the 5/7-steamers give off energy and mass, which is released as pairs of gaseous carbon atoms,” Yakobson said. “Since they never change shape or stop moving, they ever so slowly eat away the surface of the nanotube, one pair of atoms at a time.”

Yakobson said the 5/7-blemishes turn when they reach the end of the nanotube and return in the opposite direction. In fact, there’s only one thing that can stop them: another 5/7 blemish. If two of the blemishes run headlong into one other, they cancel each other out and disappear.

Research co-authors include graduate students Kun Jiao and Mingqi Wu.

The research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation.

Last June I posted in Computer Power in 5-10 Years — that computers 1000 times faster than todays computers will be available in 5-10 years. This week Intel unveiled the first Teraflop chip. It won’t be available for 5 years or more. First teraflop speeds were achieved at Sandia Labs 10 years ago using building sized computers. Remember this stuff speeds up the rate at which things happen. Its in part the accelerating speed of the computers that give men like Mihail Roco, senior advisor for the nanotechnology to the National Science Foundation and a key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative…such confidence about the accelerating pace of developments in nano technology.

What about those developments?

I mentioned charge in passing during the post on the work of LLNL researchers last year. This week there were two different groups that created membranes using charge and a third that made a supercondenser made of nanotubes.The first is from the University of Rochester. Their post will appear in Nature. They have created a membrane that’s 50 atoms thick. Its NOT a carbon nanotube but I think the work is interesting because it suggests that the charge properties of the carbon nanotubes are not a function of the shape of the nanotubes–and maybe not even the size of the nanotubes. Read this second piece to see how scientists at MIT charge carbon nanotubes used to create the next generation batteries that charge up instantly. The third piece is the most interesting. A group at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced that they had found a way to precisely control the flow of water through carbon nanotubes by adjusting the carbon nanotube membrane charge. How did they create the membranes? They may have used a printing method developed by another Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute team–or another by method developed by a Northwestern Team. But I can’t be sure. Anyhow, here’s the post. (see me comment after the post.)

bV = parseInt(navigator.appVersion); if (bV >= 4) window.print();

Controlling the Movement of Water Through Nanotube Membranes

Precise control of water transport through a nanotube membrane is demonstrated by a novel electro-chemical approach. Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Precise control of water transport through a nanotube membrane is demonstrated by a novel electro-chemical approach. Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

By fusing wet and dry nanotechnologies, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found a way to control the flow of water through carbon nanotube membranes with an unprecedented level of precision.

The research, which will be described in the March 14, 2007 issue of the journal Nano Letters, could inspire technologies designed to transform salt water into pure drinking water almost instantly, or to immediately separate a specific strand of DNA from the biological jumble.

Nanotube membranes have fascinated researchers with their combination of high flow rates and high selectivity, allowing them to filter out very small impurities and other organic materials like DNA and proteins from materials with high water content. The problem is that nanotube arrays are hydrophobic, strongly repelling water.

“We have, at a very fundamental level, discovered that there is a new mechanism to control water transport,” said Nikhil Koratkar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Rensselaer and lead author of the paper. “This is the first time that electrochemical means can be used to control the way that the water interacts with the surface of the nanotube.”

A group of Rensselaer researchers led by Koratkar has found a way to use low-voltage electricity to manipulate the flow of water through nanotubes. Control of water’s movement through a nanotube with this level of precision has never been demonstrated before.

“In this century one of the big challenges is how to get clean drinking water,” Koratkar said. “If you can remove salt from water you can solve this problem. Nature does this all the time. The first step to getting to this process is to control the flow of water through nanochannels, which we have now successfully demonstrated. This is the starting part of the research. The next step would be to capture specific proteins, DNA, or impurities within the water with specifically designed nanotubes.”

The researchers discovered that when the nanotube’s membrane is given a small positive potential of only 1.7 volts, and the water is given a negative potential, the nanotubes quickly switch from repelling water to pumping water through the tube. When the charge on the water is raised, the water flows through at an exponentially faster rate. When the experiment is reversed with a negatively charged nanotube, it takes much higher voltage (90 volts) to move the water through the tube.

