SQLServerCentral Editorial

The December Energy Update


Someone noted that the vertical windmills (Darius or Savonius) might not be as efficient, have issues, etc. From what I've been researching, they seem to be preferred by many people, so it's possible that it's a preference issue. I did find this interesting article on efficiencies (PDF). It seems to show that they can be more efficient. I'm still thinking and wondering about which way to go and if we should get one set up here at the ranch.

We've got a generator installed, but it's unpowered right now. Waiting on a propane regulator that can lower the pressure from the tank. Hopefully that will get setup soon as I'm nervous everytime it starts snowing.

You can generate your own power. Literally YOU can generate power, just by moving. I know the military is interested in this, recharding batteries with human motion, and it's an interesting idea. Maybe someone will put these into purses, let you plug in your phone and charge it while you walk.

Portable nuclear power? I'm not sure this is a great implementation and there is definitely some confusion in the reporting, but I like the idea of smaller, more widely deployed, power plants. Maybe we can even get cleaner nuclear plants built in the US soon. I'm definitely in favor of more nuclear power here in the US. Maybe I could even get one of these micro nuclear reactors and charge my neighbors for power 🙂

If you're searching for a new source of power, maybe we can learn to generate hydrogen from organic materials, maybe with table scraps. It's an interesting idea, and I've seen bateria used for lots of different processes, but this the first time I've seen them used to produce hydrogen. Even a small scale of this might be useful for powering fuel cells, like those used for laptops or small appliances.

We might not get rid of our carbon burning power plants anytime soon, but maybe we can still cut carbon emissions. This was an interesting idea: convert CO2 into baking soda as it comes out of the smoke stacks. Not a bad idea, but what do we do then? Have a bake sale? Launch these things into outer space? Landfill? Who knows and I hope there isn't some by product that we'll discover causes even more issues in ten years.

I've mentioned this before, but I like to see some of our large technology companies paying attention to energy issues. They can have a huge impact because of the amount of press they get. Google is one that's doing a great job and they've stated an ambitious goal: to produce 1 GW of energy from renewable sources. They're investing in a number of companies and looking to deploy viable technologies themselves.

One of the issues with solar or wind power is energy storage. The sun only shines half the day and the wind isn't always blowing, so you need to be able to store power for those off times. We had an issue here at the ranch with our solar powered gate opener dying one morning and forcing my wife to disconnect the gate so she could get the kids to the bus. We moved a panel to catch more of the winter sun, but we're definitely being more conscious of how often we open and close the gate. We leave it open quite often now 🙂

Batteries are expensive, require maintenance, have a relatively short shelf life, and more. I was interested in flywheel systems, but those still have some maintenance and lifetime issues. Air is an interesting choice and one I'd consider. Basically you use your solar or wind power to compress the air and store it in tanks, then use it later to drive a generator of some sort. Motion and magnets can produce electricity, so this is an interesting choice. Space is an issue, but if these could be buried to minimize temperature fluctuations, then this might be a nice short term supply for residences.

Or ranches 🙂

Lastly, want to save the planet? Turn Off That PC. Or better yet, take note when the grid is jammed, turn some stuff off! There's a new device that turns red when power demand on the grid peaks. Not sure how many of us would actually turn off our PC when we're sitting there, but it's not a bad idea. Maybe if this could be hooked up to lower usage if you weren't there? Cut off monitors? Send it to sleep if the screensaver was on?

Steve Jones

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