12 August 2012

Olympics fortnight

I am of a certain age.
I am a post war boom baby.
I grew up in the ‘white heat’ of British Technology (a term coined by Harold Wilson I think) and became aware of a bright new world in the early 1960s when I was only ten.

Sadly, unlike my older brother born in an earlier decade, I was only just getting into my stride when the 60s came to an end. So my pleasure gained during the 1960s was a vicarious pleasure, mostly.
However, I simply fell in love with the music of that time, which now on sober reflection, sounds twangy and dated. I knew it would, since the music of an earlier generation (or half-generation) really sounded so hopelessly soppy and stupid. Remember Elvis? Sorry, wouldn’t give him house room. Home grown Adam Faith? ‘What do you want, if you don’t want money?’ - sorry again - brylcreemed nonsense. Why did the late 50s and very early 60 performers have such odd names? Every band or singer sounded like a disturbance of nature... Hurricane, Tornado, Storm, Fury, and so on.

Nevertheless, the times were very exciting and each day brought something completely new. I went to a pretty good school and it was fun all the way... nothing seemed impossible, establishments were being challenged and changed, out went the old and in came the new. The feeling generally was of contained excitement.

Years go by and the feelings change, life steers you down different pathways and eventually you settle.

Then London has the Olympics... what a buzz! Again the general feeling was very similar to the ‘can do’ attitude of the 1960s all over again. People were positive, people were smiling, being helpful for no other reason than to make guests to our country feel relaxed... what a joy! I truly hope this becomes an emergent trait, it could be very creative.

I have a plan, that should my life ever suddenly stop as it is, because of some huge natural disaster - and I get another chance (wishful thinking I know - but a chap can dream), I would very much like to set up a working generation of power from the heat of the sun. Lots and lots of generation, enough to power all of Europe. The technology exists right now. It is all quite feasible and has been proven time and again.

A sun powered solar tower, such as in Spain, would work really very well at latitudes more southerly than 45°N. At this latitude there is a vast swathe of north Africa that has very few people in it (relatively). There are vast area of desert with almost endless sunshine with lots of delicious infra-red. A football sized field with banks of honkin’ great mirrors, looking south could reflect the sun during its journey from East to West, to the top of a high tower where a black-coloured heat gatherer would collect the infra-red aimed at it. The figures are quite impressive. The heat gatherer is cooled with water, which becomes hot enough to boil and create steam. There is sufficient heat to generate steam in quantity to turn conventional turbines on conventional alternators. 11MW per field of reflectors. This has running costs, of course, since it is moving machinery. In fact the generation part is lifted straight from a power generation plant anywhere in the world. IT IS CONVENTIONAL TECHNOLOGY. It does not need super high tech and if more power is needed, you merely build another one, etc etc. It has no downside of generation. It is totally clean and occupies very little surface area of the world.

Water in (sea water desalinated works well) and sunlight to create steam... thereafter conventional electricity generation. The industrial North makes the machinery to do this and transplants it to north Africa where it can be maintained and money earned by the local people, selling the clean electricity back to the cold darker industrial north. To achieve this would need men of vision, engineers, diplomats and teachers with sufficient vision over a 25 year period to make it happen. Cross fertilisation of cultures and all done entirely by the new younger generation. This hard task would take a ‘generation’ to transform how power is generated and distributed. Really difficult tasks to be considered and solved. It would be long and arduous and dangerous. Just the sort of thing that whole countries used to devote almost all their GDP into, like going to war. This would be as profound, just as important. The Young of the North would have to be taught the infrastructure of the South where the resources lie. The Young of the South would be transplanted to the North to learn how the technology is created and infrastructure operates, etc etc. Write the details in as you realise them... lots to do.

Initially quite energy intensive to make the first few ‘systems’. Thereafter local ‘sun power’ could provide the punch to do the heavy lifting. As I say, this would take a ‘generation’ to do.

The ‘Sun Power Generation’... it could catch on. If little UK can run some Olympics we sure as hell can create this idea. It needs to become a ‘meme’ and spread. Maybe I could give a TED talk?

Then I woke up... :-)

340 TCs and still going strong.