The Coming Revolution in Energy Technology (Leonard Weinstein)

The following article has been submitted by Leonard Weinstein.


The Coming Revolution in Energy Technology
Leonard Weinstein, ScD
Feb. 11, 2021



The advent of the industrial revolution resulted in an age of greatly increased prosperity to the portions of the world that took full advantage of it. The prosperity of a country and its citizens became almost directly proportional to the average energy use per person. The primary source of this energy was combustion of fossil fuels.

In recent years widespread use of fossil fuels has caused a significant increase in CO2 to accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere and that this increase likely is causing some increase in surface temperature. Whether the increase in temperature is significant, and even whether the change in recent time is mainly due to burning fossil fuel, or due mainly to natural causes, or a mix of both is being disputed by many scientists. Whatever the truth of the issue is, while the remaining levels of fossil fuel could supply energy for many decades to several centuries, in the fairly near future it will start to become less easily available, so it would be desirable to phase away from fossil fuels and switch to other sources of energy that would be more consistently available over long times, and that could even allow significant growth in power available.

Efforts have been made to come up with cleaner and more permanent alternate sources of energy to replace fossil fuels. When nuclear energy was developed, it appeared to hold the promise of replacing much of the need for fossil fuels. Several major accidents at nuclear power plants and the difficulty of eliminating the nuclear waste made this approach less acceptable. Safer fission power plants have been designed, but the stigma of fission energy and the waste disposal issue still inhibit this approach. Fusion power concepts are under development but have made limited progress and do not look promising for the near future. Solar cells and wind turbines have greatly improved over time and are fairly cost competitive in some cases, but the problems of dispatchability and the need for large land areas and the limited number of ideal locations are major limitations which make them less attractive.

Several new energy producing technologies have been under development in recent times that hold the promise to satisfy future needs economically, safely, and with no pollution or CO2 generation. These are the basis for the present paper. The three leading versions of these technologies are:

1. Leonardo corporation’s Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat), and in particular the E-Cat SKL which produces about 5kW of electrical energy, is approaching being ready for the market. The concepts and working models are the work of Andrea Rossi and his team.

2. Brilliant Light Power’s Suncell modules presently produce 100kW to 350kW of thermal energy, but versions to 900kW thermal energy per cell are under development. These modules would require about 10% of the output power level as input electrical power in expected commercial models. The high temperature output can be converted to electrical power using micro turbogenerators (typically with about 30% conversion efficiency). A version of Suncell for direct electrical energy generation using MHD is also under development but is not discussed here. The present versions are best suited for large scale heating, including industrial processes. The inventor of this concept is Randell Mills who also developed a new version of modern physics (General Unified Theory of Classical Physics, or GUT-CP) to explain how it works. This new version better explains many of the presently unsolved issues in current versions of physics.

3. Aureon’s SAFIRE is a plasma reactor that claims to produce excess energy for heat production and can remediate nuclear waste. There is no data on quantitative power levels or engineered designs for commercial use yet, but they seem to be on track for a useful product. The Aureon SAFIRE project was founded by Montgomery Childs.

In addition to the new non-polluting energy sources, there has been continual improvements in rechargeable battery technology. Longer lasting, less expensive and more compact batteries, mainly using versions of Lithium-Ion battery technology, but also some others, are continually being developed. Batteries likely will not reach a point where non-dispatchable energy sources like solar cells and wind turbines can become competitive (using batteries for buffers). They are useful as surge buffers for the new types of power production that are dispatchable, where the required battery is not too large.

The following sections make some cost assumptions for the E-Cat and Suncell systems (as examples) and on useful power levels and battery use to show how the new systems can economically replace the need for fossil fuels for energy production, and in fact make systems far more useful than presently available technology.

Cost Assumptions for E-Cat, Suncell, micro turbogenerator, and Battery:

The costs in all of the following cases are based in part on the many comments by the developers, and adjusted by the expectations of the present author as to what is realistic. It includes the initial equipment cost to the user, and includes estimates for shipping, setup, and operation costs. The E-Cat and Suncell are assumed to last 20 years, including rehab or replacement of parts periodically.
The initial cost of the E-Cat SKL is expected to be about $1/W capability, and a 5kW (present version) would initially cost $5,000 but a control unit would add about $2,000 more. The control unit could control up to 100 parallel E-Cat modules, so only one would be needed for parallel ganged higher power units. The E-Cat might also need a re-fuel or re-work which might add $0.50/W, or $2,500 over the 20 years.

The initial cost (retail) of the thermal output Suncell might be $1/W including operational cost and periodic maintenance over 20 years. A micro turbogenerator would run about $2.50 per W output of electrical power.

Batteries are assumed to cost about $150/kWh capacity, including power converters and electronic controls, and should last about 1,500 full charge/discharge cycles. Efficiency is not included in this simplistic analysis.

A 5kW E-Cat SKL and controller as described would cost $7,000 up front, and $9,500 at 20 years. If used continually, it would have to last 175,200 hours. This is a lot, but the maintenance should allow this. At maximum power the entire time, the electrical energy generated would be 876,000kWh, and would cost about$0.011/kWh. However, the typical use would be at less than rated output if different loads are needed and would also be off part of the time. If the system is only used a small fraction of the time, say 20%, the cost per kWh over 20 years would increase to $0.055 per kWh used. However, the module might still be available for additional use after 20 years. One question that has needs to be answered: if the load varies so that an average of less than 5kW is used when on, does this extend the life of the module.

The following three examples show how a relatively small E-Cat SKL system combined with batteries is a desirable combination for many uses.

Automobile with 5kW E-Cat SKL and 40kWh battery:
An automobile with a 5kW E-Cat and 40kWh battery for power is purchased and driven an average of 15,000 miles per year (average 41 mile/day). The average mixed travel speed is 24 mph including stops for lights and also being in slow traffic. This means you are driving about 625 hours per year. Normal suburban or city driving, and short trips require about 0.33kWh per mile. This requires an average power level of 8kW when driving. However, it requires much higher surges of power for acceleration, and somewhat higher for climbing steep grades. Highway speeds (average 50 mph) require about 15kW average power and uses about 0.3kWh/mile. In order to accelerate to street speed in a reasonable time, surge power levels >100kW are required and this acceleration is what determines the engine horsepower required for internal combustion engines (ICE) as well as electric motor drives.
The battery is used to achieve >100kW for acceleration and is only used a few seconds at a time at this high level. The energy needed for a typical automobile to go from 0 to 50 mph is the order of 1 kWh, so does not draw down the battery much. The battery alone would allow ~120 miles range at all speeds, but at low speeds the E-Cat is supplying over half of the power, so the range is more than doubled. At higher speeds, the range is ~1/3 greater than from the battery alone. This would be more than enough for all one-way trips less than about 160 miles. If longer trips are made frequently, a larger battery or a 10kW E-Cat or both can be used. Use of recharge stations during breaks would allow less total battery for very long trips. The choice of 5kW or 10kW E-Cat and amount of battery would be selected depending on expected use, and cost. The E-Cat would recharge the battery overnight, so no external hookup is needed for this purpose.

The 5kW E-Cat and 40kWh battery would cost <$15,000 over the life of an automobile due to the E-Cat being used only a small fraction of its life and requiring little servicing. I assume the added purchase cost of an automobile with E-Cat and 40kWh battery would be about $8,000 more than a car with ICE. I also assume the ICE car gets 25 miles/gallon in mixed driving. The ICE car would need 600 gallons of gasoline per year. If gasoline were $2.50/gallon, the fuel cost is $1,500/year. In 10 years, gas would be $15,000, already $7,000 more than the E-Cat + battery + car vs ICE + car + gasoline total cost. Longer use at this level of use or higher milage use would make the spread even more. Even though the battery likely would have to be changed at 10 years, the E-Cat is actually good for much longer use or could be used for other purposes, so the saving is even more if the E-Cat is salvaged after use. The best news is that you are independent from gasoline stations and power lines and are never stranded due to being out of gasoline. Home with 10kW E-Cat SKL and 20kWh battery: Typical homes in the US use an average of 2kW power in the spring and fall, and close to 4kW for peak summer with A/C and peak winter with heater. Peak average use over any one week may even push 6kW. Use of appliances while the A/C or heater are running can require >12kW for several minutes at a time. A good mix to satisfy this requirement is a 10kW E-Cat SKL and 20kWh buffer battery.

The E-Cat and battery would cost $23,000 over 20 years if 2 sets of batteries are used over this period. For comparison, present electric plus fuel bills run about $3,000/year, so 20 years would cost $60,000. You would save $37,000 over 20 years, or $1,850 a year with the new version, but you would have to use a heat pump for cooling and heating. You would also be independent from the electric company and gas company. There would be no lost capability due to downed power lines or brown-outs due to power company dispatch issues. There would not even be power lines attached to the home.

Stand-alone 5kW electrical power source:
If a 5kW E-Cat SKL is mounted in a box with a control panel using the E-Cat control unit and includes a small battery pack (e.g., 0.5kWh), power converters, and outlets, the entire unit could be made compact and easily portable. Price of such a unit should be about $8,000. This unit could be the basis of independent living off the grid. The unit would replace a large gasoline generator but be capable of continuous power out and be much smaller and lighter. The unit could then be brought inside and used along with a large battery to power all home requirements.

The Suncell obtains its energy from the conversion of normal hydrogen to a modified form called hydrinos using a low voltage electric arc and a catalyst gas along with a hydrogen source such as water vapor. The net amount of energy obtained from one gallon of water when the hydrogen is converted to hydrinos is comparable to burning 100 gallons of gasoline.

A 250kW Suncell would cost about $250,000 over 20 years. A 75kW micro turbogenerator would cost about $187,500. The total cost would be $437,500. The supply gases for conversion would just be water vapor and trace other gases which would have negligible cost.

The following four examples show some of the configurations and results possible with the Suncell combined with either a turbogenerator or E-Cat for thermal and electric power production and added buffer batteries when needed.

Co-generation example for heating and excess electrical power:
The following describes a Suncell that requires 25kW of electrical power input and produces 250kW of high temperature dry steam. The steam is directed to a micro turbogenerator that converts the high pressure and high temperature steam to 75kW of electricity. The 175kW of lower pressure and lower temperature steam output from the turbogenerator is now available to heat a fair-sized building or be used as process heat where modest temperatures are required. 25kW of the electrical output is used as input for the Suncell. In addition, there is available 50kW of electric power for other uses. If just the usable excess electric power is considered, the generated energy is 8.76E6kWh over 20 years of continuous use. The cost for equivalent line power for 50kW for 20 years at a typical price of $0.10/kWh would be $876,000. However, there is also available 175kW of thermal energy, which over 20 years produces 3.06E7kWh. Gas heat runs about $0.03/kWh, so the thermal energy would be worth $919,000 if gas heated. Combining the two, the equivalent power cost would be $1.8 million. The Suncell combined with the turbogenerator produce the combined forms of energy for $437,500. This does not require external electrical or gas hookups and costs less than 1/4 as much as conventional thermal power.

Combination of E-Cat SKL and Suncell:
If 15 of 5kW E-Cat SKL’s were used in parallel to both power the Suncell and give 50kW of available electrical power rather than using the micro turbogenerator, their price over 20 years would be $114,500, significantly less than the cost using the turbogenerator for this component. The output would have 250kW of thermal energy which also could be available at much higher pressure and temperature than the previous version.
If only the thermal energy were desired, the number of E-Cat SKL’s could be cut to 5, at a cost of only $39,500, further lowering total cost. The thermal output could also be at high pressure and high temperature.

Ship with multiple Suncells and large steam turbogenerator:
A ship massing 200,000 tons and cruising at about 25 knots needs about 15MW propulsion power (20,000HP). A power system is proposed that would use 90 of 750kW thermal Suncells to produce 67.5MW of thermal power. A steam turbogenerator about 33% efficient would use the thermal output to generate 22.5MW of electrical power. 6.75MW would be fed back to drive the Suncells. The remaining 15.75MW would power the electric propulsion engines and supply power for the ship. The cost for the Suncells at $1/W would be $67.5M. The large turbogenerator would be less costly per Watt than for small ones, and is assumed here to be $1/W, so it would cost $22.5M. The total for both would be $90M.
This sized ship running on fossil fuel would use about 250 Tons of fuel per day at full speed. Fuel prices run about $0.50/ kg, so this would cost $125,000 per day. If the ship runs 180 days per year, then in 20 years the fuel cost would be $450M.
The use of the Suncell and a turbogenerator would thus be about 1/5 the cost of a fossil fuel driven propulsion system and would run for years without the need for fueling. This saving does not even take into account the saving from not having to purchase the ICE system.

Large passenger train with multiple Suncells, large steam turbine generator, and large battery:
A large passenger train, which is assumed to be running about 1/2 of the time, masses 10,000 tons and runs about 110 mph (50 m/s). The train needs an average of less than 3MW of electric power to drive electric motors when running on flat land and at full speed. When accelerating in a reasonable time or going up a steep slope it needs significantly more power for fairly short times, with the greatest need during acceleration from stop. A 10MW electric motor drive is selected for the drive. Power is supplied by 15MW of thermal power from 20 750kW Suncells supplying a steam turbogenerator generating 5MW of electrical power. A bank of batteries with 3MWh capacity supplies the extra power for the 10MW motor during acceleration and for extra power for steep slopes. The Suncells require 1.5MW of electrical power input and this gives 3.5MW of net electrical power for propulsion, and to charge the batteries. This brings the train up to full speed in about 10 minutes. The batteries would recharge between periods of acceleration or travel up steep slopes.
The cost for this power system using $1/W for the Suncells, and $1/W for the turbogenerator totals $20M. Batteries would cost $450k and would have to be changed about every 2 years. The total cost for 20 years would be $24.5M. If a diesel engine driven generator system rated at 10MW (13,333HP) output were used instead of the proposed system, the fuel cost alone would be about $20,000 per full day of travel. Over the 20 years, this would come to $72M.
The use of the Suncell, turbogenerator, and batteries would be about 1/3 the cost of fuel driven systems for the conditions shown. The range would be unlimited with no fuel stops. This saving does not even take into account not having to purchase the diesel generation system.

Final Comments:
The above examples described how the E-Cat SKL and Suncell, in combination with other components, could be configured to supply as much power as needed for civilization and at the same time do it at lower cost than present technology. If the estimated costs are near correct, then the best choice for electrical power generation is E-Cat SKL’s and the best choice for a large thermal power source is the Suncell. The use of buffer batteries, especially with the E-Cats allows more practical systems where peak power is much larger than average power use.

The final costs and capabilities of the described systems and systems not covered will eventually come out and all of the above numbers may be way off, but the estimates used give a rough idea of the possibilities of promising new energy producing technology.