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Mid-ocean Solar

Flocking free-floating sea surface solar panel herding...
  (+9, -3)
(+9, -3)
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The population's burgeoning, we're running low on land for growing food, and people are talking about taking up vast swathes of it for growing biofuels and installing wind/solar power-gen arrays. The obvious next step is to move power generation to the oceans - but how? Tidal power is still under development, and offshore wind farms, because of tides and storms and such, need to be grounded on ocean bedrock, which is pretty expensive.

The idea is this: a colony of small, buoyant, hexagonal, flocking solar panels, attached around a single stationary 'dock', which is in turn anchored to the sea bed, carrying cabling to the ocean floor and away to a continental hook-up.

Each hexagonal solar panel would have its own simple GPS system, and a steerable electric motor and propeller underneath, as well as basic intelligence and wireless communication abilities. They would thus be able to (slowly) steer themselves, using the electricity they would generate, into position, where they would be able to physically connect (using 'gender-neutral' connectors on each corner, self-sealing and capable of carrying electricity) to other panels, forming a network. Electricity could then be transmitted through the panel network to the central hub (which might have 'spokes' coming off to relieve the load on the central panels), and thence to wherever the cables go.

The main advantage is doing away with the need for individual anchoring on the ocean floor - apart from one anchor for stability - because these panels are designed to get knocked off occasionally. In big storms, for instance, they would detach when sensors in their connectors told them the force was too great, and then propel themselves back into position when convenient. (They have to be self-righting, I guess)

It might even be possible, by positioning such a colony in a strong ocean current, to use the under-panel prop/motors as dynamos, generating current to feed into the grid. hmmmm.

And this is just the start. The island would be huge. Maybe it would have sufficient bouyancy to serve as a potential holiday destination. Maybe...maybe the panels could also have arrays of LEDs on them, and they could be used to beam messages into space at night for corporate sponsors or SETI!

disclaimer: This is just an idea, and I'm meant to be writing a dissertation, so forgive my lack of research. I just joined, so I thought I'd add something. May be entirely unfeasible, because of the cost/ amount of power required to move the things/ etc. No animals were harmed in the making of this idea; although this idea did come in no small part out of reading some of strider and django's ideas, linked.

navel-gazer, May 04 2007

Modular floating island modular_20floating_20island
Strider's idea [navel-gazer, May 04 2007]

Oceanic Agriculture Oceanic_20Agricultu...0Island_20States_5d
Django's idea [navel-gazer, May 04 2007]


       Wave power is far more efficient than solar and would be just as effective in the situation you describe. It's also being commercially tested, so no points for you on the electricity generation front.   

       Kinda like the idea of a giant floating self-powered billboard for advertising products to passing aliens, though, so I'm voting neutral.
moomintroll, May 04 2007

       Can't you just start harvesting the Sargasso Sea?
DrCurry, May 04 2007

       // Wave power is far more efficient than solar   

       can we have a reference please? How do you define "efficient"?
TheLightsAreOnBut, May 04 2007

       Hmm. Okay, wave power *may* have an edge - I'm not qualified to say. Is it incompatible with solar, though? If we replaced the simple panel with the more complicated 'Salter's Edinburgh duck' wave generator or somesuch (covered in solar panels?), the same ideas would apply, no? they could even be painted yellow and shaped like rubber ducks.   

       Power generation aside, I think the possibilities of having a herd of self-powered, programmable, communicable, ocean-top agents stretch further: auto-limiting nearby oil-spills; coralling drifts of flotsam/jetsam/litter into managable loads; and of course, interstellar advertising. Anyway, just an idea. thought I'd say hello. back to the dissertation!
navel-gazer, May 04 2007

       //can we have a reference please?//   

       No. Shan't.
moomintroll, May 04 2007

       //Wave power is far more efficient than solar //
Remind me again what causes the waves?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 04 2007

       Waves are produced by wind, which is produced by temperature differences, which are produced by sunlight.   

       Wave generation may be "more efficient," and "commerically tested," but unless it's got efficiencies of 60% or so at least, I can't see how it would be more effective than solar, because the amount of energy available is probably about equal per square meter to what a piezo plate could get in a subway.
ye_river_xiv, May 05 2007

       This is certainly a well written first effort, and incorporates an idiosyncratic (to me) use of "flocking". I wonder if you are a previous baker who has returned under different moniker. Maybe after fighting a balrog?   

