“Craven likes the way they think, but he believes there are simpler, cheaper, and more immediate applications of cold-water technology. He favors building systems in ideal locations, such as islands adjacent to deep water with no continental shelf. Sink a big pipe, crank a pump, and – voilà! – you’ve entered a world powered by ocean water. Once primed, the pipe acts like a giant siphon, requiring relatively little energy to keep an inexhaustible supply of cold at hand. Already, 39-degree-Fahrenheit water courses through the Natural Energy Lab’s newest pipe – a 55-inch-diameter, 9,000-foot-long polyethylene behemoth – at the rate of 27,000 gallons a minute, 24 hours a day.
Running the frigid pipes through heat exchangers produces unlimited air-conditioning that costs almost nothing. Draining their sweat yields an endless supply of freshwater for drinking and irrigation. The cold water also creates a temperature difference between root and fruit that Craven believes speeds growth. And by turning the flow on and off, Craven has found he can further accelerate the plants’ growth cycle by forcing them in and out of dormancy – he can get three crops of grapes a year and pineapples in eight months instead of the usual 18. Feeding some of the water through a contraption Craven calls a hurricane tower generates clean electricity. “What the world doesn’t understand,” says Craven, still zigzagging through the parking lot, “is that what we don’t have enough of is cold, not heat.” “