By simply reversing the polarity of the nanotubes, the team found that they could actually start and stop the flow of water through the tube. When a small positive charge is administered the water moves through the tube, and when that charge is reversed the water flow stops.

The researchers determined that the nanotube walls had been electrochemically oxidized as a result of water electrolysis, meaning that oxygen atoms had coated the surface of the nanotubes enabling the movement of water through the tube. Once the charge is reversed, oxidation stops and the water can no longer flow through the unoxidized portion of the tube.

The researchers also discovered that they could control the rate of water flow through nanotubes sitting directly next to each other, allowing one tube to pump quickly while the one next to it didn’t pump water at all. Such an extreme difference in water absorption so close together is unprecedented, and could have major implications for time-released drug coatings, lab-on-a-chip devices, and water capture that mimics some of nature’s most efficient water-harvesting materials.

The research is the first step to creating nanotube devices built to filter out specific elements from water and organic materials. With this enabling research in place, more efficient micro-filtration and separation techniques can be created for environmental restoration, the production of safe drinking water, biomedical research, and advanced circuitry.

Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer and a world-renowned expert in fabricating nanotube materials, collaborated with Koratkar on this project. Four other Rensselaer researchers were involved with the research: Saroj Nayak, associate professor of physics; post-doctoral researcher Lijie Ci; and doctoral students Li Chen and Zuankai Wang.

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

This news is brought to you by

friends…just for giggles,… show them this piece on programmable water. And then mention the work above.

New Mexico R&D

09th February 2007

Three items out of New Mexico,  recently,  point to the focus that state is putting on desalination.

The new El Paso/ Ft Bliss water desalination plant is opening this year. It will be the world’s largest inland water desalination plant.

The desalination facilities will increase El Paso Water Utilities’ fresh water production by approximately 25%, based on current demand, and will include a state-of-the-art desalination plant, a learning center, groundwater wells, transmission pipelines, storage and pumping facilities and the disposal of concentrate, the residual that remains after the desalination process.

The second item out of New Mexico is the opening of a new 16,000 sq ft  ground water desalination research facility. The facility called the National Inland Groundwater Research Center headed up by Mike Hightower from San Dia Labs–will offer permits & several different concentrations of brackish water for desalination research purposes.

To address the development of the “next generation” of desalination technologies needed to realistically impact future fresh water supplies, a federal partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and the Bureau of Reclamation was established by Congress in 2001 to evaluate and coordinate the development of a brackish ground water desalination research facility in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. While significant efforts have been devoted to address coastal or seawater desalination issues, this facility has been designed to address the unique research needs, such as system performance and environmental impact, of desalination and effective utilization of brackish ground water in inland areas. The goal of this facility is to become a national and international leader in the research, testing, evaluation, and demonstration of novel technologies for cost-effective ground water desalination and environmentally sound concentrate management.

Conceptual design of the facility was completed in September 2002, and final design completed in April 2004. Construction on the water supply system for the facility was initiated in October 2003, while groundbreaking for the facility was held in June 2004.

This last article involves students being involved in a research contest that involves desalination related problems. It occurs to me that they might do their bench scale demonstrations at the new facility mentioned above. One of the problems calls for the students to “Develop an inland desalination operation” Too bad they won’t have those cheap photovoltaic cells that I mentioned in last week’s post. Those won’t come out until this fall. However, a couple  ideas mentioned in this blog would  be great student projects.  One would be  distillation desalination using low pressure.  Another would would be using greenhouses for water desalination.

Anyhow here is the contest.

Environmental Design Contest to focus on water and renewable energy

Under the recently formed Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) and the College of Engineering, New Mexico State University is advancing applied engineering solutions to critical environmental challenges through its Environmental Design Contest, an annual international competition set for April 1-5 this year.

The Design Contest, sponsored by private and public entities such as Intel, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Food and Drug Administration and the American Water Works Association and Research Foundation, has deployed seven student-developed technologies at industrial and DOE sites over the 17-year course of the contest.

The design challenges presented in the upcoming competition relate to water and renewable energy – two areas critical to the state’s legislative initiatives symbolized by Gov. Bill Richardson’s call to be the “clean energy state” as he declared 2007 the “Year of Water.”