       I was thinking of vast solar projects in the context of the recently posted solar towers idea. It would be easier to maintain these on land. There is a lot of underused desert land in the world. But this scheme would work well for an oceanic island or oil well.   

       excuse me, must go get my burge on.
bungston, May 05 2007

       Yo this is auctally a good idea because there s so much free space but then again hopw you gonna get all thast power back to shore??
Vtipper, May 06 2007

       //but then again hopw you gonna get all thast power back to shore// Turn it into waves?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 06 2007

       Idunno. The panels would have to cover a lot of ocean to have a really useful effect, and it might not be very healthy to shade out the ocean like that. A lot of the CO2 in the atmosphere gets removed by algae in the ocean, so I can't really see this as being different from cutting down a forest to make a solar plant- seems counterproductive.
Madcat, May 07 2007

       i agree with madcat, shading out the ocean floor would be devastating: think about the methane released from dead ocean floor.   

       on the other hand placing huge wind turbines there is a good and yet proved idea, currently done at denmark.   

       another idea i heard was building gigantic turbines in water (esp. around poles) to utilise the energy of water currents.
yalin, May 09 2007

       WIFRT I thought "Solar as a noun - private family living area in medieval castle", hence, ladies in pointy hats and long skirts making tapestry somewhere off Ascension Island.
pertinax, May 09 2007

       Wahay, I have half a bun, now I'm well pleased.   

       [bungston] - nope, a geniuine n00b, albiet one who has lurked in the 'bakery's shadowy margins in silent admiration, for a while [Vtipper] - that would be the one 'anchor' in the middle of the flotilla, with undersea cables running to shore. [madat] and [yalin] - I'm not sure about the relative CO2 absorption of algae & phytoplankton vs the CO2 reduction of a PV panel; the area wouldn't be enormous given the overall surface of the ocean.   

       But here's a plan! We could leave gaps between the panels, at a ratio of up to 2:1 panels to gaps. Then - [Lt_Frank] notes the colossal amounts of bird-poo that might accumulate, as colonies of gannets etc move in. So maybe the automated cleaner-bot, scooping the nitrogen-rich guano into the sea, would provide fertiliser for the algae, providing a compensatory algae bloom, and consequent negation of the shadow effect! woo!
navel-gazer, May 09 2007

       Cleaner-bot? I would think that a good rain storm would do it. Or the sheer heat that would radiate from black panels that sit in the sun.   

       //May be entirely unfeasible, because of the cost/ amount of power required to move the things/ etc.//   

       I think you've caught on to the spirit of the halfbakery pretty well.   

       Anyway, gaps are good. By allowing for gaps and a motive system, this could be configured to only cause prolonged shade, as opposed to total floor death.
shapu, May 09 2007

       I do not think some shade would be that big of a deal for ocean vitality. In fact, floating structures become islands of life in open ocean - they serve as substrate for sessile life, and fish crowd around underneath for some reason.
bungston, May 09 2007

       I had a similar idea in the sixth grade, except the jolly photovoltaic was laid out in flexible sheets of pvc with small air pockets for floatation. The idea was to attach one end to a fellow's ship, then roll them out onto the water as power generation is required and as climate dictates. Bun.
monk, May 10 2007

       Thought there was enough space in people's own back yards to put up personal solar panels.
quantum_flux, May 11 2007

       What if you were to generate hydrogen gas at the anchoring hub? H gas could be transported to land by ship or pipeline. Also why make them robotic? eliminating the control systems would save on costs. for cleaning them a simple dunk in seawater could work. Air tubes could be used to fill or empty float bladders in each panel, no robots required.   

       I'm also wondering whether a solar farm could be put near a source of silica and have integrated pv manufacturing capabilities.
RichardT, Jan 22 2010

       I will echo [Vtipper]// but then again hopw you gonna get all thast power back to shore??// BTW [Vtipper] use the spell checker. :-)   

       Also echo the wave power suggestion, but qualify it by saying, choose both! No reason why you can't put the solar array on a flexing wave power station, but back to the original issue, maybe PV solar isn't the way to go, grow algie, convert it to oil, throw in the wave and a little PV to run the system and then store the oil for periodic harvest. Or stay with PV and make Hydrogen or Methane.
MisterQED, Jan 22 2010


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