This topic contains 100 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Brian H 9 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #589
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    Rematog
    Member

    I’ve got a question regarding the support requirements for a hypthetical 5MW FF power module.

    What would the cooling requirements be. I.E. 50% converion eff. means 5MW of heat rejected (half the energy released is converted to electrical power that leaves the device). Is it 25% eff., 50%, what?

    I would also assume most cooling would be done using a gas such as helium that wouldn’t be effected by the X-radiation. Or would plain water be OK?

    I am not a Physist, but a Mechanical Engineer, so I’m sure my questions seem very basic. I’m just looking at the assumptions on installed cost of a module.

    Rematog

    #3583
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    Lerner
    Participant

    You are probably right on both counts. We are looking at overall net efficiency around 50% so you would have to get rid of that much heat. That is another plus for decentralization, because in high-population areas, you could use the waste heat for heating, as the Europeans do with co-generation facilities.

    The immediate cooling medium would probably be helium at high pressure, but that will no doubt exchange energy with water to take the heat away from the generator.

    The question of how focus fusion could be distributed at somewher near its acutal cost is a political one. Of course the people, thorugh their government, could choose to write off the investments in coal, gas ,oil and fission generators once we have enough FF generators. In my opinion it would be a huge economic distortion to keep the cost of electricity high in order to pay off the utilities’ creditors. (For the most part, those creditors are the same financial institutions that are now bankrupt and are being propped up only by huge bailouts from the government.)

    #3587
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    Rematog
    Member

    Eric,

    While bonds will have more institutional investors, Utility stocks are very popular with older, often retired investors due to relative low risk and more stable yield. My 82 year old father is one of them. And, stock holders are the last in line when companies go under or take heavy losses. So, I’d not be too flippant when suggesting that utilities creditors be given the short end of the stick when/if FF is deployed. And stock and bonds of investment grade are what make up the portfolios of most retirement, 401k and pension funds. Hopefully they are diversified enough to weather drops in these.

    But…. I just don’t think it is right to gleefully suggest utilities get the shaft for making the NECESSARY investments in long term capital assets needed to provide the electric power needed to run our civilization.

    I live in Baton Rouge, and personally witnessed the effects of a city without power for over a week. Lines in front of Wal-Mart, hoping to get in to buy food (no power, no lights, no cash register). After only a half hour in line, I was let into the store… then an employee told me to hurry, the generator was almost out of gas, and if I didn’t check out before the power died, I’d not get the food, batteries, etc I’d been able to find. I had to wait over an hour for gas, as gas stations didn’t have power to pump the gas. Believe me, life without power was very unpleasant.

    Utilities have a legal OBLIGATION to serve. They can’t wait for FF to change the world. And many of the assets they currently hold were built in the ’70’s, 80’sand 90’s. They are partial depreciated. But, the remainder of the book value, like the remained of a 30 year mortgage after 20 years, needs to be re-paid.

    That is what I’m talking about when I mention stranded assets.

    What I’ve just said does NOT mean that power rates would not go down. FF could halve the retail cost of power in a short period of time, with further decreases as old assets are retired. Part of the reason cost would go down slower would be “distributed generation”.

    Think about it, who would have the ability to deploy FF very early, besides the existing utility companies. My answer would be large industrial power users and small municipals and REA’s. These bulk customers (they buy power wholesale or at state set rates) help pay for the power plant assets that FF would make obsolete. The remaining commercial and residential customers would then have to pay a higher percentage, unless some mechanism is put into place to allocate the cost of the stranded assets.

    So the early adaptors of distributed generation will complicate the political issues. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, or won’t happen. It just means that FF deployment will be a HUGH source of political wrangling over who gets to benefit and who gets stuck with the “toxic assets” that will result from FF deployment.

    #3588
    Avatar
    Rematog
    Member

    PS: I also understand and acknowledge that utilities are profit driven entities that strive and scheme and use politics to gain as much profit as they can. That does not make them “evil” (unless they cheat). They will, to a lesser or greater degree, change as technology changes. If FF becomes commercial, they will deploy, faster or slower, as they perceive the “fear vs. greed” equation that ALL business decisions come down to.

    The public and the government (including the courts) they elect (as least in the US) will mold the business landscape the utilities will try to navigate through in their attempt to gain the most benefit (greed) or least harm (fear) from the new technology.

    So the people will in the end determine the winners and losers. They need to elect politicians that have the general good at heart and do a fair, compasionate job of allocating the benefits and costs of FF deployment. Unfortunately, those politicians are a rare bred. Nuff said.

    #3670
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    Rematog
    Member

    Eric,

    I took the assumed heat load and assumed air to cool the FF module. I then got an estimate from a manufacture of industrial heat exchangers.

    Quite an eyeopener.

    This is what I sent them:

    Dear Sir or Madame,

    I would like to get a very rough cost estimate (order of magnitude) for a plate type gas to air heat exchanger. The hot gas will be clean air at 500F and be transferring the heat to clean ambient air (nom 100F). Fans will be sized as needed and gas/air side pressure drops should be normal for your equipments design. The duty would be 17 million BTU/hr. No special materials would be required. Most economical design is desired.

    They requested additional information:

    I have received your inquiry and have begun working on a HEX design. Can you provide me with the gas flow rates in lb/hr?

    I responded:

    Please don’t go to too much effort at this time. This is a very early, preliminary, Fatal Flaw, type of review. I only need an order of magnitude cost.

    They sent me a formal bid. This means that you could actual order it and for the following price (plus tax and freight) get this heat exchanger for:

    1 unit(s) at $334,000 each

    Of course, this is the cost for a one off, custom design. If you were make a large number of identical items, the cost would be greatly reduced. But, I would belive that a min. estimated cost would be $100k. That is for the waste heat exchanger, without fans, etc.

    This is why I am very disbeliving when a total assembled cost for a 5MW FF module of $300k or $500k is given.

    I would really like to participate in a realistic effort to estimate what the cost of a FF module, with all necessary support equipment, controls, etc. would be.

    Rematog

    #3671
    Avatar
    Lerner
    Participant

    Thanks for the research, but I suspect this is a bit premature.

    I also think you are underestimating the ratio of custom to mass produced items. I have read in many places the rule of thumb is at least 10 to 1, which would bring the price down to $33,000. To give an example from our current work, I tried to order a rectangular beryllium window, 2cm by 10 cm to view our experiment in x-rays (Be is very transparent to x-rays.). The quoted price was $7,000. After a bit of discussion with Maggie, their engineer, it became clear that the lofty price was because rectangles are custom windows, everyone uses circles. The price for a 10 cm diameter Be window (four times bigger window) was $2,000, mass produced (in quite low volume). So the price per square cm of viewing area was 14 times less.

    If we are really going to be trying to meet the world’s energy needs with FF generators we will be producing something like a million a year, almost the scale of mass production of cars. So 10-1 may be conservative. An entire auto engine , which has a lot more stuff than just a cooling system, can be purchased for $3,000, so can be produced for less. Twenty-five such engines go for $75,000 and produce 5MW of heat energy, so clearly their cooling systems cost a good deal less. I don’t think that one system is going to cost more than 25 separate ones either—there are economies of scale as well. So, $100,000 is going to be far too much for mass produced cooling systems.

    #3673
    Avatar
    JimmyT
    Participant

    But…. I just don’t think it is right to gleefully suggest utilities get the shaft for making the NECESSARY investments in long term capital assets needed to provide the electric power needed to run our civilization.

    I live in Baton Rouge, and personally witnessed the effects of a city without power for over a week. Lines in front of Wal-Mart, hoping to get in to buy food (no power, no lights, no cash register). After only a half hour in line, I was let into the store… then an employee told me to hurry, the generator was almost out of gas, and if I didn’t check out before the power died, I’d not get the food, batteries, etc I’d been able to find. I had to wait over an hour for gas, as gas stations didn’t have power to pump the gas. Believe me, life without power was very unpleasant.

    Utilities have a legal OBLIGATION to serve. They can’t wait for FF to change the world. And many of the assets they currently hold were built in the ‘70’s, 80’sand 90’s. They are partial depreciated. But, the remainder of the book value, like the remained of a 30 year mortgage after 20 years, needs to be re-paid.

    That is what I’m talking about when I mention stranded assets.

    Rematog,
    I agree with every word of the above post. The entire post. And your post which follows it. And I realize that as a originator of this technology we will have no special rights with regards to its deployment. But the above argument does reveal a slippery slope. Exactly the same arguments could be stated about the stranded assets in coal, oil, wind farms, solar farms, factories that make any products supporting the mentioned businesses……ad naseum. It is difficult to know where to draw the line. And I’m not suggesting that I have any answers either.

    like you say, nuff’ said.

    #3681
    Avatar
    Rematog
    Member

    Eric,

    A major difference is the lifespan and reliability requirements.

    Your auto example, A car cooling system has a reliable lifespan of, say 150,000 miles, @ avg operating speed of 45 mph, this equals 3,333 hrs, as an estimate.

    For a FF module, design life of what, no less then 10 years. Operating with 90% capacity factor, this is 90% x 8760 hrs/year x 10 years, 78,840 hrs. So an almost 24 to 1 ratio of design life. By the way, utilities design for a 30 year life, and typically operate equipment for >50 years.

    I agree that the mass produced cost will be much lower, but, even if we grant your $33,000 figure, this is just for the external heat exchanger. This doesn’t include blowers, ductwork, controls, power supply (to blowers), etc. So the cooling system alone would be at least 10% of a $500k/module figure.

    And this assumes we are not building the FF module to current nuclear plant design standards.

    What I am suggesting is that a DOR (Division of Responsibility) be drawn around the module. This determines exactly what is included in the module, and what inputs and outputs are to be expected. This includes all power, utilities, controls, foundations, etc.

