Who qualifies for this label? Top 1000 is powerful recognition.

Recognising 1000 Solutions

A Cleantech Accelerator prompted me to seek recognition for Hydragas. In fact I had to read up on who qualifies for this label, awarded in recognition for top renewable energy solutions. It is a global recognition judged by the Solar Impulse Foundation (SIF) in Switzerland. Indeed to qualify, SIF must find you worthy of inclusion in their list. Their search ends when they find 1000 Solutions that are worthy enough to help save the planet.

The label is inspired by Bertrand Piccard’s historic flight of the SolarImpulse. As with his SolarImpulse flight, circumnavigating the globe under solar power only, it’s an ongoing process that has a worthy cause and a mission. Following the mission demonstrates the sort of commitment that characterised his approach to that venture. As a legacy, the SolarImpulse Foundation will recognise hard work, innovation and commitment to the same cause.

“Bertrand dedicates his life to demonstrate the opportunities lying in sustainable development and to raise interest in profitable solutions to protect the environment. He is a pioneer of new ways of thinking that reconcile ecology and economy, and uses his exploration feats to motivate governments and industries to take action.

Lake Kivu on a calm day, overlooking the volcano

Does the Foundation seek out your Solution?

Chances are the SolarImpulse Foundation wouldn’t be able to find you. So to get around that, who discovers who qualifies for this label? Likely as not, you’re in an under-funded start-up, with no PR budget. But by contrast to start-ups, listed Solution owners include giant corporations with big budgets. If it is a concern that big players dominate the list, the foundation appears to take care of that.

But it’s clearly not enough to just ask for nor to expect this recognition. Indeed, there is a prescribed application process to follow. It filters through a process to see if one created a solution of interest. If this meets their criteria, it is still further verified by their experts in the appropriate field.

The adjudication process follows your completed application. This application form starts with information requirements, detailed data, reports, publications and references by request. The completed application is forwarded to selected experts to scrutinise your submission of scientific material, based on their broader knowledge and category expertise. After scrutiny, experts eventually get their opportunity to interrogate your submittal. It’s akin to defending an academic thesis.

I expect that their inquiry will be challenging. I say that I expect to be challenged, even with 10,000 hours of R&D on this topic under my belt. We know that the science is really complex, often in dispute. In fact, it’s common cause that it is not settled science. It’s a fast-changing field of developing theories and data discovery, with few subject-matter experts and many opinions. Clearly there is too little global experience on lakes like this one. More specific than that, Lake Kivu may just be the only one like this on Earth.

Can we be one who qualifies for this label?

Our Solar Impulse Label awards efficient, clean and profitable solutions with a positive impact on environment and quality of life.

We sincerely hope that it is us who qualifies for this label. Indeed, the Foundation’s recognition of this as one of 1000 Solutions would give us a right to display this valuable, aspirational label. Therefore we might expect it to give us a credible platform. This helps to attract funding or convince investors. It may also be helpful for governments to assess competitors. Here we can say real experts have checked our claims and validated them. We would wear the label with considerable pride, being part of a select groupthat takes care of our planet.

But for us the greater recognition is what our Solution can do for the community stakeholders. For many of them, these impacts have real significance. It would be more meaningful than the outputs of Hydragas’ biogas recovery and power generation on Lake Kivu. Indeed these stakeholders are the communities, the countries’ governments for can achieve environmental and safety benefits. The beneficiaries also include the users of the energy, our future investors and the people employed by our organisation. But what are the positives of these claims? Can we back them up? Are there any negatives?

How do we measure a meaningful difference?

Gas recovery from source to end-use
Gas Recovery from Source to End-user

Rwanda’s head of the Lake Kivu Monitoring Program, the LKMP, asked this question of us as appointed experts. This was indeed our role in the expert advisory group, through which we offered such support. I had to illustrate the differences that alternate gas extraction methods make to positive engineering and economic outcomes. One has to examine each step of the process of turning the lake’s resource into useful energy. The steps give clarity on how seemingly minor losses cascade into a huge energy loss overall.

Take the five steps in the above diagram for example:

  • Gas recoverability by Depth Zone: Of 5 zones, 2 have recoverable gas concentrations, while a shallower one has future potential. Most developers have designed to use one, or just half a zone. Hydragas can develop 2, potentially a 3rd. Gas extraction plants’ access to this resource for CH4 capture ranges from 46% to 100%.
  • Gas Plant Recoverability: The diagram shows how incoming CH4 splits up into six possible destinations. Only one output is useful energy. Hydragas’ multi-stage process gets 89% of the raw gas into the useful energy output.
  • Parasitic Power Losses: Legacy extraction plant uses too high a proportion of gas output to generate on-board power. This powers pumps and compressors, with legacy plant requiring 20-50%. By contrast, Hydragas’ extraction process uses just 2-6% for parasitic power production on board.
  • Generation Losses: Gas quality and pressure dictate which generation equipment one is able to use. Higher quality determines the use of higher efficiency equipment. Legacy plants produce low quality gas so engines operate at 33-41% efficiency. High quality gas enables the use of 45-61% power plant efficiency.
  • Resource Degradation: The lake density structure breaks down with badly designed equipment and poor operational practice. The outcome is expected to cut the harvest period from 50 years, by up to 50%. The lake’s density structure’s ability to trap gas weakens over time. A weak trap allows gas to escape into shallow strata, where it is unrecoverable.
  • Total Losses Impact: Each outcome of the five steps seems modest. But multiplying them out shows our best competitor only delivers 10% of in-situ energy as power. Hydragas deliver either 35% (gas engines) or 51% (combined-cycle gas turbines).

Positive impacts: will they make the list of who qualifies for this Label?

Our view is that positive impacts decide who qualifies for this label. Here are our impacts:

  • We reduce the lake’s risk of a major limnic eruption by 99% within 20 years;
  • De-risking the worst-case eruption scenario, which releases of 2 Gt of Carbon(eq) in one day;
  • We prevent an eruption that puts 2-3 million lives at risk from a toxic gas cloud;
  • Our 89% recovery is far higher than net outputs of any competitor;
  • Higher complete methane removal from the lake delays future gas build-up and eruption by centuries;
  • Methane removal increases the carbon capture and storage (CCS) capacity of the lake by 4 – 5 x;
  • Generates 4 – 5 x more net power output than any competitor;
  • Our gas extraction is 100% MPs compliant (the rules for safe gas recovery);
  • Reduces cost of power to grid by 50-60%, compared to displaced diesel power;
  • The region’s total fossil fuel imports, including diesel and HFO, can be cut by about 50%;
  • Equatorial deforestation can be reversed by proving a new, cheaper and more convenient cooking fuel;
  • Gas can replace woodfuel or charcoal, supplying it by pipeline. See the NASA picture below for deforestation evidence;
  • The value of energy produced from Lake Kivu increases by 400%, to $50 B over 50 years, excluding carbon offsets;
  • Per capita GDP impact, for 20 M people regionally, may improve 10-20%.

NASA Satellite view of Lake Kivu. Deforestation has decimated the equatorial forest in search of energy.

NASA Satellite photo of Lake Kivu, in Central Africa

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