The April Energy Update

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 721027

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item The April Energy Update

  • John Magnabosco

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1195

    Kudos, Steve! Your periodic dialogue on energy is inspiring. As I go to spend $50 to fill up my Jeep with fuel this morning my enthusiasm for alternative fuel and energy resources increase. The great thing is that the more I read about these opportunities it becomes evident that there are alot of solutions already on the market and they appear to work as well or better than standard methods.

    There is a great episode of "Living With Ed" where Larry Hagman is showing off his house. The focus is all of the great "green" technology he has implemented. (Living With Ed : Episode HLWED-202)

    This episode happened to air on 4/22 as a repeat.

  • robert.sinclair

    SSC Journeyman

    Points: 76

    Although I am in favour of energy sources which do not rely on fossil fuels from states which may not always be friendly, or crops grown on limited arable land I have one question. Where does the power come from at night, on windless days when wave power will be down also. Days like this tend to be at the extremes of temperature range for a region/country and I would guess that power demands will be above average at these times. Even tidal power generation has its problems due to slack water - I think it is known as The rule of Twelfths. Hydro electric will be affected by periods of low rainfall in most countries.

    In the worst case, what happens during the night, in summer with a stalled anticyclone, during a drought and at slack water in a neap tide?

  • grk5

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 258

    Wanted to say I enjoyed reading today's editorial. I have been trying to find several energy alternatives that would have lower impacts on the environment. I worked at an electric generating nuclear plant in the 1990's and learned that we were tops in the power generation field. Since I was from a computer oriented manufacturing environment where output should equal close to input (like 95% first quality goods), it surprised me to find out the energy output at a nuclear plant is somewhere between 40% and 60% of the energy released by the radioactive isotopes. But...with that said, nuclear power generation is still the more economical than coal and natural gas. The plant I was at even pumped water uphill during low peaks and released it as hydro power during peak times.

    This year, I research putting up some generating capacity on my house (in eastern NC where the sun shines a lot.) To hook into the grid was too cost prohibitive. It still got me learning about many alternatives. My favorite to date is the heating/cooling system where you have a closed water system that goes into the ground a certain distance and it loops back out and circulates the water to get a cooling/heating effect.

    As far as worrying about daylight, wind, etc. always being there... That's where you build in differing systems that cover for each other. We must develop good battery storage systems that can release the energy when other means of producing are not there.

    Again, I am glad to see others in my industry focusing on conservation.

    -- Al

  • MG-148046

    SSCrazy Eights

    Points: 9946

    I just found this yesterday. They claim they will be able to produce "bio gas" for ~1.10 to 1.50 per gallon retail.

    http://news.zdnet.com/2422-13748_22-191798.html

    I've also been looking into renting solar panels. I live in the Houston, TX area and we get a lot of sun. I also have a 184 foot long barn that I can put the panels on! It's a $500 up front charge and then you pay only for the kilowatts you use. This is the one Ed Begley is promoting.

    http://rentsolarpanel.com/

    MG

    "There are two ways of constructing a software design. One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies. And the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies."
    Tony Hoare

    "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." Red Adair.

  • BJ Hermsen

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3123

    An idea for you to look into is the Mariah Power company's Windspire Vertical wind turbine. They have a smaller footprint and are to some more pleasing to the eye. I too have put up a weather station and am collecting data. Would we truly be data driven dorks if we didn't collect data for long periods of time for what some would call trivial adventures. Best gift i ever gave my wife. You can get some fairly inexpensive weather stations (1-300 bucks) which are fairly robust. They also can link up with several weather monitoring services to provide a more robust weather footprint than just the local tv stations. Unfortunately i have found that we do not have a high enough wind speed at least to date (monitoring since february) and the other part i need to figure out is if the city will even allow the 40ft mast.

    Check them out at http://mariahpower.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=35

    They will be installing one this spring in Central Wisconsin for a demo at the Midwest Renewable Energy Conference.

  • Bryant McClellan

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4284

    Relative to the question regarding tidal power, there is a test scenario set up off Maui to test the viability of wave forces below the surface. Those forces are thought to more constant than wind-driven waves.

    On the other hand there are huge expanses of ocean with nothing to block the wind and generally favorable wave action in consequence, like the pacific between Alaska and Hawaii...virtually nothing to block the wind. Of course there is a problem with harvesting the electricity from 3000 miles from nowhere...

    Here in the Midwest some of us are being informed by American Electric Power that electric rates will jump 25%. Whether wave, wind and/or solar power are reasonable alternatives to fossil-fueled power generation, the fact that AEP owns 1 or more IDLE nuclear power generation plants, paid for by customers, is criminal. Those plants could have a significant impact on the use of fossil fuels in the Midwest, which is typically linked to acid rain on the East coast. And with the point taken relative to when it is dark and/or the wind is calm and/or misuse of arable land to produce fuels of dubious benefit versus the costs to world food supplies, it is about time America got off its duff and went back to long-term sustainable power generation with proven minor environmental impact.

    ------------
    Buy the ticket, take the ride. -- Hunter S. Thompson

  • BJ Hermsen

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3123

    we are going to definitely need to look into wireless for electricity to get it back from those wave generators 😛

    Just don't cross throuhg the liquid hot magma laser beem of electricity and you will be fine 😛

  • Matt Miller (4)

    SSC Guru

    Points: 124208

    Since we're talking energy - this caught my eye the other day....

    http://wral.com/news/state/story/2746305/[/url]

    As always - there seems to be some amount of controvery as to how "green" this process is, but it is a definite improvement in the carbon footprint area. The regulators around here seem to love the idea...

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part...unless you're my manager...or a director and above...or a really loud-spoken end-user..All right - what was my emergency again?

  • Neal B. Scott

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 156

    I always wondered why a Stirling engine couldn't be used to generate energy somehow, someway.

  • Miles Neale

    SSChampion

    Points: 13147

    Robert -

    Excellent question. What I would do is to use the battery that has stored the e- from the light hours. Or go out to the beach with an open fire, grill a little dinner, invite a friend or two, and sleep in the open air.

    We can not think that life ends if there is not a lot of e-.

    Have a great day.

    Not all gray hairs are Dinosaurs!

  • thelabwiz

    Old Hand

    Points: 389

    The unfinished area of our basement is very dark, so I've tried numerous things to provide walk lighting (so you can find the switch for the overhead lights) without burning a lot of electricity. The best thing so far is a 0.6 watt LED bulb that provides far more light than the 7 watt incandescent that it replaced.

    The garage end of the house is also a dark area, so I've installed a 1.8 watt LED bulb there for outside security lighting (primarily for my wife's peace of mind, as we live in a very safe area). The LED bulb is functionally equivalent to the 40 watt incandescent it replaced (no dark corners for someone to hide in). And even with this low power, there's a dusk/dawn sensor on the light.

    There are a lot of opportunities for low power solar use. Even the 1.5 watt solar panel that Harbor Freight frequently puts on sale for $10 could keep a 12 volt SLA battery charged to handle LED nightlights and some outside lighting.

    We use captured rainwater for garden irrigation and I'm currently designing a small solar powered pump system to get the water to the uphill sections of the yard. A pump that draws 1.8 amps for 2 hours a week (3.6AH), combined with a 12AH battery and a solar panel that produces 120 milliamps for 6 to 8 hours a day. 120ma * 6 hours * 6 days = 4.3AH, which will fully recharge the battery - this allows for 1 day each week with zero sun (we don't usually have more than this during the growing season). The additional battery capacity (12AH) allows for more cloudy days and extends the battery's life (lower percentage discharge in normal use). In addition, the solar panel provides some charge during the non-peak hours. The total cost for the solar panel, battery, and pump is about $100US.

    None of these things has a major impact on the use of resources, but lots of little things add up.

    If you want specifics on the parts mentioned, send email to rain at wizardanswers dot com.