Left to right are Mark Ferguson, Christina Haley, and Long TranThe 2007 international challenge will engage 34 teams from 22 universities. Almost 170 students from across the U.S., as well as teams from Budapest, Hungary, Universidad de Las Americas in Mexico, and the University of Manitoba, Canada, will compete. In a concurrent high school design contest, 125 students from eight schools will develop solutions to the same design challenges with various options for the younger competitors. NMSU has two teams competing for cash prizes, traveling trophies and worldwide recognition.

Government agencies, industrial affiliates and academic partners play a key role in the design contest, assisting IEE in the development of design problems and evaluation criteria, providing financial support for site-specific issues and serving as judges for the final competition. Design teams showcase their work through research papers, oral and poster presentations and bench-scale demonstrations. Their scientific approach must consider regulatory guidelines, public opinion and cost.

“The institute fosters an inter-disciplinary research agenda to address environmental sustainability,” said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE director. “Our flagship event, the International Environmental Design Contest is evolving into its 17th year addressing immediate areas of concern, and it is as timely and relevant as ever. We continue to evolve the application of real solutions to real problems affecting quality of life for everyone.”

Steven Castillo, dean of the NMSU College of Engineering, is excited about the contest and the engineering solutions that result from it.

“Providing inexpensive, clean sources of energy to support continued economic growth is one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years,” Castillo said. “IEE is becoming a focal point for NMSU faculty from disparate disciplines to solve difficult technical problems and support the production of world-class engineers in these important areas.”

This year’s Design Contest tasks include:

• Develop a photovoltaic (solar panel) system performance indicator to determine that a residential utility-interactive PV system is operating properly and that the AC power output is following the solar power available to the PV array.

• Develop an inland desalination operation and disposal system (for water) in rural, isolated communities to demonstrate a low-cost, simple and reliable system.

• Convert a biomass resource to useful forms of energy and other products to demonstrate options using biogas or liquids.



As I have mentioned before, water desalination costs consist roughly of 1/3 each of capital, maintenance and energy. The most promising technology so far — carbon nanotube membranes show promise of collapsing capital maintenance and energy costs by replacing a 30 million dollar desalination plant with a <2 million dollar membrane tipped pipe you stick in the ocean. (More on that later.)

However, there will still be energy costs involved with pumping water. Those costs increase as you contemplate pumping water hundreds —even thousands of miles inland.

So what about electricity costs?

There is a serious power generation paradigm shift afoot which will result in lower electricity prices.

Current solar generation efforts underway might well provide a way to offload all the construction and maintenance costs of the electrical infrastructure onto private contractors — Leaving water utilities just the consumer’s cost of metered electricity–all along the inland pipeline.

Here’s How.

Low cost high volume electricity will be generated from next generation solar plants going up in the deserts of Southern California. In fact, it looks like they will be able to bring in electricity at the current cost of coal fired electricity.

None of the companies would give a price for building the solar sites or disclose the rates the utilities will pay for power, but both said the cost would be similar to traditional coal or gas.

It looks like the solar power operators in Southern California have come up with a seriously innovative way to mainstream solar power using net metering.

January 20, 2007

Is the Sun finally rising on Solar Power?

An Interview with Rob Styler of Citizenre

Press Release from Affordable Photovoltaics LLC


In the past, solar power has been too expensive and too complicated. To switch to solar, people had to invest their children’s college fund or sell their second car. The average consumer pays $40,000 to convert their home to solar-plus you are responsible for the installation, maintaining the equipment, getting permits-who has the time (or the money)?

A company called Citizenre has a bold plan to remove all of the traditional barriers to solar power. They offer: No system purchase. No installation cost. No maintenance. No permit hassles. No performance worries. No rate increases. No way!?

(My comment:So what if this were a water utility–)

When we first heard about this, we were so intrigued that we contacted the company. It seemed almost too good to be true. Like most innovations, their model is so simple it makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.

You simply pay Citizenre the same rate per kilowatt for power that you used to pay your utility company-but it gets even better. Citizenre will guarantee that your rate per kilowatt will not go up for 25 years. With ever increasing electricity rates, this gives consumers peace of mind and can add up to significant savings. They even have a solar calculator on their website that shows exactly how much you will save over 1, 5, and 25 years. I saved over $13,000 and by using clean energy, it was the equivalent of taking 24 cars off the road or planting 400 trees. Nice.

