The timescale of ocean engineering

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A friend of mine from college, a mechanical engineer (and one of the most brilliant engineers I know), has been researching ocean wind energy systems. We’ve been discussing his ideas, and some of his thoughts on the industry are worth sharing (emphasis added):

> At the DC offshore renewable energy (electricity from waves, tides and currents) conference, I found that only a COUPLE outfits (namely OpenHydro and Pelamis) were actaully getting anywhere besides just talking and burning up grant money. They had real hardware being demonstrated and ordered by utilities. (All of it way too expensive to be competitive without subsidies, but still, they got SOMETHING.)

> Their stories had some notable similarities:

> …

> 2: Incremental scale models over at least a decade!

> **It takes at least a decade to get something mechical to Really Work in the ocean. The ocean is a motherfucker, and NO ONE is smart enough to design something that’ll just work right away (unlike software, say).**

> So the winners do a series of 6-10 scale models, a little bigger each time, each one answering, at best just one question. This always takes AT LEAST ten years. It’s this long long process of de-risking the problem.

> Takeaway: One has to LIVE this thing, at least until I’m FIFTY. I need to figure out how to put time on my side. Otherwise, I’ll lose steam and get a straight job along the way. So to do this, I need to design my whole life AROUND paratow, long term. If I try to sprint, I’m dead. Where I live, what I wear, who I marry, how I spend my free time, etc, all have to be decided in ways that are aligned with paratow.

I want to move fast, and I think we at TSI can move faster than we have been towards physical implementation, but this is a good perspective to keep in mind. I am used to software (as are many of us), and marine engineering has a fundamentally much slower design cycle.

6 comments

  1. DanB 4:56 pm

     

    The key is you have to develop both the engineering aspects and the socio-economic aspects in parallel. If you work twenty years to build the design, then work another twenty years to build the society,… well, maybe you’re betting on the Methuselah guys coming up with something good in the next forty years, but it’s kind of a long shot.

    There should also be ways to make the marine engineering move faster. Rapid prototyping, etc. Some of the designs are simple enough that it shouldn’t take a decade to test them. Note that getting energy from waves seems like a much harder problem than seastead design (more moving parts, big efficiency concerns, etc).

  2. Carl Pålsson 11:30 pm

    The easy and fast way is, of course, not to develop new technology at all. Use proven technology, that others have already developed. Just buy a boat.

  3. Eelco 4:18 pm

     At the DC offshore renewable energy (electricity from waves, tides and currents) conference, I found that only a COUPLE outfits (namely OpenHydro and Pelamis) were actaully getting anywhere besides just talking and burning up grant money. They had real hardware being demonstrated and ordered by utilities. (All of it way too expensive to be competitive without subsidies, but still, they got SOMETHING.)


    Yup.
     
    A good perspective to keep in mind, but our problem is easier in a way. We know luxurious living on the ocean is possible: the question is, how much better can we do if we trim that concept down to our specific needs?
     
    There is no reason to believe wave-power generation with a net output is possible at all. (the relevant net-output kind: money, not the limited and deceptive measure of energy)
  4. JLMadrigal 1:21 pm

    Here here!!! Buy a small cruise ship for starters, rent out cabins and operate it according to the Clubstead Master Lease (http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/ClubStead_Master_Lease), and use TSI’s portion of the rental proceeds to fund research into engineering of physical structures for future vessels and complexes. In the process, communities will have been developed, and anarcho-capitalism will have been tried in real life.

  5. CaptainJohn 11:00 pm

    CaptainJohn. Greetings all.The options are many and varied both in expense,time etc. I’m currently exploring my own options as to how most effectively going about establishing my own seastead. I agree that WHEN it can be shown to be profitable it will be tried enthusiastically by increasing numbers. For years libertarians have talked about new countries,floating cities etc. etc. Now at last someone has put up the money to start.THANK GOD.Once the first one goes up the rest will follow in increasing numbers. It’s similar to the three minute mile. 

  6. CaptainJohn 11:02 pm

    CaptainJohn.THANK YOU!

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