Undersea cables for power and communications?
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July 14, 2009 at 8:51 am #1003
I get the impression that there are two problems with the power issue.
1) The infrastructure necessary to create electricity on the ocean has either high fixed costs, variable costs, or both.
2) The usual solution to this problem is either “find ways to use less” or “come up with super cool new electricity generating tech”.
I’m all for coming up with new tech, not so much for finding ways to reduce my power consumption (I like my creature comforts way too much). But both of these solutions are “tough”, in one way or another. The more we have to use special equipment, appliances, or procedures on the seastead the less we can take advantage of preexisting economies of scale associated with an economy built around fairly inexpensive energy available on land.
If we had a more or less stationary seastead at the 24.001 mile marker, wouldn’t it be easier to just drop an undersea cable and connect it to the grid of a nearby nation-state? Longer undersea electrical cables have been layed in the past, and its not like it would need to be too amazing of a cable considering the seastead may have only a few hundred people living onboard.
-Gets rid of the problem of generating electricity locally.
-The technology exists.
-Can probably scale more easily (get bigger/more cables).
-Part of the cost of the cable might be paid for by contracting with the power provider.
– The cable is probably expensive… Any info here?
– If the cable breaks / has issues, thats trouble (unless there are backup batteries or generators).
– The government of the electrical provider may decide to shut you down for whatever silly reasons it comes up with.
Thats all I got, any other pros/cons? I’m not an expert here so I’m sure I’m missing plenty.July 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm #6995
Sounds reasonable, but I’d imagine it would probably be more feasible for “high road” type seasteads, like the ClubStead spar platform design. No reason to build a 200+ mile cable and deal with upkeep (if any) just to power a couple of dozen SFSs, unless those cables are really cheap to build and install. On the other hand, it could be more cost efficient for larger seasteads (i.e. ClubStead), especially ones with multi-level elec. intensive buildings (resorts, casinos), since they might not want to waste tons of space on their own power systems. Also, grid power is probably only going to get more expensive with time, and open ocean has a lot of potential for power generation. I think it’ll probably depend on what types of seasteads end up being built.
It could be useful to hook other seasteads up to a single power plant seastead, or even to make some kind of multi-seastead power grid in distant locales.July 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm #6999
I’ve been trying to find information on the cost of undersea cable for a while. There are plenty of examples…I gave a few in this thread but you are looking roughly at $50k per km of laid cable.
I am very hesitant to depend on existing governments for anything…especially power. I know you are not too hot on self-sufficiency, but power is one place where I do not want to be reliant on anyone but myself. I also believe this is one place where self-sufficiency is easy to do…there are plenty of off-the-shelf technologies that we can tap into.
One more thing, I’ve seen you mention the 24.001nm number, but you realize that does not get you out of the exclusive economic zone? You are very limited to what you can do while within a nation’s EEZ. If you expect to be doing things that are deemed illegal in nearby countries you will certainly need to be outside the EEZ which is 200nm or even further if a nation is claiming the continental shelf.July 14, 2009 at 5:17 pm #7001
You might run into trouble if you start fishing… I think thats the biggest issue that you’ll face being within the EEZ, though I’m sure there are some I am forgetting. I think its a necessary evil to take advantage of the gains from trade of being that close to shore.July 14, 2009 at 5:40 pm #7003
I’m sure there are some I am forgetting
You cannot extract ANY wealth or value from an existing nation’s EEZ. That means mining the ocean floor and can even mean energy from the waves/wind as well as all forms of aquaculture. Basically, the nation has a full right to exploit the seabed and water column in the EEZ and prevent any other group from doing the same.
The other issue is you are still bound by the rules of the nation whose EEZ you are in. From UNCLOS, you are “subject to the specific legal regime” when you are in the EEZ, so don’t expect to do anything you want.