In the past, “going green” usually implied sacrifice. You get to feel good about saving the planet but most “green” products are more expensive than their “dirty” counterparts. With Citizenre, going green can actually save you money.

This is all made possible by net metering laws that require the utility companies to allow renewable energy to flow into the grid and then allow the consumer to pull that same amount of energy off of the grid at no cost to the consumer. Basically the grid becomes a huge battery. The meter spins backwards during the day when the sun is shining and forwards at night when the consumer pulls that power back off the grid.

(My comment: Ok. So what happens if all along the canal/pipeline into the desert you installed solar electricity generating systems– installed for free by franchisees of Citizenre-that generated twice as much energy as the canal pumps need–so that at night when the solar cells weren’t working–the pumps could still draw power from the network–for free–because they had produced twice as much as they needed during the day. The answer is that there is still a rental fee whose total is still calculated by the amount of energy produced by the solar cells. However, it won’t be anything like the retail rates of .10-.20 a kilowatt retail rates)

These laws were passed because residential energy production was the number one cause of pollution in the US last year, but there are still 9 states that have not joined the party. If you live in Alaska, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, or South Dakota, the Citizenre Solution is not an option for you yet.

We were still a little skeptical, so we asked Rob Styler, the president of their marketing division, some hard questions.

Q. How can Citizenre afford to install this complete solar system with no upfront cost to the consumer?

A. Because we handle everything ourselves from the solar grade silicon to the final installation, we create savings at each stage of the production. Plus we are building the largest plant for solar power in the world. When you combine our vertical integration with our economies of scale, we are able to produce the final product at half the cost of our competitors.

Q. This sounds like Citizenre required a large amount of money to make all this happen?

A. $650 million.

Q. Now I know why no one did this before you guys. So the customer does not have to give any money to have this complete solar system installed on their house?

A. We require a security deposit, typically only $500, at the time of installation. They get this deposit back, with interest, at the end of the contract. If they don’t pay their bill and walk away from the contract, they lose their deposit and we come take the system off their roof. They are also required to pay a monthly rental for the solar energy system.

Q. And how is that rent calculated?

A. By the amount of energy that the system produces.

Q. But they are paying the same rate they were paying before, right?

A. Often it is actually less. We base our rates on the yearly average for their utility. So we have to base our rates on the prior year. Since rates tend to go up each year, many customers will save money on their first bill, and this will only increase as the years pass. We provide a calculator on our website that will tell specifically what they will save with their particular utility and their monthly usage. Many customers save over $10,000 just by switching to the sun. Our whole mission is to help people join the solution and stop being part of the problem.

(My comment: So a California water utilitiy could go to their web site and calculate on the spot how much they would save by having a solar system installed.Ok here is the web page you go to. Click on the lower left hand corner.)

Q. I like that. How long of a contract do they have to sign?

A. One year, five years, or 25 years. Over 70% of our customers sign the 25-year contract because that locks in their rate for the entire term of the contract. If they sign a shorter contract, their rate is recalculated according to current energy rates at the end of their term.

Q. What happens if I sign a 25-year contract and I want to sell my house in 10 years?

A. You have three options. First, you can ask us to move the system to your new house. We do that one time for free. Second, you can transfer the contract to the new owner. This can potentially add value to your house because if energy rates keep going up like they are and they are 60% higher in 10 years, then your buyer would get a 60% decrease on their energy bill because of your foresight. The final option is that you can contact us, tell us that you just want to end the contract and we will remove the unit. With this third option you do lose your security deposit.

Q. So is my security deposit the most I can lose?

A. Obviously if you don’t pay your bill there will be late fees or if one of our franchisees comes out to your house to remove the unit and you greet him with a shot gun and pit bull, we will have to take legal steps to recover our property. But if the customer is cooperative they should have no worries.

Q. Say I want a system on my house. How does it work? What is the process?

A. One of our Independent Ecopreneurs will help you each step of the way. There are some simple questions to answer about your amount of shade, the direction of your roofline, etc. After you sign the contract, a solar engineer will come to the house to design your system.

