Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Andy Baker on Ocean Source Heat Energy

We are pleased to announce Andy Baker, an energy consultant from Anchorage Alaska, as the next speaker in the Fall 2016 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Andy will speak on Thursday, October 6 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Art B building, room 102 on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Saved By The Gyres: Ocean Source Heat Pumps Cut Heating Costs and CO2 Emissions in Coastal Alaska Cities.”

Andy Baker is a registered professional engineer in Alaska and owner of YourCleanEnergy consulting in Anchorage. He has lived and worked in Alaska since 1998 and has focused for the past twelve years on identifying and designing cost effective renewable energy systems for commercial, municipal, and community clients. Andy has a bachelor of science in environmental engineering from Penn State University. He has worked previously as a project engineer for Buchart-Horn in Pennsylvania; Black & Veatch in San Diego, Lusaka, and Boston; and for HDR Alaska in Anchorage.

Andy’s work focus since 2009 has been on ocean source heat pumps systems for large facilities and district heating in coastal Alaska. He has worked with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for the past seven years to evaluate, design and monitor a large sea water heat pump system that has now effectively replaced 98% of local fossil fuel use with ocean source heat pumps. This high profile demonstration project combines the science of ocean gyres and an innovative heating system to produce a clean energy solution that has exciting implications for many northern coastal cities of the world.

The talk should be a very interesting one, and we encourage you to attend.

Blue Energy in the Humboldt Bay

Blue Energy, a potential source of renewable and sustainable energy, is the energy released from the salination of water when freshwater mixes with saltwater. One process for capturing this energy is pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO). In PRO, a semi-permeable membrane separates a pressurized high-salinity solution from a low-salinity solution. Because the osmotic pressure across the membrane exceeds the hydraulic pressure of the high-salinity solution, water from the low-salinity solution permeates across the membrane through osmosis and dilutes the high-salinity solution. In this way, the chemical potential (osmotic pressure) is transformed into hydraulic potential and power is obtained by depressurizing the excess water through a hydroturbine.

One category of PRO systems is referred to as open-loop. Open-loop PRO systems take advantage of naturally occurring salinity gradients in “river-to-sea PRO” scenarios. In these systems, the solar energy that evaporates water from the sea is recovered by a PRO system in the estuary where the river water mixes with the seawater. Open-loop systems can also be used with engineered salinity gradients (e.g. in the disposal/dilution of the concentrate stream at reverse osmosis (RO) desalination facilities) in a “RO-PRO” scenario.

I have investigated PRO experimentally and theoretically in both river-to-sea and engineered configurations. Currently, I am exploring the potential of Humboldt Bay as a site for PRO through experimental investigations in my research lab in the Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) department at HSU. I am also involving ERE seniors in the design of a PRO facility for the Humboldt Bay in their Capstone Design course this semester.

Results from the Capstone Design course will give insight into whether the available fresh water at Humboldt Bay will make it possible to locally house the first prototype river-to-sea PRO facility in the U.S. and to shorten time-to-market of PRO technology by attracting institutional and industry funds. Because of the exciting potential of PRO technology to provide large amounts of renewable energy, pressure retarded osmosis is an area of active and promising research. Stay tuned for future reports on this effort.

Read the Pro Power Brochure for additional information.