February 13, 08
Energy Island Concept Enters Virgin Earth Challenge

Recently there have been a number of energy solutions harnessing the power of the sea, but this latest concept has us really excited. Envisioned by Dominic Michaelis, his son Alex, and Trevor Cooper-Chadwickt, the design has been entered into the Virgin Earth Challenge, which is challenging inventors to come up with innovative solutions for combating global warming. Entrants have until 2010 to enter their designs to be eligible for the $25 million funding promised by Sir Richard Branson to the winning design.

The teams goal is to build a network of floating hexagonal islands made of reinforced concrete and corrosion-resistant metals that would generate electricity via wind, wave, solar, and a new technology that utilizes the difference in water temperature at the surface and the water a kilometer below to produce electricity.

Operating similarly to an oil rig, the islands would house approximately 25 people and could be connected together to form larger colonies. Below deck, marine turbines would harness energy from underwater currents and wave power would be collected from floating devices along the edges of the island. On top of the deck, windmills will collect wind power and “power tower” which captures energy from the sun by using mirrors to focus solar rays on a central “furnace.”

The true gem of this design is the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plants that utilize the difference in water temperature at the surface of the sea and the water a kilometer below to produce electricity.

It’s estimated that each island could produce 250MW, and that 50,000 “energy islands” could meet the world’s energy requirements. Additionally, as a byproduct of the OTEC process, two tons of fresh water per person per day would be produced.

A small portion of that water would go to vegetable gardens on the islands deck while the other 300,000 liters of water produced by each island would be loaded onto supertankers to be taken to shore.