I believe that we will need to be self-sufficient with power. As for communication/data systems I believe over-the-air wireless connections using transmitters and receivers on high-altitude aerostats will be far cheaper and easier to implement than undersea cables. You can link to a land-based station which is connected to the phone grid and internet. I don’t think we can be self-sufficient in data/comms until satellite systems get more robust…but we could do it right now if we really wanted to.July 14, 2009 at 6:21 pm #7004
I know that there are serious downsides to satellites (lag and cost/GB), but I hadn’t heard of a wireless solution, would that suffer from any of those same downsides? I didn’t think a wireless data signal could effeciently be transmitted in that way (I’m thinking of my pathetic wireless router here, it can barely go down the hall). Whatever solution we implement with respect to communications should, IMHO, be low cost/GB and have low lag – to allow for data and software firms to profitably setup shop onboard the seastead.
There are a couple of things on the EEZs though. First, wikipedia:
[Under the law of the sea, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources. It stretches from the edge of the state’s territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles from its coast. In casual use, the term may include the territorial sea and even the continental shelf beyond the 200 mile limit.]
Here is the contiguous zone:
[The contiguous zone is a band of water extending from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles (44 km) from the baseline, within which a state can exert limited control for the purpose of preventing or punishing “infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea”.]
So when you say you can’t extract “any wealth or value” you’re technically right, but I’m not suggesting extraction. Its true they technically can regulate economic activity associated with mineral, energy, and fishing rights. I don’t however believe this would extend de facto to regulating the creation of electricity, food, or other reasources by “any and all means”. If you aren’t actually depleting any resourcse from the area (because, say, you are collecting solar or wind energy) then I’d say you’re probably fine. For example, say a cruise ship sails through the 200 mile EEZ of the U.S… Is the US going to go over to them and tell them that their passengers can’t be getting tans while in the EEZ because they are harvesting the sunlight that is falling over the ocean? I mean, yes “technically” that is the law, but its unlikely the law would be applied in such a draconian fashion unless you do something to seriously piss off the mainland, but in that case they might just sail over and blow you out of the water if they didn’t have a pre-existing legal option. Even politicians have to provide some garbage for their constituents to swallow, but they’d have a hard time feeding them the line that allowing the seastead to harvest wind or solar power is somehow making the U.S. a poorer nation. [Insert south park reference to “They took our Jerbs!”]
So basically I’m not sure I’d agree with your statement that
… “you are still bound by the rules of the nation whose EEZ you are in. From UNCLOS, you are “subject to the specific legal regime” when you are in the EEZ, so don’t expect to do anything you want.“
I think UNCLOS is in fact saying that this is the contiguous zone, NOT the EEZ (except for the extraction rights, as mentioned). So we can, de jure do whatever we want. Politically though, you’re right, politicians can always make things difficult for us. But I’m not a legal scholar, and I’m citing wikipedia…July 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm #7005
The nearby (to the mainland US) islands I can think of offhand seem to be trying to get away from undersea cables – there are technical (physical) limitations to the efficiency of transmitting electricity under water, and as has been mentioned such cables are subject to damage from fishing vessels, anchoring ships, etc.
And, if someone else controls your energy, they control your actions.
I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.July 14, 2009 at 9:29 pm #7008
I’m sure they won’t want all manner of new societies forming in their EEZ’s either, to say the least.July 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm #7009
There were some discussions about internet access in this thread.
There are commercial, off-the-shelf products that can get you up to 25Mbps point-to-point at ranges of 40km. SmartBridges is a company that has their airPoint line that can get this type of performance. You could put a string of these on buoys that link to a shore-based station. For a 40km line-of-sight you’d need to be about 200m high…pretty high for a buoy but do-able. Ballons would be better.
If you move away from off-the-shelf you can put together very powerful systems. I read about a long-range wireless link in Italy that was over 300km long. I don’t know how much power it required or what the bandwidth was, but links of that range are certainly possible.
At your shore-based station you have a commercial, high-speed internet trunk purchased from a local vendor…something like a T3 would be more than enough I think.
