Monday, May 10, 2010

An Alternative Energy Education Method

The best method of educating young people about alternative energy production that this writer has ever witnessed is the use of the PicoTurbine Company's kits, books, and projects. The PicoTurbine Company produces these things for the purpose of advancing the cause of renewable (alternative) energy and getting young people to look into the future and see that the environment that's being seeded now is the one they will inherit then. As the late, great Gerry Ford said, “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before.” If we are to change the future world for the better, then it starts right here and now with the advent of “green” energy systems. One of the core concepts of PicoTurbine can be stated: Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I might remember some of it. Involve me, and I will master it. Based on this old tried and true adage, the kits that the company produces come with activity suggestions to get the young people into hands-on learning situations. One suggestion of the company is to demonstrate how heat can be produced by wind energy (the company's specialty) through using a “picture wire” for the heating element. PicoTurbine has found that people typically think of wind energy as being “cold” energy, and are pleasantly surprised to see how wind can be used for generating heat in the home. Another project suggestion that the company offers is to have different groups split off in the classroom and then compare their respective wind turbines that they have built. They can see which ones produce the most or least electricity; which ones start up with need of the least amount of wind power; and for very young children, which ones have th e most aesthetic appeal. There is a core curriculum that PicoTurbine has in mind for teachers to instill in their pupils. Renewable, alternative sources of energy include solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass in addition to wind-produced energy. When we use more alternative sources of energy, we decrease our nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies, which often come from nations who cannot really be called our “allies”. Alternative energy is already becoming cost effective when set against the fossil fuels that we are so reliant on currently. PicoTurbine points out that wind farms and solar arrays are already letting their makers enjoy commercial success. In the last two decades, the cost of photovoltaic cells expressed in terms of per-watt has gone from nearly $1000 to just $4! It has been predicted by analysts that by the year 2015, the cost per watt should only be about $1 (in today's dollars). Students also need to be taught about the hidden cost of fossil fuels: pollution and environmental degradation. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels has been shown through studies to increase incidences of asthma attacks, heighten the effects of allergies, and even cause cancer. Switching over to clean, green energy found in the alternative forms would prevent air pollution and help bolster the environment.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Some Suppliers of Alternative Energy

Amelot Holdings is a company which presently specializes in the development of biodiesel and ethanol plants throughout the US. Amelot's objective is to establish relationships between various suppliers of alternative energy who are biodiesel and ethanol researchers or producers to further their ends with long-term profitability and growth in mind. Amelot furthers the cause of these alternative energy suppliers through the formulation of joint ventures, mergers, and construction contracts. Environmental Power is an alternative energy supplier that has two subsidiary companies. One of these is Microgy, which is Environmental Power's research and development arm. Microgy is a developer of biogas facilities for the cost-effective and environmentally clean production of renewable energy derived from food and agricultural waste products. These biogas fuels can be used in a number of different applications. They can be used in combustion chamber engines, used directly to make fossil fuel reliance less of a need, or cleaned up to meet natural gas standards and then piped to offices or homes for heating. Environmental Power's other subsidiary is Buzzard Power. Buzzard has an 83 megawatt power facility which generates green energy from mined coal waste. Environmental Power says of itself, we have a long and successful history of developing clean energy facilities. Since 1982 we have developed, owned and operated hydroelectric plants, municipal waste projects, coal-fired generating facilities and clean g as generation and energy recovery facilities. We are proud to have a management team and board of directors comprised of leaders from both the public and private sectors, including the energy, agriculture and finance industries. Intrepid Technology and Resources, Inc, is a company that processes waste into natural gas as an alternative source of energy. The company's vision centers on the fact that the US produces two billion tons of animal waste every year, while at once the US' supply of natural gas is dwindling. ITR builds “organic waste digesters” local to sites of organic waste. These facilities produce, clean, and distribute the methane gas from the organic waste; methane gas is a viable alternative to natural gas. ITR is presently operating in Idaho with plans for national expansion. Nathaniel Energy is a company with the objective of protecting the environment and minimizing total cost of business ownership. The Nathaniel Energy Total Value Preservation System (TVPS) gives companies unique benefits through Nathaniel's recognition of the alternative energy potential of materials that are usually seen as nothing more than waste or pollutants. Nathaniel Energy's technology allows it to extract and transform into alternative energy virtually all of the potential energy locked in waste materials. All of this is produced at almost no additional cost beyond what a company would have had to spend in order to install pollution control and prevention systems. Nathaniel Energy's innovative TVPS recovers valuable resources which other processes fail to. Throughout the entire process, the maximum amount of valuable material is recovered for reuse, which results in lowered costs and environmental protection. Usual pollution cleanup and control processes treat these materials as mere contaminants tha t are either destroyed or discarded. The TVPS therefore decreases the total cost of business ownership through the provision of an additional stream of income.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Ways that the Military is Using Alternative Energy

