You are currently viewing Heirloom & AirLoom Show that Cleantech Stupidity Usually Repeats & Even Sometimes Rhymes

Heirloom & AirLoom Show that Cleantech Stupidity Usually Repeats & Even Sometimes Rhymes

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How a lot technological and financial idiocy will be jammed right into a single week and why does it must rhyme? Rather a lot it seems and no concept.

Two totally different clearly nonsensical purported local weather resolution applied sciences obtained far an excessive amount of fawning press prior to now few days. The primary is Heirloom Carbon, yet one more direct air seize expertise of the sort that the fossil gas trade and enterprise capitalists love. The second is AirLoom Vitality, yet one more agency that doesn’t perceive the physics and economics of wind vitality, and didn’t trouble to seek for prior artwork earlier than constructing one thing inane. Each are funded by Invoice Gates, in fact.

Heirloom Carbon

Let’s begin with Heirloom. Really, let’s begin with the connotations of the phrase heirloom. As branding goes, it’s amusing. In any case, an heirloom, whether or not a sideboard or a fruit tree, is one thing from the previous, cherished for its historic roots way more than its present obsolescence.

And technical obsolescence is what Heirloom is leaning into. They’re making an attempt to reverse entropy with a Rube Goldberg mechanical machine in an age of low-carbon electrical energy and computer systems. They’re artisanal carbon dioxide removers, hipsters of carbon drawdown, extracting homeopathic quantities of the greenhouse fuel with authenticity and a expertise stack that would have been in-built 1900.

Hipsters and Silicon Valley startups are each video games for belief fund youngsters, so that is intersectional privileged affluence of no significance besides maybe as a highlight on our present tradition.

So what’s Heirloom Carbon doing? Effectively, they’re a direct air seize (DAC) expertise startup. As I famous not too long ago, the definition of DAC is:

A tax-break rip-off that has ensnared enterprise capitalists on the behest of protecting fossil gas corporations in enterprise.

I’ve checked out most DAC applied sciences, a few of them in nice depth, just like the fossil gas trade fig leaf that’s Carbon Engineering, not too long ago bought to Occidental Petroleum, its solely buyer. As I famous after I was assessing the expertise and agency in early 2019, its solely pure market was enhanced oil restoration on tapped out oil fields with unmarketable volumes of pure fuel to energy it’s kilometers of 20 meter excessive followers and the 900° Celsius warmth required to separate the CO2 again out of the chemical substance that captured it.

Heirloom is in an identical vein, trying to speed up mineralization, a course of the place atmospheric CO2 bonds with a handful of sorts of rocks to create issues like carbonates. I assessed the accelerated weathering of magnesite with the usage of catalysts in 2018, and have checked out however not revealed extensively on the olivine weathering, maybe the perfect identified within the area. I’ve spoken with the founders of International Thermostat and the CEO of a European direct air seize initiative as properly.

Sexy vs meh quadrant chart for atmospheric carbon drawdown by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Horny vs meh quadrant chart for atmospheric carbon drawdown by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

I’ve spent sufficient effort and time on the area that DAC is within the horny and silly quadrant of my atmospheric carbon evaluation.

Why is it horny? As a result of everybody desires a silver bullet and nobody desires to alter. When discussing direct air seize with Dr. Joe Romm, now working with Michael Mann on the new Penn Heart for Science, Sustainability, and the Media, the opposite day, the analogy I made was to sand on a seaside.

The quantity of CO2 within the environment is 420 elements per million. Eradicating it’s like being despatched to a seaside with one million grains of black sand with the duty of discovering and eradicating the 420 grains of darkish grey sand that had been blended in with it whereas another person is including grains of grey sand in random places on the seaside on a regular basis. Enterprise capitalists love direct air seize regardless of the Sisyphean inanity of the thought.

What are mineralization’s drawbacks? Effectively, velocity and floor space largely, that are interrelated. Whereas the minerals that soak up CO2 are considerably porous, it takes a very long time for CO2 to seep in and bond. And parts of the mineral stay inaccessible, so no CO2 bonds to it.

Each mineralization scheme inevitably runs into this drawback, and tries to seek out hacks that don’t imply that they must crush minerals into mud with mechanical vitality and maintain mining minerals.

Heirloom has reached the nadir of this pathway. They’ve reinvented the limestone kiln utilized in cement manufacturing and as a substitute of constructing helpful low-carbon cement, they’ve turned it into a posh ouroboros, the snake that swallows its personal tail.

Sure, they put some crushed limestone in a kiln, warmth it up with electrical energy and create quicklime, identical to a cement kiln. When limestone is heated, a bunch of the carbon in it bonds with oxygen from the environment to make pretty pure carbon dioxide. That is captured after which there’s an expectation that it will likely be sequestered underground someplace, they usually declare that they’re going to promote it to a low-carbon cement agency as a substitute of simply fixing limestone kilns.