An aerostat system is a bit more work-intensive. The aerostats cannot stay aloft forever and need to be refueled every few days…unless you rig some kind of hydrogen supply system. And they can be expensive. But far less expensive than a 200nm undersea cable! And the first time somebody cuts your line with an anchor and you have to pay the repair costs you will be wishing for a few balloons! 😉July 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm #7010
You need to read Article 56 from Part V of UNCLOS. You can find the full text HERE. But here are the relevant parts:
In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:
(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;
(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:
(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
And this is from Article 58:
In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, States shall have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State
So building a seastead in an existing nation’s EEZ…based on a new form of government and possibly allowing for certain activities that are deemed illegal in that nation…is a non-starter. You are going to have to be outside…and possibly well-outside…any EEZ if you want to setup a new, free colony.July 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm #7011
Im not too keen on cables either. It will be unaffordable for a small community, so we have to start with something different. And it gives a nice handle for under-the-PR-radar political bullying.
Diesel generators give electricity at decent efficiency, and reasonably affordable cost per kwh.
Propane fuel cells are pretty promising too. They are they are already a more reliable, more efficient, lower fuel cost solution, and the capital costs are reasonable already right now, with a strong downwards trend. They seem like a plausible competitor by the time a seastead actually gets built.
Someone into the wireless busines suggested long-range wireless, with special transmission towers, would be effective and relatively easy to implement, but im not qualified to comment on that. I hope hes right, because satelite blows.July 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm #7013
I hesitate to use any kind of combustible fuel-based energy system. You have issues of supply…you need to make sure you have regular shipments of fuel from a reliable source. These shipments are subject to interference from existing nations and require us to make regular payments so there are ongoing costs. I would much rather confront a higher up-front cost that could pay itself off over time, like wind or solar can.
The other problem with fuel is that it needs to be stored. Any seastead will need to have very large quantities of highly flammable liquid kept in storage…and in the case of propane this fuel will also be under pressure. Not exactly what I want to be living on…or near. I’ll have to dig up this old video I saw online when a huge propane storage tank went up…took out everything in a huge radius. Wind and solar are much less…excitable….although I have seen video of wind turbines breaking apart. Bad…but nowhere near as dangerous as a several-hundred-gallon diesel fuel fire.July 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm #7014
Yeah you have a point there i_is_j_smith. I also went and read up also on the portion in the seasteading book that deals with this issue to see if they had surmised some solution… The proposed solution is to try and negotiate some degree of autonomy within the EEZ with the host nation, though I think any seastead community would be hard pressed to get agreements to do anything thats outside the typical regulatory framework of the host nation – making seasteads pretty much worthless.
Unless, of course, the seastead can be technically “mobile”. Since then it wouldn’t count as an artificial island or installation, so as long as you can prove that the seastead is “moving” then the concept of a seastead in the EEZ would still work. All you really have to do then is have it move, perhaps around and around in a small circle or some such, and that would still work with the right cable design (basically a cable with slack).
Theres another trick in the bag that, when combined with the one above to make seasteads technically count as boats, can be used to obtain a degree of sovereignty “within the EEZ”, which is to have the seastead moving in and out of the EEZ while still staying just outside the contiguous zone – thus having the option to “retreat” into the other country’s EEZ, while staying close enough to be economically viable. Such options might give the seastead’s legal team more leverage. There aren’t too many of these “oceanic lagrange points” in good areas to start a seastead, but they do exist near the U.S.’s costal waters. And I can think of at least one useful area where this occurs… Its about 27.5nm from shore. Any guesses to where I’m talking about? 😀
Hint: Its near my locationJuly 15, 2009 at 12:19 am #7018
just grow your fuel wih algae farms. No worry about external supply.July 15, 2009 at 3:10 am #7020
The other option is to start off in an existing nation’s EEZ. Get the structure built, get agriculture and other infrastructure up and running, and once everything is stable you motor out into international waters and drop anchor. I’m not really a fan of this plan either, since it requires the seastead to be mobile (to a point) or the services of a fleet of tugs to push it out to its final location. But this is a nice middle ground option.
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