The US military knows that its branches must revamp their thinking about how to engage in “the theater of war” in the new, post-Cold War world of the 21st century. One thing that the military leaders stress is the desire for the forces deployed in the theater to be able to be more energy-independent. Currently the US military has policies and procedures in place to interact with allies or sympathetic local populaces to help its forces in the field get their needed energy and clean water when engaged in a foreign military campaign. However, this is not wholly reliable, as the US might well find itself facing unilateral military activities, or have itself in a situation where its allies cannot help it with the resources it needs to conduct its military actions successfully. The US military is very interested in certain alternative energies that, with the right research and development technologically, can make it energy independent, or at least a great deal more so, on the battlefield. One of the things that greatly interests the military along these lines is the development of small nuclear reactors, which could be portable, for producing theater-local electricity. The military is impressed with how clean-burning nuclear reactors are and how energy efficient they are. Making them portable for the typical warfare of today's highly mobile, small-scaled military operations is something they are researching. The most prominent thing that the US military thinks these small nuclear reactors would be useful for involves the removal of hydrogen (for fuel cell) from seawater. It also thinks that converting seawater to hydrogen fuel in this way would have less negative impact on the environment than its current practices of remaining supplied out in the field. Seawater is, in fact, the military's highest interest when it comes to the matter of alternative energy supply. Seawater can be endlessly “mined” for hydrogen, which in turn powers advanced fuel cells. Using OTEC, seawater can also be endlessly converted into desalinated, potable water. Potable water and hydrogen for power are two of the things that a near-future deployed military force will need most of all. In the cores of nuclear reactors—which as stated above are devices highly interesting, in portable form, to the US military—we encounter temperatures greater than 1000 degrees Celsius. When this level of temperature is mixed with a thermo-chemical water-splitting procedure, we have on our hands the most efficient means of breaking down water into its component parts, which are molecular hydrogen and oxygen. The minerals and salts that are contained in seawater would have to be extracted via a desalination process in order to make the way clear for the water-splitting process. These could then be utilized, such as in vitamins or in salt shakers, or simply sent back to the ocean (recycling). Using the power of nuclear reactors to extract this hydrogen from the sea, in order to then input that into fuel cells to power advanced airplanes, tanks, ground vehicles, and the like, is clearly high on the R & D priority list of the military.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Alternative Energy from the Ocean

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) was conceived of by the French engineer Jacques D'Arsonval in 1881. However, at the time of this writing the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii is home to the only operating experimental OTEC plant on the face of the earth. OTEC is a potential alternative energy source that needs to be funded and explored much more than it presently is. The great hurdle to get over with OTEC implementation on a wide and practically useful level is cost. It is difficult to get the costs down to a reasonable level because of the processes presently utilized to drive OTEC. Ocean thermal energy would be very clean burning and not add pollutants into the air. However, as it presently would need to be set up with our current technologies, OTEC plants would have the capacity for disrupting and perhaps damaging the local environment. There are three kinds of OTEC. “Closed Cycle OTEC” uses a low-boiling point liquid such as, for example, propane to act as an intermediate fluid. The OTEC plant pumps the warm sea water into the reaction chamber and boils the intermediate fluid. This results in the intermediate fluid's vapor pushing the turbine of the engine, which thus generates electricity. The vapor is then cooled down by putting in cold sea water. “Open Cycle OTEC” is not that different from closed cycling, except in the Open Cycle there is no intermediate fluid. The sea water itself is the driver of the turbine engine in this OTEC format. Warm sea water found on the surface of the ocean is turned into a low-pressure vapor under the constraint of a vacuum. The low-pressure vapor is released in a focused area and it has the power to drive the turbine. To cool down the vapor and create desalinated water for human consumption, the deeper ocean's cold waters are added to the vapor after it has generated sufficient electricity. “Hybrid Cycle OTEC” is really just a theory for the time being. It seeks to describe the way that we could make maximum usage of the thermal energy of the ocean's waters. There are actually two sub-theories to the theory of Hybrid Cycling. The first involves using a closed cycling to generate electricity. This electricity is in turn used to create the vacuum environment needed for open cycling. The second component is the integration of two open cyclings such that twice the amount of desalinated, potable water is created that with just one open cycle. In addition to being used for producing electricity, a closed cycle OTEC plant can be utilized for treating chemicals. OTEC plants, both open cycling and close cycling kinds, are also able to be utilized for pumping up cold deep sea water which can then be used for refrigeration and air conditioning. Furthermore, during the moderation period when the sea water is surrounding the plant, the enclosed are can be used for mariculture and aquaculture projects such as fish farming. There is clearly quite an array of products and services that we could derive from this alternative energy source.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Solar Energy Collecting as an Alternative Energy Source