How crushed? Like properly beneath 0.5 millimeters crushed, the earlier gold normal which was nonetheless too gradual, which is to say mud. Then they take the quicklime and unfold it on huge trays and blend it with water. Then they slide the trays into very gradual shifting vertical conveyor gizmos. The trays are uncovered to air for two.5 days and a few atmospheric CO2 attaches to the quicklime to create positive limestone once more. Their claims aren’t independently validated, however they’re claiming significantly better efficiency than different options, on the expense of somewhat absurd mechanical complexity and extra vitality in fact.

Then they put the newly created limestone again within the kiln and begin the method once more.

They must maintain this all inside a really properly ventilated constructing in fact, one the place drafts are fastidiously managed. In any case, the very positive sand they’re creating will blow round very simply however they nonetheless want so as to add grains of CO2 sand to the air within the constructing from the surface. I think no matter how fastidiously they attempt to handle this it can get in all the pieces and foul and degrade their mechanical parts way more quickly than they assume. I doubt they’ll attain a thousand tons a 12 months, and I doubt their tools will function for greater than a handful of years with out very vital and costly upkeep.

What’s the online CO2 drawdown of this? Effectively, they’re beginning as famous at homeopathic concentrations of drawdown however like all darlings of VCs are speaking about billions of tons, none of which can ever materialize.

Scale of direct air capture's mismatch with global CO2 emissions problem by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc
Scale of direct air seize’s mismatch with international CO2 emissions drawback by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc

It is a diagram I created years in the past for example the dimensions of the issue. Heirloom’s 1,000 tons per 12 months are a pimple on the invisible dot of the entire international marketplace for CO2 as we speak.

That whole international market of 230 million tons does have about 90 million tons that are put underground as we speak, however in fact that’s for enhanced oil restoration, the one actual marketplace for carbon ‘sequestration’ exterior of farming tax payer cash. As I famous not too long ago in my prolonged piece on supercritical CO2, the one excessive quantity person of that attention-grabbing state of matter is for enhanced oil restoration.

Like Carbon Engineering, the one pure marketplace for this nonsensical Rube Goldberg contraption is within the Permian Basin the place enhanced oil restoration and carbon seize subsidies would be the order of the day. And the tip outcome will probably be extra CO2 from the oil that’s recovered.

Why issues like this get fawning press is because of three totally different challenges. The primary is the STEM illiteracy of most individuals. The second is the deep want on the a part of lots of people to be allowed to maintain making an enormous mess and have a maid service that cheaply cleans up behind them. The third is, in fact, the VC’s selling these items massively in an try to get their cash out earlier than it inevitably crashes.

AirLoom Vitality

Yearly new nonsensical wind technology gadgets are introduced. Yearly credulous journalists leap on them as if they’re wonderful and will probably be higher than the boring masts with three blades which are an unbelievable, efficient, environment friendly and dependable supply of electrical energy globally.

Yearly, the earlier 12 months’s crop disappears and is rarely heard from once more. Certainly one of this 12 months’s crop is AirLoom Vitality, which like many dangerous local weather options is backed by Invoice Gates. He’s behind Heliogen, the concentrating solar energy innovation which ignores each actuality of the commercial warmth necessities it purports to unravel. He’s behind Terrapower, the small nuclear reactor startup that he requested Congress for billions in subsidies for, receiving one other $80 million not too long ago. He learn far an excessive amount of Vaclav Smil, when that in any other case helpful huge image analyst made basic errors associated to vitality as a result of he was too removed from it, and consequently has discounted the truth of wind, photo voltaic, transmission and electrical energy storage for properly over a decade.

AirLoom makes the identical errors which are repeated again and again and over in wind technology. In reality, they make the identical errors in nearly precisely the identical manner as a failed wind technology innovator from the early Eighties, Transpower. Failure to concentrate to prior artwork is one in all my pink flags of technological innovation. Professional-tip to buyers: if a Google search of beneath a minute finds one thing that appears so much like what’s being pitched from a decade or extra in the past and also you’ve by no means heard of it, it’s possible a nasty funding.

Sheerwind Invelox was an instance of this in wind technology. It was one in all a a long time lengthy string of makes an attempt to pay attention air move on a a lot smaller wind turbine that crashed and burned economically each time because the first try within the Thirties.

What’s it that AirLoom and Transpower are doing? Effectively, as a substitute of placing the wind generator up the place the air is stronger, they’re protecting it nearer to the bottom as a result of that’s cheaper. Besides that the wind is stronger and fewer turbulent farther from the bottom,  and vitality within the wind is a operate of the dice of the wind velocity. Small will increase in wind velocity enhance vitality return tremendously, and AirLoom says, “The heck with that!”

