Article by Bruce Ryan, High! Canada
Researching the arena of battery tech (as I mentioned in the last article), it quickly became obvious that this area is of extremely high interest everywhere. The means to store energy, cheaply and efficiently, is the holy grail in modern energy systems. Teams from around the world are working on this technology: spending hundreds of millions of dollars in pursuit of a viable solution. Some of the technologies are very extreme: radical new materials such as graphene, rare chemical solutions, nano-wire and exotic materials. Certain projects (such as graphene) might be years into the future before they see the light of day. Canadian researcher Dr. David Mitlin from the Faculty of Engineering at University Alberta has developed a supercapacitor from “graphene-like” materials from hemp. Further research into hemp carbon technology reveals fascinating information. When heated to specific temperatures, the bast fibers form carbon nano-sheets. Further work is being done. Commercialization of the supercapacitor innovation is underway in western New York if I remember correctly.
Oddly enough carbon battery tech doesn’t really seem to be on the radar. The first real-world application will probably be grid-level storage. This is large-scale, high-capacity battery storage to capture peak output to level out electrical demand cycles. A grid-level solution created from pure hemp carbon foam, conductive isolates, and low-cost enclosures, would be years ahead of most of the tech being developed. This would be inexpensive, non-toxic, nonflammable and large scale. No one else seems to be doing this type of research. A friend of mine has become very sharply focussed on this innovation. Started discussing patents. An innovation alliance is in the works.
One of the areas that makes the MOST sense is using solar panels to create energy during the day and a grid-level storage system to capture the energy for night time use. Like the current state of solar technology in China. Today it is cheaper to produce solar power than any other available solution used to create electricity. Problem is that usage peaks at night after sundown. Solar tech and battery storage systems offer a green. long-term electrical production without burning fossil fuels or relying on nuclear installations. Same with wind generation systems: make electricity when the wind blows, store it and use it later when the wind doesn’t blow. Like Norway.
Another energy segment in that of fuel-pellets. Coal-ired electrical generation plants are being phased out and replaced with cleaner wood-ired fuel pellet systems. Europe is mandating coal ired plants be converted by 2020. Replacing the wooden fuel pellets with hemp fuel pellets will result in higher temperatures, cleaner burning, lower emissions and less ash to dispose of with each cycle. Which leads to cannabis (hemp) as an alternative. Massive amounts of hemp core material can be used to directly replace wood-based fuel pellets. After all, it takes years to grow a forest and fields of cannabis produce four times (4x) the amount of fuel…. PER YEAR. This impacts CO2 emissions on two fronts: fewer emissions and carbon Third aspect of hemp energy is that the seed oil can replace diesel fuel – 100% without any significant modifications. There are, of course, refinements that can be made (modern technology & all) but the simple fact remains: hemp (cannabis) is a natural, green source of fuel for transport. In fact, the original Diesel engine was designed to run on hemp oil. Go figure.
The final segment of the fuel journey is alcohol distilled from the hemp core. Sugars found in the 70% cellulose woody core “hurd” can be made into high octane alcohol. This process is very similar to the fuel blends on the market today, hempcohol can run your car like high-performance vehicles that use alcohol fuels. Just like the diesel fuel mentioned above, this development depends upon a full scale, massive production to make a small dent in the current petrochemical supply chains. Current efforts in this area, using corn, for example, compete with food markets for supply. Hemp can avoid this dilemma because the seed produces food and the core hurd stalk can be used for alcohol production. In this case, the valuable fiber is a “by-product” ~ thus increasing the value of the crop beyond commodity markets.
Making these applications work will take the dedicated efforts of thousands of people: farmers; retail, wholesale and industrial consumers, producers, researchers, designers, engineers, development experts, investors, marketing, sales, service, management, supply chain and cannabis enthusiasts on a global level. Game on. I want to see millions of acres of cannabis growing everywhere. Eighty-five million hectares to be precise.