Hybrid Systems: Thinking ecologically about energy.

This morning I saw videos from CNBC and CNN video about company efforts to expand from geothermal energy production at California's Salton Sea, to include aqueous extraction of Lithium mineral dissolved in that ground water....


This is a great illustration of mimicking energy use in nature, where one organism's waste becomes the niche for organism's food. In economics, several fashionable ideas capture this idea for the circular economy, "super-use" and adaptive reuse, etc.

We have long wondered about how PUSH systems can be combined with other technology systems for energy generation or use. Now that we have our first major study complete, one of the new directions for our work will be to look at the marginal costs and added benefits of adding other technologies to PUSH facilities:

What would be the cost/benefit of using aqueous extraction of minerals as part of water treatment during PUSH operation? Particularly when treating water may be a requirement of the system's operation?

What about extracting geothermal energy from the mine water? Once you are making money pumping the water around, the thermal energy is essentially free, so what are the marginal costs of extracting the energy for direct HVAC use? What about for low-thermal differential electricity generation?

What other tech systems could be co-designed for PUSH that add economic, social, or ecological value to an operating facility?

Note that this thinking is an old idea in industrial capitalism. George Pullman's designers put together their 1880s factory town in Illinois so they could charge workers to pipe waste and gray water from their company owned-houses, then treat and spread the sewage on fields to grow crops, which they could sell back to the workers in company-owned grocery stores. During the "war on waste" of the early 20th century, Henry Ford's engineers perfected this approach, looking for ways to make profit from waste products by creating "Industry within an Industry." Ford's people were capturing Illuminating gas from coke ovens, adopting blast furnace slag into Portland cement, and sawmill waste into charcoal briquettes...

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Yesterday KETL members helped to host a delegation of government staff, academic researchers, and industrial leaders from Finland as they toured Michigan's Copper Country. Because Michigan's Upper Pen

Our research team was mentioned in an APNews.com article by John Flesher, discussing the opportunities and challenges with pump hydro storage and the growing need for grid-scale energy storage. Mr. Fl