Stories tagged power

Jul
27
2009

Green energy? What about trying a little blue energy for a change? Blue seems just as wholesome and non-threatening, right?

In a similar vane to my last post on algae the geniuses of the world have come up with another truly brilliant "why didn't I think of that" kind of idea. It seems to make so much sense! It's so big ... and powerful ... and blue ...
We Have Come A Long Way: Now, just imagine that...but under water!
We Have Come A Long Way: Now, just imagine that...but under water!Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Engineers at Blue Energy have developed, with support from the Army Corps of Engineers a turbine for the ocean. No no, not a wind turbine ON the ocean (my mom just made that mistake) but an underwater turbine that will harness the powerful ocean currents to create possibly the most sustainable energy source we know of!

Here is what we know: Water turbines will be placed in the Gulf Stream near Florida and they will work much like land wind turbines (using a rotater blade, which when made to spin by wind or water, creates energy!).

There is still a considerable amount of work to do before water turbines can be utilized. Frederick Driscoll, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology strives to be realistic about the future of water turbines. A resource assessment of the Gulf Stream is underway to help understand exactly how much energy can be safely extracted from the ocean, where exactly it should be extracted from and how to get the energy safely and efficiently to our homes without disrupting the ocean environment. So much to think about!
Always Something There: The strength of the Gulf Stream has been evident for hundreds of years.
Always Something There: The strength of the Gulf Stream has been evident for hundreds of years.Courtesy Library of Congress

Florida is the fourth largest state in the U.S. and the third largest consumer of energy. They are in dire need of a new energy source as many experts insist that Florida is on the brink of a very serious energy crisis. Much still needs to be done in the way of turbine technology in order to move ahead with incorperating them into the fleet of renewable energy sources. This past spring four acoustic Doppler current profilers were lauched off the coast of Florida to gather information about the currents, mainly to learn about the speed of the ocean currents. Ocean energy may become the crown jewel of the fleet.

Jul
20
2009

A Forest of Fuel: Coming soon, to your gas tank!
A Forest of Fuel: Coming soon, to your gas tank!Courtesy Stef Maruch

Move over, old, lame bio-fuels!

Algae! The wondrous plants that can grow easily in controlled conditions and whose needs are very basic for rapid growth is now being tested for use in bio-fuels. ExxonMobil, looking to expand and diversify their alternative fuel options will team up with Venter's Synthetic Genomics Inc. to conduct research on different types of algae to test their effectiveness as biofuels.

The so-called "first generation" bio-fuels caused problems globally when the price of corn (for corn ethanol) sky rocketed when it was being used for food and fuel . Though a small percent of corn (or other) ethanol is added to gasoline, it still has a huge effect on the market, and is therefore not the best long term solution to eliminating our addiction to oil.

The Future?: Someday...someday. Let's keep 'em crossed for a day when all houses are like this!
The Future?: Someday...someday. Let's keep 'em crossed for a day when all houses are like this!Courtesy Bjorn Appel

Many view bio-fuels as only a transitionary solution to the oil problem, hoping that a sustainable energy type (like solar or wind) may soon be widely available. Algae if successful as a bio fuel, it may be used for a longer period than the "first-generation" bio fuels because of how fast it can grow and how easy it can be to care for. It also isn't used for much else, not like corn anyway. Engineers are hoping to develop artificial environments for algae to grow in knowing that this is the only way to produce enough of the green slime to sustain our needs.

It is encouraging, in some ways, that a big business like ExxonMobil is getting involved because research will not be short funded. If there is a will, there is some green slime that can't wait to get in your car!

Jun
01
2009

Wind turbines surfin' the deep blue sea
Wind turbines surfin' the deep blue seaCourtesy Flickr
Last week, I was lucky enough to partake in a fun-filled road trip to Colorado. Though the Rocky Mountains are a spectacular site, I found myself more excited to see all of the wind turbines on the 15-hour drive from Minneapolis to Colorado Springs. This ultimately resulted in a research extravaganza, as I wanted to know more about how wind energy works and what the US was doing to improve renewable energy.

Lets start with a few Minnesota wind facts :
• Total installed wind energy capacity is currently 1752.16 megawatts
• Total wind energy potential is 657 billions of kWh/year
• Currently ranked at 4th in US for current wind energy output (Go Minnesota!)

On average, one household will consume around 4,250 kilowatt-hours per year , so think of how many homes can be powered if Minnesota was reaching its wind energy potential.

I also came across this article that came out today in Scientific American that discusses the great steps that Hawaii is taking towards renewable energy. Recently, Hawaii signed an agreement with the US Department of Energy (DoE) that outlines a plan to obtain 70 percent of its power from clean energy by 2030, in which 40 percent will be from renewables like wind farms.

As of right now, the state relies on imported oil for 90 percent of its power. If a man-made or natural disaster were to occur that would prevent shipment of oil, Hawaii cannot plug into the mainland’s electrical grid, making them extremely vulnerable. So not only will they gain energy security, but the cost of electricity will also lower by reducing the amount of money spent on shipping money to foreign countries for oil (10% GDP).

