Solaculture

http://solaculture.com/

Solaculture arrays can provide very high solar concentration at low cost. They are composed of regions of land or water covered with porous canopies and a means to provide a slow downward airflow thru the porous canopies to reverse and control the typical buoyancy induced upward air flow resulting from solar heating and water evaporation. Plants in some instances can act as canopies and present the minimal cost Solaculture array. Solaculture can provide enhanced environments for people, plant and animal communities by varying the canopy and earth properties, and the airflow rate and direction. ….

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2 thoughts on “Solaculture

  1. Solaculture Addendum

    Very little energy is needed to cause a reversal of the typical solar and evaporation induced upward airflow and that energy can be provided by rising exhaust gas resulting from combustion of biogas and/or from an engine intake and/or from a blower/fan.

    Furnaces, boilers, and cooling towers use both free and forced draft systems and the parasitic cost of forced draft is a tiny percentage of the system energy. A fireplace for example typically induces several times the air needed for combustion without a fan/blower despite the fact that the house is closed; the reason is that the stack gas is less dense than the local atmosphere and continuity demands that if the fireplace stack is causing air to rise, it is by extension causing the neighboring air to fall. See Wikipedia for stack effect or chimney effect thermodynamic relationships.

    Greenhouses are increasingly being rationalized for reasons including increased crop yield, increased crop quality, increased growing season, reduced water needs, reduced insect problems, and reduced insecticide use. If greenhouses had perforated film covers, the intake of an engine driven generator could be connected to the greenhouses and used to create a slightly sub-atmospheric pressure within the greenhouses and by this means collect and recycle the water of evaporation from the earth and the water of transpiration from the plants within the greenhouses. Methane produced by anaerobic decomposition of organic media within the greenhouse could provide all or part of the engine driven generator fuel needs.

    A perforated film covered greenhouse need not be costlier than an unperforated film covered greenhouse and a web search will reveal hoop house type film covered greenhouse costs as low as $.30/ft2, much lower than any other solar collector cost and these collector costs are already rationalized economically for food production, a process that can operate in conjunction with Solaculture and in fact be enhanced by reduced heat losses, water collection, water recycling, and CO2 addition.

    Methane is being produced and released into the atmosphere in large quantities. Areas with existing high methane production rates include peat bogs, swamps, wetlands, coal mines, oil fields, rice paddies, landfills, cattle and swine operations, and sewage treatment facilities. Solaculture technology can also provide increased insitu production of methane by leaving crop waste in place for decomposition into humus. Since methane has more than 20X the global warming potential of CO2, some climate scientists are calling for a methane first approach to reducing greenhouse gases. If methane can be captured and converted to CO2 and H2O by combustion, work and heat can be derived, and the environment improved.

    The small amount of energy used to cause a reversal in the typical solar driven upward air flow can be used to yield enormous benefits by creating more optimal environments for habitation and for the production of food and fuel, while reducing greenhouse gases by increasing net plant matter, by storing carbon as humus, and by converting methane to CO2 and H2O.

    Civilization evolved in conjunction with excess created by the organization and manipulation of resources; first plants, and later animals, and water. Solaculture provides a means for the organization and manipulation of air in a manner beneficial to the environment and the economy. “Solaculture uses an aerologic organization system to enhance hydrologic and biologic systems”.

    1. Solaculture Philosophy

      Solaculture uses control of the local aerosphere to aid in the control of the local thermal, hydrologic, and biologic cycles to increase the usability and profitability of lands and water regions by producing food, fuel, heat, and clean water, while improving the environment.

      Much of the biofuels community is directed toward directly replacing liquid transportation fuels while Solaculture is directed toward the in situ production of biogas for local electricity generation. Electricity is a very useful form of energy and a growing portion of the transportation energy mix. Electricity is also a powerful measure of wealth, as nighttime photos from space make clear the haves and have nots.

      In situ biogas production: In situ microbial production of gaseous fuels offers lower overall cost than ex situ processing of microbes to yield high energy density liquid fuels.

      Fuels can be displaced without being duplicated: Transportation fuels require a high degree of concentration (energy density) and specificity and as a consequence are poor initial targets for direct replacement by biofuels. Duplicating transportation fuels may be the costliest route to displacing oil but it currently gets the headlines and the bulk of public and private investment.

      Fuel to heat/electric conversion at point of production : The benefits of on site power production include not having to refine biofuels for transport and the availability of heat from “Combined Heat and Power” (CHP) systems, which can be used for many purposes, including return to the array.

      Labor cost/fuel cost : The ratio of the employment costs of the constructors/operators/users to the local cost of fuel and electricity is an important metric. Many regions of the world without electricity have very low labor cost and very high energy cost due to logistical considerations. Systems that can be constructed and operated by low cost labor are more apt to be realizable and profitable.

      Farmers: Farmers are key to rapid dissemination and profitability. Agriculture is an especially productive part of our economy and although the reasons for this may be many, a significant one is that farmers are especially productive and systems designed to be constructed and operated by farmers and farm labor have a greater chance of being profitable and more rapidly disseminated. Farmers are the logical local partner/operator, as they know the local environment and stand to profit by efficient system management.

      Open vs. closed systems: Solaculture arrays use controlled atmospheric intake to reduce heat losses and to collect precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and CO2. Open systems are also easier and cheaper to construct than closed systems and more tolerant of leakage.

      Wet vs. dry systems: Wet systems, hydroponic or aquaculture can greatly increase yields of food and fuel but can be costlier to construct and operate and some crops and terrain are more applicable to dry systems.

      Scale: Solaculture is applicable to a wide range of scales and environments; a particular example of a large scale system would be cofiring in coal fired electric power plants in the deserts of the Southwestern U.S. that supply Southern California with electricity. Solaculture arrays could provide all or part of the air supply to these power plants and the biogas and accompanying elevated temperature added to the air supply would reduce the amount of coal burned for a given power output. The benefits include the fact that the fuel to electric convertors and control systems are already in place and the capital and operating costs are already rationalized. The Solaculture arrays can contribute as they are constructed and with extension and maturation could provide an increasing amount of fuel and heat to displace coal.
      The regions surrounding these power plants are good candidates for Solaculture arrays as they can accommodate the varied terrain without the land preparation typically required for solar farms. Coal allows low cost electricity generation and is not about to go away, but it can be synergistically assisted by the use of Solaculture and gradually reduced in need via biogas production from Solaculture arrays. Biogas produces ~1/2 the CO2 per unit energy as coal and a portion of the flue gas from the coal/biogas powered utility can be returned to the Solaculture array to provide heat, water and CO2 for enhancing plant growth and methanogenesis.

      A synergistic relationship between the power plant and the Solaculture array are formed where the oxygen and the biogas produced by the Solaculture array are converted to carbon dioxide and water by combustion in the power plant and a portion of the exhaust gas from the power plant is returned to the array for conversion to oxygen and biogas by the Solaculture array, thus completing the cycle.

      Stoichiometric fuel/air mixtures are not required as power plants do not operate at stoichiometric temperatures.

      A 1GW coal fired power plant releases ~2GW of heat to the environment via the condenser and exhaust and this resource can be used in Solaculture arrays to accelerate plant growth and methanogenesis, and to maintain array temperatures in cold climates.

      The carbon capture and storage means being pursued today are costly and complex and often seem more a form of punishment for sullying the environment. Solaculture leverages existing agricultural practices to create profitable carbon capture and storage while producing food, fuel, and clean water.

      Clean coal is neither impossible nor costly, and its use could be greatly increased without environmental damage by the integration of Solaculture technology.

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