    John

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 721027

    John,

    Those sound like very interesting projects. Are they written up anywhere? You want to write an update for me sometime ;)?

    The greenness of technologies is always an issue. I've heard that despite the power savings we'll get with CF bulbs, the waste problem is large and with incandescents disappearing in the US soon, that's something to think about. I like LEDs, but the cost has to come down. And I need to see how well they work compared to other technologies.

    Renting solar is a good idea. I wish I had more choices there, or even some rebates here to help things along. Alas my co-op is not very interested as of yet in trying to make things work better.

    Most tidal power doesn't depend on wind. However I'm still concerned about the durability of the devices.

    What do you do when there's no wind (or solar, etc)? That's a good question. If you have everyone in an area using wind and it dies, then the grid takes a hit. However if we still have a national grid, then hopefully some other area has less of a demand because they have wind or solar or geo or something. I still think that if we can reduce our dependence on big power plants, especially fossil fuels, then we're better off. Maybe we have more, smaller generators that kick on to handle the lack of wind. Maybe we use flywheels or compressed air to "store" energy.

    Lots of choices, we just need these industries to grow with demand and bring costs down. And probably most importantly to me, we need builders to start building everything with lower energy requirements, more efficiency, or alternative technologies integrated.

    Hey, no one likes my "build in fridge" idea?

  • Matt Miller (4)

    SSC Guru

    Points: 124208

    Steve Jones - Editor (4/23/2008)


    John,

    Those sound like very interesting projects. Are they written up anywhere? You want to write an update for me sometime ;)?

    The greenness of technologies is always an issue. I've heard that despite the power savings we'll get with CF bulbs, the waste problem is large and with incandescents disappearing in the US soon, that's something to think about. I like LEDs, but the cost has to come down. And I need to see how well they work compared to other technologies.

    Renting solar is a good idea. I wish I had more choices there, or even some rebates here to help things along. Alas my co-op is not very interested as of yet in trying to make things work better.

    Most tidal power doesn't depend on wind. However I'm still concerned about the durability of the devices.

    What do you do when there's no wind (or solar, etc)? That's a good question. If you have everyone in an area using wind and it dies, then the grid takes a hit. However if we still have a national grid, then hopefully some other area has less of a demand because they have wind or solar or geo or something. I still think that if we can reduce our dependence on big power plants, especially fossil fuels, then we're better off. Maybe we have more, smaller generators that kick on to handle the lack of wind. Maybe we use flywheels or compressed air to "store" energy.

    Lots of choices, we just need these industries to grow with demand and bring costs down. And probably most importantly to me, we need builders to start building everything with lower energy requirements, more efficiency, or alternative technologies integrated.

    Hey, no one likes my "build in fridge" idea?

    The "no access" argument might work for Wind power, but not solar. Short of being above the arctic circle - there really shouldn't be a whole lot of concern about being in an area with insufficient solar supply. Most everywhere has enough solar irradiance to make a substantial dent.

    Take a look at this - this is the NREL solar radiance for North America (I'm using this as an example, since it's stuff I've researched for myself; I'm sure we could find the same for other regions - just wouldn't know where to go seeking this stuff right now).

    http://www.findsolar.com/solar_radiance.pdf

    Given the average consumption in a typical house is somewhere just shy of 900kWh/month, and the typical irradiation is somewhere around 5, you're talking about somewhere in the ball park of 60-75 square yards of solar panels to handle 100% of the household usage, which would be mean you'd have ample coverage with the area covered by the roof.

    The concern is the cost in that case....(the manufacturing process have been greatly improving, so the "this is not green" argument is starting to lose its punch; photovoltaic material manufacturing still seems to have a 90% decrease in airborne pathogens and greenhouse gases over traditional energy generation techniques in the US).

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part...unless you're my manager...or a director and above...or a really loud-spoken end-user..All right - what was my emergency again?

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 721027

    Don't forget that while you might have the panels to power your house, the power is only there part of the day. You need a storage system of some sorts, usually batteries now, that is fairly expensive.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 23 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply