Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Goodby, Ammonia

This posting is the obituary for http://krementz.blogspot.com/2010/01/matinicus-and-criehaven-sustainable.html

It has been a long time since I posted about the island wind-to-fishing-boat-fuel project. I do not see any way for this project to move forward. A few of the reasons:

1 ) Technical Risk - There are three times the technological risk investors might be interested is.

1 - The technology for running internal combustion engines well with NH3 is still quite aways away. I do not see any fundamental obstacle, but it will need several million dollars of engineering.
2 - The technology of solid state NH3 synthesis is still very early. Will it scale, will it be robust, will it be economic, and most important, will it work? All unanswered questions. Some physicists doubt the process will work anywhere close to being effective.
3 - Can wind, not supported by a grid connection, be stable enough to provide sole power to both the communities and NH3 production facility? Large wind turbines are designed to attach to the grid, and cannot generate power without a grid connection.
2 ) Bureaucratic Risk - This project would have required tremendous efforts to overcome bureaucratic inertia, so-called do-gooders, NIMBYs, BANANAs*, and random naysayers. Cape Wind has been battling for a decade to put a few turbines in the water near Cape Cod, and still has not started construction. There is a ruckus about the Vinalhaven turbines; right or wrong it creates uncertainty in the approval process. Getting community acceptance and governmental approval of a significant NH3 storage facility would be problematic.

3 ) Financial Risk - Funding for many green projects is getting ever more difficult. Convincing investors than our offshore communities are stable enough to service the debt will be challenging. There has not been strong enthusiasm for the project, which further increase the perceived financial risk of the project.

In summary - risk, risk, risk.

RIP, sustainable local energy self-reliance. But who knows what the future will bring.

* NIMBY - not in my back yard
BANANA - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody