Antarctica Again

– especially its wast snow deposits, which are just lying there, mostly unused. All the rivers in the world would need a few thousand years to bring all this water back to the sea.

The average ice elevation is about 2 kilometers. Imagine then the resulting ice-electric power! Might be a bit awkward, though possible, to mine ice as if it were sand, as I suggested in the previous post. It would be much better if it could be melted before it’s used in turbines. Unfortunately, we would need much more energy for that, than we could get back as generated electricity.

But there’s a catch. This needed power is merely the heat – a low valued form of energy. Where could it come from then?

Maybe it could come from deep down as geothermal energy. But that source is too deep, and too dispersed. A super volcano beneath the ice could provide enough energy for only a fraction of a percent of the thermal energy needed. There are maybe 1000 cubic kilometers of molten lava there, while we would need many millions of cubic kilometers to melt all the snow. Today Antarctica’s ice cap is large enough to cool down the Perm Siberian Surge for quite a while, which was much bigger than any super-volcano from the recorded history.

The next candidate is the Sun. During long polar summer days, under a large glass dome, a meter or so of ice (covered with soot) would melt during each northern winter. Currently we have no technology to build large enough glass-like domes of the required size. Especially not with the structure integrity to cope with the winter weather there.

A mirror in the orbit, could do this job all year around. Imagine a warm lake in the South pole, under intense reflected light, with a long estuarine pipe to the coast, where a giant hydroelectric power plant would operate. The problem is, that a gigantic orbital mirror is certainly not achievable right now.

We could pump the warm oceanic water 90 degrees south, to melt the local ice. Ironically we would not need any energy for this, since it would be a closed pipe system, like the central heating of a house. The warm oceanic water would go up inside the red pipe and then cooled, return back through the blue pipe. The pond on the pole would act as a heat exchanger. The melted fresh water from said pond is then transported to the plant at the coast, by a different long pipe – an inherently much smaller one – which is the problem.

A nuclear reactor, melting ice on the pole, would serve better in generating electricity here. The amount of energy would be about the same, so why bother with Antarctica?

I still think we should excavate the ice as if it were sand, and have the ice power plants on the Southern continent, or the shores of Greenland. Melting is out of the question.

The energy density of the polar ice may be almost a thousand times smaller than the energy density of oil. However, we have almost one million times more ice at our disposal.

Had I really believed in classical futurism, I would seriously advocate ice-mining for energy as a project for the middle or the end of the 21st century. But I do not, and all this was just a modest mental exercise.


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