Q. What if I don’t like the design? Am I still obligated to the contract?

A. No. You can back out of the contract with no penalty. You don’t even pay the deposit until after you approve the design.

Q. Okay. I like the design. I want the system. What’s next?

A. The installation usually takes about half a day. The permit process can take as much as 90 days depending on how cooperative the local utility is, but we handle everything. All you do is sit back and feel good knowing you are using clean energy to power your home.

Q. What happens if something breaks or goes wrong?

A. We have a complete worry free performance guarantee. If the unit ever stops working, one of our franchisees will rush out to fix it for free. The customer has no rental charges until the system is working again so we are motivated to get it fixed fast.

Q. What if my kid hits a baseball through one of the panels?

A. It is just like renting a car or a TV. You are responsible for returning it in good condition. We recommend that customers contact their homeowners insurance to double check that the unit will be covered under their policy. Usually there is not a problem.

Q. Wouldn’t I save money in the long run if I just bought the system?

A. Actually, no. Renting can save you a significant amount of money, and it protects you from a large investment risk. We can help the consumer evaluate their options so they can make a solid decision. Our goal is to have solar power producing 25% of our residential energy supply in the year 2025. To make that happen, we removed every barrier we could find to solar entry. We make solar simple.

Q. I understand that your manufacturing plant is not completed yet, is that right?

A. Correct. The first systems will be ready to install in September of 2007.

Q. So why would someone sign up now?

A. First because they lock in their rate as soon as they sign up. Second, they get in line so they can get their system sooner once the plant is producing. Third, it also helps us show the market how many people will go green if we provide an offer that makes sense on every level, including economically. To quote Ghandi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

Q. So how does someone sign up?

A. They just go to and they can sign up for free right now


Nice interview.

So for the purposes of a pipeline — local solar franchises could install and maintain the photovoltaic equipment along the pipeline that fed electricity at low fixed predictable costs to the generators that ran the pumps that pumped the water inland.

Kind of nice — don’t you think — that they lock in prices for twenty five years so that the consumer is protected from rising electricity prices….But what if future photovoltaic electricity prices fell rapidly and dramatically. That’s what Nano Solar has in mind. “Tomorrow’s solar panels may not need to be produced in high-vacuum conditions in billion-dollar fabrication facilities. If California-based Nanosolar has its way, plants will use a nanostructured “ink” to form semiconductors, which would be printed on flexible sheets. Nanosolar is currently building a plant that will print 430 megawatts’ worth of solar cells annually—more than triple the current solar output of the entire country.” And prices will fall substantially. According to Wikipedia.

Estimates by Nanosolar of the cost of these cells, fall roughly between 1/10th and 1/5th [3] the industry standard per kilowatt. A significant cost reduction which, if true, is expected to drastically affect, if not revolutionize the modern energy market.

Current costs for photovoltaics are +-.18@kilowatt hr vs +-.03@kilowat hr for coal generated electricity. So 1/10 of .18 would be .018 cents@kilowatt hour. Operating & maintenance costs add another .01 cent@kilowatt hour

That 1/10th number is not a fluke either. Another company called Innovalight with similiar technology — claims it will be able to do the same thing.

Innovalight has developed a silicon nanocrystalline ink that holds the promise to bring flexible solar panels to cost that could be as much as ten times cheaper than current solar cell solutions.

In fact according The Energy Blog:

Their [Inovalight]technology is similar in some respects to others that are developing thin-film silicon photovoltaics. Kyocera, Unaxis , Ovonics, Sanyo, Energy Photovoltaics , Konarka, Nanosys and Nanosolar are companies in this field that I have written posts about. It seems with all these companies and all the companies developing non-silicon thin-film products, a few should emerge as leaders with low cost solar products.

I think that its safe to say the costs of producing photovoltaics are going to come down substantially in the near future. Basically, we’re talking about electrical generation going through a paradigm shift.

Now remember we are talking about two kinds of solar power generation here. The first is the large scale thermal solar plants located in remote desert locations and the second is photovoltaic systems which are usually small scale affairs located on roof tops. (However, with photovoltaic costs falling so dramatically–next generation solar farms may use phtovoltaics rather than thermal solar power generation.)

A company like Citizenre is using both the large scale thermal solar plants and the small photovoltaic systems by way of net metering to gain enormous economies of scale.