Photovoltaic cells—those black squares an array of which comprises a solar panel—are getting more efficient, and gradually less expensive, all the time, thanks to ever-better designs which all them to focus the gathered sunlight on a more and more concentrated point. The size of the cells is decreasing as their efficiency rises, meaning that each cell becomes cheaper to produce and at once more productive. As far as the aforementioned cost, the price of producing solar-generated energy per watt hour has come down to $4.00 at the time of this writing. Just 17 years ago, it was nearly double that cost. Solar powered electricity generation is certainly good for the environment, as this alternative form of producing energy gives off absolutely zero emissions into the atmosphere and is merely utilizing one of the most naturally occurring of all things as its driver. Solar collection cells are becoming slowly but surely ever more practical for placing upon the rooftops of people's homes, and they are not a difficult system to use for heating one's home, creating hot water, or producing electricity. In the case of using the photovoltaic cells for hot water generation, the system works by having the water encased in the cells, where it is heated and then sent through your pipes. Photovoltaic cells are becoming increasingly better at collecting sufficient radiation from the sun even on overcast or stormy days. One company in particular, Uni-Solar, has developed solar collection arrays for the home that work well on inclement days, by way of a technologically more advanced system that stores more energy at one time during sunlit days than previous or other arrays. There is actually another solar power system available for use called the PV System. The PV System is connected to the nearest electrical grid; whenever there is an excess of solar energy being collected at a particular home, it is transferred to the grid for shared use and as a means of lowering the grid's dependence on the hydroelectrically-driven electricity production. Being connected to the PV System can keep your costs down as compared to full-fledged solar energy, while at once reducing pollution and taking pressure off the grid system. Some areas are designing centralized solar collection arrays for small towns or suburban communities. Some big-name corporations have made it clear that they are also getting into the act of using solar power (a further indication that solar generated energy is becoming an economically viable alternative energy source). Google is putting in a 1.6 megawatt solar power generation plant on the roof of its corporate headquarters, while Wal Mart wants to put in an enormous 100 megawatt system of its own. Nations such as Japan, Germany, the United States, and Switzerland have been furthering the cause of solar energy production by providing government subsidies or by giving tax breaks to companies and individuals who agree to utilize solar power for generating their heat or electrical power. As technology advances and a greater storage of solar collection materials is made available, more and more private investors will see the value of investing in this “green” technology and further its implementation much more.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Consultants on Alternative Energy

The alternative energy consultants tell us that the transition from the petroleum-driven economy and society will not be a smooth one, on the whole. The amount of new technologies and infrastructures that need to be developed and built is staggering—even as Germany achieves powering 10% of the entire nation through the use of wind turbines and solar arrays, even as corporation after corporation is springing up, helped by various governments' tax breaks and rebate incentives, to drive forward the alternative energy mission. We have lain dormant on alternative energy on the grand scale for so long that we now have to scramble to play catch-up as access to cheap oil lurks ever closer to being a thing of the past. Consultants on alternative energy also tell us that we need multilateral, international efforts in concert with one another in the direction of getting away from the heavy—almost total—dependence on fossil fuels. They are poised to become too expensive, burning them is polluting the atmosphere, and digging for them is disrupting the natural environment. We have about 30 years left of reasonably cheap oil and gas—and consultants say that within 20 years beyond that point, we had better be at least 90% independent of them. Unfortunately, at the present time the world is mostly not acting as if this is the case. The thirst for oil is growing, not slaking, and it is growing faster now than it did even in the 1970s. One of the major problems of transition, the consultants point out, is that higher oil and gas prices stimulate the economy (This flies in the face of what many energy so-called “experts” and many members of the public believe, but the fact is that oil and gas are found and manufactured and transported by huge corporations who employ multitudes of staff workers and contractors; and from their huge profits their stocks remain lucrative on Wall Street.). Alternative, or “green” energy has to become more marketplace friendly, more profitable to investors and would-be employers. Wall Street does not like change; so there is resistance to this much-needed economic transition. It is because of this that many consultants are saying that we need an international, governments-backed initiative put into place; we are told that we cannot expect the new economy to spring forth overnight, all clean and polished and perfected, from the black ashes of the fossil fuel economy phoenix. It is most imperative that the wealthy, big-production nations such as the US, Japan, Western Europe, and others be the ones to spearhead the effort to get off of the fossil fuel dependence. Smaller, poorer nations are very simply never going to achieve the level of energy production through coal and oil that these nations have—for by the time they would be ready to, the cheap access to the fossil fuels will be gone, and they will never be able to sustain their newly-risen civilizations at that time as we have been able to do. The time for transition from black to green is now.