On Monday this week, Auckland, New Zealand suffered a considerable power outage, affecting 1/4 of the region's population, including the Central Business District.
With around a third of the entire NZ population living in the Auckland region, the impacts were considerable. Economic losses have been voiced in terms of in excess of $100 million NZ dollars.
Auckland, in contrast to most comparable cities (having power plants within district), varies in obtaining the majority of its power externally. The cause of the problem was identified as being in transmission at a critical substation.
These events have raised attention on the associated issue of power generation. New Zealand is proud to have a "clean green", deserved, international reputation. With increasing demands, politically protective of its anti-nuclear policies and a Kyoto signatory, power generation in New Zealand is a pointed debate.
All agree on the desirability of diminishing reliance upon non-renewable sources and promoting use of renewable sources such as wind, solar and tidal energy.
However tidal power is seen as immature, solar power (requiring considerable physical space) and wind power facing classic NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) resistance.
A Fresh Perspective
So here's a new idea!
Challenging conventional thinking, I propose offshore multi-power plants.
Arterially A hybrid of power generation technologies cohesively assembled into a structure designed for offshore sea deployment.
Illustrated opposite, conceptually this would comprise:
- A module, tubular aluminium super-structure, providing a basic assembly framework and accommodating the direct mounting of multiple wind turbines atop its upright components.
- A tiered pyramid, external design, all facias being covered with solar panelling.
- Floating on multiple tidal power devices with multiple seabed anchoring, enabling relocation.
Using the classic golden ratios exemplified in Incan, Myan and Egyptian pyramid designs, multiple stepped tiers are envisaged.
From lowest to top, each would comprise a(n almost) flat bed of solar panels, with drainage gaps between.
In similar corrugated fashion, upright panels, aligning to the pyramidal form.
Periodic wind turbines protruding infer the need for vertical panels of some height - the intention being for each propeller head to be positioned relative to the next tier of propeller heads to minimise resistance and enable optimal aerodynamics and airflow over the structural whole.
A seven tier multiplant would comprise over a hundred wind turbines, nearly two hundred thousand solar panels, cover an area about the size of nine football pitches and stand nearly 340 metres high.
(Making a number of extremely broad brush assumptions!), taking into account: average available component efficiencies; meteorological variations; proportions of idle time and the additional contribution of tidal generation, this would consistently generate an average output in excess of three and a third megawatts of power (at least! Hey! Power generation's not my main game this estimate might be far too conservative!).
I would love to work with Hoberman on the best internal construction...
Anyway the more observant will have noted the decided lack of discussion thus far regarding tidal power and flotation. Key components indeed!
Three fold flotation is envisaged.
In the first instance, to enable assemble and provide minimum required buoyancy, sizable, inflatable tubing would be required on the underside of the entire structure - at base level a lattice of substantial (structural) high-pressure aluminium pipes.
Vertical, perpendicular tubes periodically placed along these pipes would provide inflow to conventional hydroelectric generator(s).
By way of a simple piston attached to (MUCH larger than pictured!) buoyancy device in combination with a one way internal valve, sea water would be tidally pumped in volume.
The third tranche of flotation would be optional in stability terms and additional in terms of power provision. The sheer surface area provides extremely well for nets of Salter Ducks to also be suspended beneath.
I'm reckoning that I could deliver this for a fraction of the cost of nuclear alternatives.
Multiplicity of benefits to having power production offshore - negligable real estate cost; tactical/strategic relocation options; minimal visible/environmental impact, though would truly be a wonderous construction; scaleable options and almost limitless reproductions/redeployments and worldwide increasing demand.
Governments, power cos and investors may apply by email.