    Then, for the module, a complete system by system breakdown, with estimated materials and assembly costs. I’ve seen this referred to as the Bill of Materials, and in my brief experience working in manufacturing, I’ve seen that this is, in mass production, taken to the level of nuts and bolts (literally). Wikipedia has a good general definition of this. Obviously, that level of detail is not possible at this time, but a preliminary, high level, bill of material could be put together.

    Rematog

    #3715
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    Aeronaut
    Member

    Rematog,

    Based on 2 yrs of building ~8 to 10 automotive A/C evaporators per minute, I think you’re underestimating the cost savings of mass production. The important part of the equation to me is not just removing excess heat from the FF device, but rather heating water to use in home heating, and further recycling the thermal energy by using the losses from the pipes to heat air as well.

    The plant I worked in was probably too isolated for this to be effective, but installing a FF device in a large office and/or apartment building would give us a huge existing heat sink that would further reduce the building’s energy costs.

    #3716
    Avatar
    Rematog
    Member

    Aeronaut,

    Using FF for process heat in industry, yes. District heat, very likely. In individual buildings….not anytime soon. I’ve posted many times my opinion about public and regulatory barriers to this.

    AND…Why do it?

    Your discussing energy effiency, but with FF, that effiency is no longer a pressing issue. Energy will no longer be a limited resource, or high cost. If FF is as inexpensive to build and operate as this board is assuming, and even I agree it will be much cheaper then current power plants, then…..

    Just put in inexpensive resistance heating….the power is cheap enough.

    By the way I don’t think I grossly underestimated mass production, as I had begun with the assumption the mass produced cost of the heat exchanger would be about 30% of the custom built cost, and agreed that Eric’s figure of 10% was not out of the question. This is couldn’t be too much of an underestimate then.

    You have to keep the scale difference in mind. The scale differerence between the two items, the 17 million BTU industrial heat exchanger vs the Auto AC unit is like that between a 5,000 HP locomotive diesel and a 1.5 HP Briggs and Stration lawn mower engine. The FF heat exchanger would do on the order of 3,000 times the heat transfer, and last from 25 to 75 times the hours of operation. So, if you scale the $33,000 we are discussing for a FF module heat exchanger, $33,000/3000/25 = $0.44 for the cost of a 10,000 BTU exchager with 3,300 hrs life.

    #3717
    Avatar
    Aeronaut
    Member

    Waste not, want not, Rematog. The bad guys are combustible fuels in almost all of their uses. Targeting the rest of them with “waste” heat keeps the trillions of BTUs from millions of FFs from becoming an environmental and political liability.

    #3718
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    Aeronaut
    Member

    Inside every big problem is a little problem trying to get out. Why not sell FF to the utilities as a way to increase production while lowering their operating costs AND protecting their investments?

    Rather than use helium to heat water to heat air, why not heat the water into steam to turn their turbines, so the focus turns to upgrading their crumbling grid?

    #3719
    Avatar
    Rematog
    Member

    Aeronaut,

    1) The waste heat would be too “cold” to make steam usable in any existing turbine. Almost every machine still running has main and reheat steam temperatures of 1000 degree F. At the pressures the turbines are designed to run, (generally 2400 psi or more), the boiling temperature of water is roughly 650 F. Even if the FF module could run at these temperatures, I doubt the cost of the equipment needed to collect water/steam at these temperatures and pressures would be economically competitive with FF modules. And a new, low pressure/temperature turbine would certainly be more expensive then FF.

    2) The grid is not crumbling. It will need additions and modifications to deal with future growth. It will take huge additions and modifications if we want to generate power in sunny/windy places and ship it to the east coast and other major urban areas a continent away. The existing fleet of coal/nuclear fission/hydro/gas turbine plants are well maintained, efficient and reliable. I see to that. We need more plant’s if people want to continue using more power per person and having more people live in the country. If you disagree, turn off your air conditioner, computer, microwave, refrig and half the lights. I work weekends, holidays and nights to make sure your lights are on, always on, when you want them.

    3) Waste heat is NOT a moral issue. It is an economic and engineering issue.

    #3720
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    Aeronaut
    Member

    You’ve never been to Springfield, Illonois, Rematog. We just spent 4 days down there with friends who lost power for a few hours and say that it happens often. Sigh. Fact of life here. Sigh.

    My twin screw guided missile destroyer had a pair of 1200 pound plants using 1 or 2 boilers each to spin triple stage turbines, before the reduction gearing that actually turned the propellers. We could also cross-connect to run off of only 1 boiler when we wanted to pretend we weren’t a fuel guzzler. Granted doubling the pressure more than doubles the latent heat required to make steam, but you’re talking about 17M BTU/hr, and I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t enough.

    Let’s pretend this is purely an engineering problem instead of sales/politics tainting the design point. FF is small enough to put right next to your boiler, where the fuel storage and delivery machinery used to be. How many BTUs/hr do those boilers currently need from gas, oil, or coal? Surely not 17M BTU/hr?

    #3721
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    JimmyT
    Participant

    Yeah Aero, but that’s not Rematog’s point. His point is not the number of BTUs delivered but the temperature of the heat. I’ts an entropy thing not an enthalpy thing.

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