Text Box: Synergy in his definition, “the behavior of whole systems are unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately”                                                                          R. Buckminster Fuller

Hailed as "one of the greatest minds of our times," R. Buckminster Fuller was renowned for his comprehensive perspective on the world's problems. For more than five decades, he developed pioneering solutions that reflected his commitment to the potential of innovative design to create technology that does "more with less" and thereby improves human lives. His ultimate pursuit was to make the world work for 100% of humanity.  Sustainability way before it was cool to be sustainable.  It was Bucky that created the term Synergy.  

Perhaps the most basic example of Synergy that fits within the context of this subject matter under discussion would be solar carports.  Carports serve as a simple utilitarian function.  They provide shade and security and as a result add increased property value.  When we attach solar arrays to the tops of the existing infrastructure, not only do we eliminate additional structural support, but depending on the particular jurisdiction there may be added tax benefits to further reduce cost.  A clear and simple demonstration of the whole not being predicted by it’s component parts.  

As we discuss in the primer, the first significant Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion device was built by TRW in Hawaii in 1979.  OTEC is a platform floating on the ocean; pumping colder deep-sea water to the surface where the difference in temperature between deep-sea and surface tropical temperatures is used to boil and condense chemically engineered heat transfer fluids to run steam turbines.  The 70’s DOE analysis of this didn’t “stack up” compared to conventional petroleum and nuclear technology. With the advent of better heat transfer fluids along with the cost of comparable conventional energy having increased significantly; we can now consider using the same infrastructure for more than one ocean energy technology like wave energy or  Mariculture or both.  By considering these hybrid approaches we are again employing what Bucky referred to as synergy, “The whole is unpredicted by the parts.”  Maybe it’s time for us to take a second look.

In 1976 when R. Buckminster Fuller came to Maui to participate in an EST training, I was invited to open for him at his local public presentations.  In addition, I had the added good fortune to be invited by his grandson, Jaime Snyder to tea with Bucky on several afternoons. He quickly nicknamed me Mr. Hydrogen. A nickname that fits today as it did then. No matter what challenge of the day we were discussing; political, economic or environmental, I would find a way to weave the transition to a Hydrogen Economy into the conversation as the ultimate solution. During the course of those discussions Bucky said to me that, “Hydrogen was the obvious fuel of the future”.  “However”, he went on, “when that transition from a petroleum economy takes place depends on when the cost of petroleum ultimately increases as a result of  short supply and breakthroughs are made in bringing the cost down on turning sea water into Hydrogen and safely storing it are made.”  In the meantime he reminded us to build the “artifacts” necessary to accommodate the transition when the breakthroughs are made. So here I am 40 years later, with the linchpin of the TAWA solution still being the transition to a Hydrogen based economy.



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Text Box: Carport by HelioPower
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