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Where will our clean energy come from?
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PostPosted: 19-05-2002 17:28    Post subject: Where will our clean energy come from? Reply with quote

Professor Ian Fells is a specialist in matters regarding energy generation, is/was head of Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University, and has influenced government energy policy as a consultant. In short, he knows his stuff, and I summarise below an article published in this month’s The Chemical Engineer journal. It highlights some shortfalls in our current thinking on energy policy in the long term. The article refers to a report issued by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) to the government which will influence future energy policy.

“One of the planks of the PIU Energy Review is a move to a low carbon economy; no one will disagree with the efficacy of this but some of the solutions presented in the report smack of wishful thinking.

“10% of electricity is to come from renewable sources by 2010 and 10% by 2020. The current figure is 2.8%, most of which comes from large-scale hydroelectric sources or from burning waste such as landfill gas. The PIU report postulates that the increase will be largely provided by wind, both onshore and offshore, and biomass; there are no large scale hydroelectric sites remaining….no attempt at energy arithmetic seems to have been attempted. For example, if all the wind farms currently operating in the world were to be put on the South Downs…they would generate only 10% of the UK’s electricity. To produce just 5% of the UK’s electricity would require two 2MW machines to be installed every day between now and 2010, around half of them offshore. The floating cranes necessary to install at this rate will have to be built, and in addition the undersea cabling also presents a problem. No doubt a huge capital investment programme…can be mounted, but it is doubtful that the private sector will pay for it.

“The other problem with wind is its fickle nature; on average, the necessary wind strength to generate electricity is only available for one quarter of the time. Alternative sources will be needed to keep the lights on should an anticyclone dominate the weather; this should be factored in…Accommodating any intermittent electricity source into the grid presents considerable problems and…seems to have only been considered in the PIU report in an inspirational way.

“As to biomass as a major source of electricity, a little arithmetic shows the whole of Kent would have to be turned over to coppiced willow to replace half the output of Dungeness B nuclear power station on the Kent coast. Wind and biomass will play a part…but it is irresponsible to project a role for them which is unrealistically high.

“The PIU is enthusiastic about hydrogen taking over as the fuel for road transport. Fuel cells ‘burning’ hydrogen are at an early demonstration stage. But where is the hydrogen to come from? Currently, hydrogen is produced by reforming natural gas or naphtha, which puts yet more CO2 into the atmosphere. Only electrolysis of water using renewable or nuclear electricity will provide hydrogen without CO2 as a by-product. The additional electricity required would require a doubling of the electricity supply system. To do this, we need to start planning now for new nuclear power stations.

“What is already clear by applying a little arithmetic is that ‘clean energy’ is what is required, and that means all the renewable and nuclear energy we can muster….This will require investment, as free-market policies will not deliver the long-term strategies required. We must move into a ‘post-market’ era.”

Interesting, eh? Especially when all our nuclear stations are being mothballed and decommissioned.

One last titbit (from a different source):

“The Toshiba Corporation has announced plans to build pig-dung gasification technology into its construction projects in Guangdong province, China… plans are now afoot to make similar use of human excrement from the country’s prison population…Perhaps if we all committed a crime, the world’s energy problems would be solved.”
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PostPosted: 19-05-2002 18:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some whimsical thoughts: many people in the western world are becoming obese through lack of exercise, so let's set up public treadmills where people could exercise and generate power.

Put them in schools and prisons too. (Each prisoner to give an hour per day? Perhaps the physically fit unemployed too...!) These treadmills need not be traditional hamster wheel shapes - they could be modified to be more like those machines people run on in gyms, and in other ways to make them more fun.

Intermittent energy can be stored by pumping water uphill into reservoirs, which release it to drive turbines when required. There are schemes like this in mountainous parts, but a coastline with cliffs could be used too - there's always plenty of seawater.

Heat energy can be stored underground:
(This does not provide electric power, but reduces the need for it.)

Wave energy devices also have the advantage of providing calmer water in their shelter, helping reduce coastal erosion and provide sheltered harbours and waterways.

Last edited by rynner on 19-05-2002 18:22; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 19-05-2002 18:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed, there is a raft of alternative energy sources, but the problem is whether these will ever be applied on a scale or at an efficiency capable of delivering what we need. Prof. Fells is trying to show us that the way ahead if we're going to be cleaner and greener is, ironically, the use of nuclear to pick up the shortfall. Then there is the possibility of fusion, but that's a well-worn Fortean topic in itself.
It's all very well the Green lobby telling us we should be switching to these energy sources, but they never actually consider the engineering requirements and the number crunching required to get us there, unless we start to do without the bare essentials. Unfortunately, energy is the bedrock of modern society, so taking such a step back cannot happen.
I also like the point that something as fundamental as energy shouldn't be left to the private sector to sort out. That of course means we're going to go on "burning stuff" for as long as possible.
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PostPosted: 19-05-2002 20:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand the point about doing the sums, and I agree it's a pity nuclear power got itself such a bad image - its benefits probably outweigh its disadvantages, even without fusion power.

Something else that ought to be addressed though is the WASTE of energy in modern society. When shops and offices open up nowadays all the lights go on, and stay on all day, regardless of how much daylight is available. Anyone would think that windows had not been invented. (No, I'm not talking software here!) I can think of several shops that have no real windows anymore.

If modern buildings took more advantage of natural light there could be a big saving on power. Perhaps a tax on electricity used during daylight might make people more thoughtful. (It would not be difficult to separately meter lighting circuits and those used for industrial processes.)
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PostPosted: 23-05-2002 16:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say it is as much of a people problem as it is a technology problem. It seems as though our nations' great thinkers just aren't coming up with ideas like rynner's and Dark Detective's... that or they just don't want to hear them.