The largest source of renewable energy will be makani, or wind. There are currently two proposed farms for Lanai and Molokai islands that will together generate a total of 400 megawatts of electricity, which will provide 25 percent of Oahu’s total generation capacity. Considering that over 70 percent of the stat’s population lives in Oahu, that’s a lot of energy! Solar water heating, geothermal energy, and the novel technologies in ocean thermal plants will also be used to provide the Hawaiian islands with clean, renewable energy.

For more information on what you can do here in Minnesota, check out this blog post from ARTiFactor that describes Windsource, a great program through Xcel Energy.

Mar
06
2009

Zipingpu Dam: Upriver from the town of Dujiangyan, Sichuan, China.
Zipingpu Dam: Upriver from the town of Dujiangyan, Sichuan, China.Courtesy TaylorMiles
Scientists suspect that last year’s devastating earthquake in China may not have been a natural disaster. A nearby dam may have weakened fault lines and spurred the magnitude-7.9 quake.

The Zipingpu Dam is only 3.4 miles from the epicenter of the May 12, 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province. This quake killed 80,000 people and left 5 million homeless. Although the area exhibits a lot of seismic activity, an earthquake of this magnitude is unusual.

Water in the Zipingpu Dam

The Zipingpu Dam is one of nearly 400 hydroelectric dams in the area. It rises 511 feet high and holds 315 million tons of water. US and Chinese scientists believe that the weight of the water increased the direct pressure on the fault line below. This volume of water would exert 25 times more pressure annually than is natural. Additionally, water seeping into the rock acted as a lubricant and relaxed the tension between the two sides of the fault line. Since the reservoir was filled in 2004, the water caused a chain of ruptures culminating in this massive earthquake.

Worldwide impact on green energy

Sichuan province is the epicenter for more than just a powerful earthquake. It is here that most of China’s hydroelectric power is generated, an integral component of its renewable power plans. The area also produces much of the world’s wind turbine equipment. The infrastructure will take months or years to repair.

Before the quake, China admitted to major flaws in the country’s 87,000 dams. The earthquake damaged other dams and power stations and several major reservoirs were drained to prevent their dams from failing.

Rivalries are common between college campuses – who's got the better football team, the tastier dorm food or the coolest parties. But in Northfield, Minn., where rival colleges Carlton and St. Olaf are located on opposite sides of the town, there's a growing intense rivalry over wind-power turbines. Read more about it here.

Windpower leader
Windpower leaderCourtesy ecstaticist

The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year, new figures showed, and will likely take the lead in solar power this year, analysts said on Monday. Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S.
Another interesting change:
The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States. (click links in red to learn more).

Jan
13
2009

Solar slowdown: Solar panel revenues projected to drop 19% in 2009
Solar slowdown: Solar panel revenues projected to drop 19% in 2009Courtesy richardmasoner

Global finances hurt solar industry

Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., the world's largest solar module maker, suspended its plan to expand capacity by 40 percent in 2009. Instead, it laid off 10 percent of its 8,000 strong workforce.

Global revenues for photovoltaic solar panels are expected to drop 19 percent in 2009, believed to be the sector's first-ever contraction, as prices fall due to oversupply, research firm iSuppli said last December" Reuters

Say it aint so

My hope is that a change in government incentives will prove to be a game changer.

Additional news, First Solar

First Solar was featured by Investopedia yesterday as a solar company to watch in 2009.

Nov
13
2008

It's a new day in America: Where should our energy come from now?
It's a new day in America: Where should our energy come from now?Courtesy timsamoff
On January 21, 2009, there’s going to be a brand new administration in the White house. Defining the energy policy of the United States is going to be a big issue, and one that’s likely to get tackled early on.

The members of the Obama Administration are going to have their own ideas about how our country should get its energy, but what do you think?

Is green energy your one and only? Are you a coal man? A nuclear gal? Or do you fall asleep murmuring “drill, baby, drill”?

Some options are going to be more expensive than others, each will affect the environment differently, and some are going to take more time before they’re ready. So what’s it going to be?

Voice your opinion in Science Buzz’s new poll: Energy and the Obama Administration.

You might not have been able to vote on November 4, but you can vote now, and you can let everyone know why you think what you think.

Aug
31
2008

Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power document
Proposed power grid for wind and solar: clipped from American Electric Power documentCourtesy U. S. Dept. of Energy

Is our power grid ready for wind and solar?

Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal show promise for breaking our addiction to oil. One big problem, though, is moving this new energy to energy users. According to a recent New York Times article,

many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them.

The grid today is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Upgrading our power grid faces multiple obstacles

Our power grid, with about 200,000 miles of power lines, is divided among about 500 owners. Upgrading transmission lines often involves multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Property owners often fight new power lines saying "not in my back yard".

"Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Dept. of Energy recommendation

I recommend reading the Department of Energy report titled, "20% wind energy by 2030" (30 pg pdf). The United Sates plans to add 300 GW of wind power by 2030 (I figure that equals about 200,000 1.5 MW wind generators). They recommend an interstate power grid to carry electricity similar to how our interstate highway system carries cars and trucks.

American Electric Power also has recommendations

In an 8 page pdf document titled, "Interstate Transmission Vision for Wind Integration" American Electric Power, working at the request of, and in partnership with, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), presents a "high-level, conceptual interstate transmission plan that could provide a basis for discussion to expand industry infrastructure needs in the future".

John Kanzius discovered that salt water when bombarded with radio waves burns. You can learn more and see salt water burn in this video(You Tube).