Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oil or Water

I had the opportunity to attend a portion of the Hunt Institutes's Engineering and Humanity Week last Wednesday at SMU in Dallas, Texas.  The Hunter & Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity strives to change the standard of living for the world's poorest populations, including those in the United States.  The week long event was created to raise awareness of the conditions that half of the world's population lives in.

I was able to attend a panel discussion - - "Clean Water & Energy Consumption: On a Collision Course?"  The discussion was moderated by Jeff, Environmental Editor, The Wall Street Journal, who is a resident of Dallas.  The panel include the following:
  • Robert Freling, Executive Director, Solar Electric Light Fund
  • Jeff Fulgham, Chief Sustainability Officer, GE Power & Water
  • Malcom Morris, Chairman & Founder, Living Water International (SMU Alumni)
  • Hunter L. Hunt, CEO & President, Hunt Consolidated Energy (SMU Alumni)
  • Peter Thum, Founder, Ethos Water
Billed as water and energy (more like oil and water) - - the reality is more like water or energy.  You get themes and messages like - - "More energy is important" from half the panelists, while the other half is "But don't take my water to produce more energy."  People, especially those with silo-ed interests, view the world from either an energy perspective or a water perspective.  Rarely do you get holistic and integrative thinking that removes the "or" from the equation, while forcing a broader discussion of Energy+Water.  Engineering really needs to focus more on a systems perspective - - the world of Energy+Water.

This "water or energy" dilemma is becoming more pronounced.  From groundwater concerns relating to hydro-fracking to agricultural water consumption for ethanol production - - the word "or" enters consistently into the debate.

Energy or water also shows up in the power business.  As the world is now painfully aware, keeping nuclear plants near the ocean is not without considerable risk.  Most power plants, regardless of fuel, need massive amounts of water for cooling the steam used to turn the turbine generator.  We have seen with the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant what "energy or water " looks like.

Fernado Fischmann, a Chilean real estate developer and biochemist has come up with an innovative "energy+water" idea.  Using advanced swimming pool filtration (remember that innovation and creative thinking starts with an ability to connect the dots) to cool plants efficiently and eliminate their need to be close to natural bodies of water.  This is a big market - - about 40% of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from plants that draw from nearby lakes, rivers, or oceans - - the heated water then going going back into the environment.

Check out his company - - Crystal Lagoons.

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