One hidden cost of building the large power generation plants in remote sites is the costs of building electrical lines back to the main grid. To offset these costs

California ISO asks feds to back plan for greening the grid

Folsom, CA, Jan. 26, 2007 — The California Independent System Operator Corp. (California ISO) filed with its regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to approve in concept a financing plan for transmission trunklines to remote locations in order to get green power from multiple users on to the grid.

If the new payment mechanism is approved and implemented, it would be a means of removing financial barriers that can hinder development of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources, said the California ISO.

This is a good idea and should be implimented in other states beside California.

Finally, from Moss Landing in Monterey California, an interesting method for drawing water from the ocean is being considered. Rather than stick a pipe out in the ocean planners are contemplating digging a diagonal well from the shore at a cost of 2 million dollars.

Cal Am estimates well drilling to cost $2M

PUC asked water company to research method seen as less invasive way to cool desalination plant

Herald Staff Writer

If California American Water is required to draw seawater from wells rather than Moss Landing’s once-through water cooling system for a pilot desalination plant, the cost will be about $2 million, the company has told the state Public Utilities Commission.

The purpose of the diagonally drilled test wells, Bowie said, would be to see if they could draw enough water to support a full-scale desalination plant, a process that would involve water quality testing and may include experimental desalination.

The company’s estimate for all of that work, including some pilot water treatment, is $2 million, she said, “and they may not ask us to do all of that.”

Subsurface intakes are diagonally-drilled wells that extend below sea level toward the ocean floor. They are the favored desalination technology of many environmental groups that object to the open ocean-water intakes employed at Moss Landing and other coastal power plants, because they can trap plankton, larvae and other small organisms.

Subsurface intakes collect water after it has passed through layers of sand, soil and gravel, thereby avoiding impacts to marine life and reducing the need for pre-treatment before the water goes through the desalination process.

In Marina, a subsurface test well would draw water from the seawater-intruded, 180-foot aquifer. Engineers have posed the theory that drawing water at this location could actually help prevent the advancement of seawater intrusion.

Mark Lucca, general manager of the Marina Coast Water District, said district officials and Cal Am representatives have been talking in general terms about possible test wells and sites, “but I’ve not heard about an ‘X’ on the map.”

No decision has been made to drill test wells, Bowie said.

If the PUC requests additional subsurface research, Bowie said, installation of the test well could begin as early as July. The company would need appropriate permits from the Coastal Commission and other agencies for the well.
As currently proposed, the Cal Am pilot plant would divert seawater from the Moss Landing plant’s once-through cooling system. It would then discharge the remaining brine from the desalination process into the power plant’s system to be returned to the bay.

The state Lands Commission early last year adopted a resolution to phase out once-through cooling systems for coastal power plants.

Using the diagonal wells would eliminate the environmental objections of once-through cooling systems and avoid making desalination plants dependent on them.

Desalination, combined with aquifer storage and recovery, Bowie said, has been identified by the Public Utilities Commission as the most viable and environmentally sensitive supply project for the area.

For the full article click here.

2 Million Dollars to drill a diagonal well out into the ocean. That looks like the future cost of a desalination plant– –someday — when all that’s needed is a pipe stuck out in the ocean — with a semipermiable membrane attached to the cnd. Except that they won’t need to drill diagonal well. They’ll just need to lay pipe out into the water. Which should be cheaper than 2 million.


In December I blogged about peak oil predictions of the collapse of production of Saudi oil production.

A couple of things happened in the last month that I think will result in the collapse of demand for oil in the next 10 years. First GM introduced the hybrid Volt at their auto show in January. The car goes 40 miles on a charge and then switches over to gas. It costs an extra $5000 to make. It can be recharged in 6 hours overnight. (Since standard commutes are <=33 miles daily most cars can be charged overnight without using gas.) The DOE released a study saying that 85% of the US could run off hybrids without need of upgrading the current US electrical system because cars would be charged at night–during a period of low demand. Finally, Bush signed an executive order mandating that federal vehicles use uses plug-in hybrid (PIH) vehicles. So GM will have enough demand to justify investments to ramp up production that will leverage economies of scale to bring down prices that will make the car attractive the public.