That is related additionally to John Dabiri’s faculties of counter-rotating vertical axis wind turbine fish which I first assessed over a decade in the past now, together with a prolonged forwards and backwards with the MacArthur Genius Grant winner. It doesn’t matter how low-cost and easy a wind generator is, until it’s in stronger winds, it’s simply not going to make a lot electrical energy. At the very least Dabiri discovered and tried to take advantage of a brand new impact, however AirLoom has nothing going for it.

They put a bunch of blades on a monitor that’s just a few meters off of the bottom and shaped into an oval. The blades are hooked up round their middle of gravity. The blades catch the wind and transfer across the monitor in live performance with the opposite blades, in precept. Then small turbines within the posts holding up the tracks the blades are mounted to extract electrical energy from the motion of a cable contained in the monitor.

All they’ve accomplished is take a vertical axis wind turbine and put the axis on the surface, fixing precisely not one of the issues with that perpetually failing type of electrical technology. It’s like hubless wheels on bikes, in that it seems to be cool to folks incompetent at mechanical engineering, however doesn’t present any precise advantages.

And AirLoom isn’t easy in any respect. What’s a wind turbine? It’s a base with concrete and rebar. It’s a mast, a giant cylindrical tower of metal that simply sits there. It’s a nacelle, the large field with the horizontal axis and generator. And it’s three blades. The blades rotate. The nacelle can yaw into the wind with electrical motors. The blades can pitch with electrical motors for extra environment friendly grabbing of the wind. That’s it.

The blades are all the time in the perfect winds as a result of the mast is tall and the blades are lengthy. Many of the vitality comes from the highest third of the diameter of the blades, above the nacelle itself, as a result of wind velocity will increase with the energy regulation of wind, which is a light exponential operate of top. AirLoom’s Rube Goldberg machine operates under the extent of the bottom factors wind turbine blades attain.

Might wind generators have blades that flew via the air on the low ranges that AirLoom is designed for? Positive, however nobody bothers as a result of the vitality within the air there isn’t value harvesting.

Wind generators don’t trouble to start out working till the wind is 10 to fifteen kilometers per hour as a result of the vitality in air that gradual is way, a lot decrease. They attain peak efficiency round 50 kilometers per hour of regular wind.

And that steadiness is one thing else AirLoom foregoes. Laminar turbulence will increase as you get nearer to the bottom, which tends to be lumpy and trigger eddies. AirLoom’s proper in essentially the most turbulent portion of the wind, and turbulence sucks vitality out of wind technology programs.

Lastly, wind turbine blades all the time function in clear air forward of the mast. They’re getting the smoothest attainable wind on the highest attainable velocities, which is why they having been getting taller, not shorter, for many years. The blades are all the time strongly aligned to the route the wind is coming from as a result of the nacelle yaws into the wind.

AirLoom’s blades forego each single a kind of benefits. The blades within the entrance of the machine are near the bottom, so there’s extra turbulence. They’re behind the monitor and posts, so there’s extra turbulence. They will’t pivot into the wind as a result of the posts are mounted to the bottom, so solely a fraction of the blades in any machine are properly aligned to the wind. The blades on the downwind aspect of the loop are flying via soiled air from the blades within the entrance of the loop. And the friction from the cable working on the within of the monitor will suck a bunch of the vitality that continues to be.

AirLoom is such a horrible concept that nobody ought to have reported on it besides in dismay that such a nasty concept even made it right into a tiny prototype. However Gates put $4 million into it, so hastily it’s a press darling.

I used to be unsurprised to seek out that the ‘inventor’ of this machine had two issues in frequent with failed wind vitality innovators I’ve checked out prior to now. The primary was that he has no background in vitality, electrical energy technology or wind vitality, and has no STEM background. He’s an MBA who labored in finance.

Certainly one of my enterprise mannequin pink flags questions is: Do the principals within the agency have any associated {qualifications}? on this case, zero, nada, zip, bupkiss. Apparently Gates and co assume that’s pointless.

And the principal can be a kite surfer, a sport I’ve loved which is the supply of numerous failed wind technology applied sciences. I like kite surfers on the water and love enjoying with parafoils, together with paragliding the southern cliffs of Bali just a few occasions, however there’s one thing about plenty of kite surfers that make them assume that recreation turns into technology with out passing the slightest of sanity checks or figuring out something about electrical technology or the grid.

So there you will have it. Each Heirloom and AirLoom are variants of long-failing technological pathways. They’re each massively mechanically sophisticated for little return. They’re each funded by Invoice Gates. They’re each destined for the mud heap of historical past. It’s exceptional that anybody would give them cash, and it’s exceptional how a lot fawning press they’ve obtained. On this case, historical past is each repeating itself, and rhyming.




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