Stories tagged power

Jul
26
2007

A solar powered telephone: And you thought the Death Star was sinister? Well that never destroyed our planet, so no. (photo by redjar on flickr.com)
A solar powered telephone: And you thought the Death Star was sinister? Well that never destroyed our planet, so no. (photo by redjar on flickr.com)
According to Dr. Jesse Aubusel, the Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, renewable energy isn’t a super good idea. That is to say, he thinks it’s a pretty bad idea.

Using math and numbers, Dr. Aubusel figures that the amount of land necessary for “green” energy sources makes them extremely impractical, especially when compared to nuclear energy. According to Aubusel, were we to flood all of Ontario (900,000 square km), it would only provide 80% of the energy that Canada’s 25 nuclear power stations could produce. I guess that’s the end of my plans to flood Ontario. Or, to provide enough electricity for New York City, all of Connecticut would have to be turned into a wind farm (although, who’s to say that Connecticut would mind). Also, to grow a single pot of basil, it would take more dirt than there is in my whole room. So no basil.

Aubusel, in this article, always brings the issue back to the matter physical space required for renewable energy, and the number of watts produced per square meter. “Nuclear energy is green,” he states. He’s not referring to its radioactivity, I think, so much as to its relatively small physical footprint, and the potential to use already existing infrastructure.

It might seem to some that this is a pretty simplistic way of looking at things, but we should all make sure that we’re doctors before we disagree.

When asked if he could imagine technology that uses and creates energy more efficiently than those he based his research on, Doctor Aubusel states, “No.” When asked if he could possibly try, he replied, “That’s not really my style.”

Oct
30
2006

Many people, from the President on down, believe that the US must reduce its reliance on oil. But where will we get the energy we need to run our homes, businesses and cars? People have suggested nuclear power, solar, wind, biomass and many other approaches. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

One idea getting a lot of support is hydrogen—as a fuel or in batteries. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and when you consume it, the only waste product is pure, clean water.

But hydrogen has a lot of drawbacks, too. An article in the November issue of Popular Mechanics runs down the challenges in hydrogen production, storage, distribution and use.

Meeting America’s energy needs will probably require a combination of approaches.

Feb
22
2006

The Science Museum's neighbor, the Xcel Energy High Bridge power plant, will be undergoing a significant construction project in the coming months. As part of a larger project called Metro Emissions Reduction Project (MERP) Xcel Energy has started working on a $1 billion program that will reduce emissions from three metro area plants (the High Bridge Plant being one) and increase power generating capacity.

Generator: Working principle of a combined cycle power plant.Courtesy Alureiter


Xcel - Current: Existing High Bridge plant. Image courtsey Xcel Energy.

The High Bridge power plant is being converted from a coal burning plant to a combined-cycle natural gas plant. Combined power plants generate electricity from two sources - a gas turbine generator that is powered by natural gas and a steam turbine generator that is powered by the heat exhaust from the gas turbine generator. This use of the gas to essentially power two different types of generators is a more efficient use of resources than the coal burning power plant. As a result of this change, air emissions from the High Bridge power plant will be significantly reduced. Sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced 99.7%, nitrogen oxide 96.9% and particulate matter 91.5%, while mercury pollution will be completely eliminated.


Xcel - New: High Bridge plant after construction is complete - artist's rendition courtsey Xcel Energy.

My first thought after hearing this (and after having to put gas in my car and heat my home the past few months) was that switching to natural gas is not a very economical situation given current gas prices. However, Xcel says that:

Although natural gas prices have increased, this conversion makes sense for the long term. The gas market is subject to short-term volatility, but the plants will operate for another 30 years so it's the long-term projections that are most important.

If you are in the downtown area in the coming weeks you may hear construction noise from the site as the nearly 1,200 steel pilings for the new power plant are driven into the ground for the new plant's footings. Testing of the new power plant will begin around September 2007 and run through March 2008. The plant is expected to begin commercial operation in May 2008, and demolition of the old plant will start shortly thereafter.

For more information visit Xcel Energy's web pages on the conversion.