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Friday, November 25, 2005

The Big Idea

oil rig

So, How can you convert this beautiful oil-rig into something which is far more beautiful and eco-friendly...?
I will tell you! Just place a large parabolic solar concentrator on the top and derive useful and non-polluting energy from it and what's more, you can even track the sun easily, just lift up'n'down its large four feet to adjust. Imagine!!!
This idea is Copyright © Mridul,

Solar Rig


Eric said...


The idea sounds good. But the same issues that have plagued solar power will apply here too. Here's some counterpoints for you.

The oil rig already impairs the marine ecosystem below it, by blocking out the sunlight that can reach it. The hypothetical scenario in which we cover the ocean with many, many parabolic solar power concentrators would in fact severely damage the ocean ecosystem by blocking out it's principal source of energy - the sun.

Another problem, of course, is more economics than ecology. Principally speaking, I believe that many oil companies wouldn't be readily willing to give up an oil rig for a solar power concentrator. To them, probably while there's still some economic potential by using the oil rigs, they'd still want to maximize it before letting the rigs go defunct.

Of course, I believe your idea isn't to cover the ocean with many concentrators. Neither do I believe your idea is to get major oil companies to convert totally to solar. Perhaps an easier way is to convert defunct oil rigs into solar power concentrators. That way, the impact on the environment would be lessened (by not expanding coverage over the sea), while at the same time providing oil companies a transition period to break into the idea of solar power.

Now the last problem I see is... what's gonna transport the energy?

Mridul said...

You are true Eric, these drawbacks came into my mind too. Use of solar energy will surely take up space, but where, thats for us to decide. But I guess with intelligent selection of place the ecosystem problem can be avoided. And also, like trees are absorbing solar energy and giving us oxygen we should also give something beneficial to the marine ecosystem (say, some oxygen).
Secondly,once the technology becomes viable, we don't need that kind of heavy equipment for a solar power plant which is required in oil rigs so, I'm sure the cost would be less.
Thirdly, WHY on earth they can't put a solar concentrator on top of a working oil-rig? It will only help maximise their profits while providing shelter.and as the oil resource gets used up, the place can become pure solar power plant.
Fourthly, there is no problem for transportation of energy, as direct electricity would be generated at the plant just like thermal power plants and electricity can be transported easily using undersea cables. For information on concentrating solar refer to my previous post on my favourite article. you can read that article too. MORE COMMENTS/COUNTERPOINTS ARE INVITED

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on thinking outside the box on this one. A couple of questions though.

1. Is the limited amount of energy that would be able to be produced from the area available at the top of an obselete oil rig (a couple of acres at most) going to be of more economic benefit than simply dismatling it and selling the scrap metal? (do we really need rusting old rigs remaining on the ocean floor until they collapse?)

2. If you don't plan to let them fall into disrepair while being utilised as solar collectors what are the costs of maintaining them? Repairing steel legs at great depths cannot be cheap.

3. Apart from the land use benefits of constructing this type of collector (or any type for that matter) on the ocean, what would the excess costs be compared to, say, the land use of enviromission's solar tower project in "Remote" areas of Australia?(

Given that the required structural strength of an oil rig is much higher than what would be required for your collector (no drilling operations) would it be cheaper (and more responsible) to mount a collector setup more like the sunlab, rather than a solid dish, on a transparent anchored floating platform. This would allow some sunlight through to the ocean negating eric's concern and could also be designed in such a way that it could contract into itself during wild weather, further reducing the strength requirements, and cost.

I think you have a good idea here, but it's benefit will only be realized with very large scale (think Gigawatts) and, therefore, dedicated support infrastructure. It is certainly not the answer for all locations, but it may find a niche near large costal cities, think New York, LA etc.

Another possible avenue worth investigating, migh be technology couples, for example. A solar collector above the surface, a wave action generator at the surface, and thermokline (temperature differential) generation to the depths. Here's another, combine your power generation platform with an offshore desalination plant, which is very energy hungry, think middle east, Australia etc.

There is no doubt that there are considerable economic and environmental questions needing answers, but I don't beleive that they are unanswerable in the current climate. Keep promoting the idea, you will eventually get a backer.

Mridul said...

I agree with you on the first two points. I think constructing a new lightweight and strong rig is a better option than maintaining old ones for decades!
A new benefit of off-shore solar came into my mind; Human Workers are required on the rig for controlling operations and maintenance. So, if we setup a rig in remote desert area, it will create problems for the people onboard, whereas in ocean, people 'are' living on oil-rigs. For living off-shore, adequate training facilities are available too.
And, technology couple is a very good extension of this idea. But I doubt it, as complexity of the system will increase.

See how a simple dream can take new shapes once you are with it!
Thanks to everybody for their valuable support. But, as always I need more! So keep commenting!

Anonymous said...

in reply to your response regarding additional benefits of using offshore as opposed to reomte land based systems. You made two points.
1. Human benefits of living offshore as opposed to remote areas.
2. Icreased complexity of technology couples.

I would reply to both points with the same comment: "Cost benefit."

I am aware that many people will take on a renewable energy project in an "ad hoc" or "half baked" manner, without proper research. This may well be an acceptable appproach for a home built or small scale system, but I believe that what you are considering is much more than that. If you were to go ahead and build something like this, you will require significant input of resources from a large organisation. The enviromission project mentioned in my previous post, for example, has accessed large amounts of funding from local, state and federal australian governments, even just for the research and proof of viabiity phases of development. Additionally, they have entered into partnership aggreements with engineering and construction firms, giving them "stock for work" type agreements.

The point? you will need to have carefully considered the best way to get the maximum financial benefit from the project for the minimum cost before any enterprise money will be forthcoming. The answers as to where it is cheapest to to both construct and maintain the facility, while still getting maximum exposure to the energy source will need to be correct, as will any possible additional benefits such as technology coupling.

When extracting a resource out of the ground (such as oil or gas) the site is dictated by the location of the deposit, and so we see oil rigs in the North Sea, and workers accomodation in the middle east, the tundra of Canada, and Siberia etc. However, when harvesting a resource such as sunlight, location is far more flexible, in fact all three of the previously mentioned sites would be undesirable. You could almost draw a line at about 33deg North and South on a globe and examine everything between them, for weather patterns, political stability etc. and choose a region to work in. then go from there.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent idea and of course with drawbacks, but I won't waste your time by telling you whats wrong... whats wrong is that we spend too much time critisizing ideas instead of improving them. I don't understand what your last objective is with light diffraction. To make the spectrum disassociate to a such a large area without affecting the output would require a crafted prism lens that also would need to be a far distance away. Email me at

Qfenestrate said...

This idea is very rich in creativity. There is something to be said about cost analysis, but the particular cost problems could be minimalized. The greatest cost can't be minimalized though. Yes upkeep will certainly cost the project expecially as the array ages, but the cost is not that high otherwise it would not be that cost effective for oil companies to run rigs. The major problem I see is transport of electricity. Cable could be laid to extend electricity to a local hub and from there sent to power storage stations on land to be used by various cities, but most of the current abandoned oil rigs are at least a hundred miles from shore in America. There are many closer rigs to be sure in the gulf coast but you'd have to convert a large number of rigs into these arrays for cost effective strategies to work, and most of the abandoned rigs are farther out to sea currently. That may change as oil is squeezed out of the deposits within the gulf coast. If you lay a line in the ocean there will be several factors that affect transportation: storms, quakes, people, distance, construction. Although the transatlantic lines do a good job of providing phone servie the cost of laying electrical lines to the mainland, at least within the US would be enormous. Probably somewhere in the billions. If you can solve the transport costs without utilizing such a cost inefficiency this idea could float. As for the arine species problem, most of the current rigs act as pseudo reefs. Not necessarily a good thing, but also not necessarily a bad thing. good luck

Mridul said...

Thanks for the comment.
Regarding the problem of energy transport; if we are able to generate some fuel (say hydrogen) from the rig then it can be transported via ships (vessels).
But why can't we do it with electricity?
Imagine charging a huge battery in a vessel using the electricty we generate and transporting it to the shore.
Battery technology is becoming more and more practical these days.
What do you say?

Anonymous said...

is good
but we are just simple people and we cant invest too much

the problem is for transportation
1 the hidrogen
2 make electricity and from it other usefull things
3 make some very izolateded electrical cables

we mustn't use a oil rig is just an idea
we can build a floating because an 1m3 of air can dislocate 1000kg of any material and a parabolic trouth is more eficently than this if is used corectly and for high dimensions