I'm also somewhat suprised at their reluctance to move from one energy source to another. Do they feel it's just not worth the effort to drive a change to use different sources of energy if it only marks a 5 or 10 per-cent increase over fossil fuel efficiency?

Another mystery is the sheer greed of modern man. I live in an apartment and my electricy bill is about 15 dollars a month. In the summer that can double if I have to use air-conditioning regularly, but thats still pretty low. I still think it's just common sense that keeps my bill low. If I'm not using it, it's turned off. Speaking of which, I need to remember to shut off the power supply to my tv, vcr, dvd, cd changer setup since they each use electricity even when turned off.... how odd.
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PostPosted: 10-06-2002 14:19    Post subject: Re: Where will our clean energy come from? Reply with quote

I favor solar boilers, as done at Barstow, california, usa.
very clean energy...for the power to electric cars...which frees us fm mideast oil.
John Newtol

Last edited by Guest on 14-06-2002 16:40; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 10-06-2002 14:37    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's always the outlandish notion of converting the world into one massive dynamo. Think about it, it requires no input but would provide maximum, clean output.
Although the engineering skills required probably don't exist and neither does the science just yet I'm fairly certain that it could be done without ripping the globe apart.
I really did miss my calling as a mad scientist you know.
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PostPosted: 28-07-2002 14:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

My lack of skill with these ghastly grey boxes prevents me actually sticking a link doo-dad in here, but check out the website of a company going by the name of ReGenTech. They are based in Aberdeen and specialise in hydrogen powered generators etc.
It mght be possible to develop an engine which is an entirely closed system, using electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water in the fuel tank, burning the hydrogen, then condensing the water vapour back into the fuel tank. No exhaust of any sort; be it scalding vapour or puddles of lukewarm water.
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PostPosted: 28-07-2002 17:18    Post subject: Reply with quote

IIRC, there is a way for water to be 'cracked' to create hydrogen using solar energy - in that way, (for example) the countries in the Middle East who now produce oil could convert over to 'cracking' (for want of a better word). They have massive open areas of unpopulated land that could be the sites for solar energy/cracking farms. Just a thought. I don't think we'd have to resort to nuclear energy to do this.
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PostPosted: 28-07-2002 19:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

lol, treadmills, i like that. my friend one time drew a political cartoon... it solved california's energy shortage and prisoner treatment. He drew the prisoners bikeing to produce energy... i guess it could work but they would get really strong lets and they could escape the prisons...
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PostPosted: 29-07-2002 17:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

We could do a sort of Matrix affair with them...
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PostPosted: 29-07-2002 17:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inverurie Jones wrote:

It mght be possible to develop an engine which is an entirely closed system, using electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water in the fuel tank, burning the hydrogen, then condensing the water vapour back into the fuel tank. No exhaust of any sort; be it scalding vapour or puddles of lukewarm water.

It would be better to use a fuel cell to convert your hydrogen and oxygen back into water, as in principle they can do the conversion a lot better than the infernal combustion engine. Wink When extracting work from a heat source, your limited by the laws of thermodynamics. Basically your efficiency goes as

efficiency = 1- T_lower/T_upper,

where T_upper is the hot temperature (absolute) of your working medium (e.g. the steam in your generator) and T_lower is the cold temperature at the end of the cycle (e.g. room temperature). What it means is that to get a better efficiency youy need to generate as high a temperature as you can.

If you're converting the chemical energy directly into electrical energy (as in a fuel cell) then by missing out the extraction of energy from heat step you can get better efficiencies.

If you combine this with the "solar powered cracking", you could end off with a nice energy source. Smile
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PostPosted: 03-08-2002 20:12    Post subject: Clean energy Reply with quote

Odd for a Fortean forum.... but as usual the balance between energy supply and demand has been left undeveloped. Huge savings are possible with energy conservation and its cheaper £ for £ than new supply. And actually hydrogen based fuel cells - even if running methanol or natural gas for intermediate term are going to be a very effective technology.[politics willing] Plug your fuel cell car in to your energy efficient house and it'll provide heat and light. Fret not -just keep away from nuclearfor all our sakes. Chernobyl happened here remember.
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PostPosted: 02-09-2002 17:30    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too late.

"Nuclear power set for a comeback

"THE Prime Minister is under pressure from his ministers, advisers and industry to approve at least three new nuclear power stations. They would almost certainly be built on existing sites, and approved before the end of the year.
The policy shift that would outrage environmental groups and many on the Left.

"Mr Blair is being advised that unless the Government sanctions new stations now, security of electricity supply at reasonable prices cannot be guaranteed from about 2010, when most of the old Magnox stations will have gone out of existence. Government figures suggest that Britain might need to import 90 per cent of its gas needs by 2020.

"Recent government reviews have dodged the nuclear power issue, but yesterday Brian Wilson, the Energy Minister, said that such a stance would no longer do without a firm commitment to the industry.",,2-401704,00.html
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PostPosted: 02-09-2002 18:40    Post subject: Too late? Reply with quote

So you approve? Ahh yes the vested interests grind on. Luckily in this drama there is always the good fairy ready to puncture the rhetoric and fearmongering. Say hello to the good fairy Amory Lovins for it is he: writing last year.

"The nuclear industry wants to resuscitate its product. Sorry—it already died of an incurable attack of market forces. Overwhelmed by huge construction and repair costs, it achieved less than 1/10th the capacity and 1/100th the new orders proponents predicted—the greatest collapse in industrial history. Only centrally planned energy systems (Russia, Taiwan, the Koreas, Japan) still propose nuclear plants.

"If a thing is not worth doing," said economist Lord Keynes, "it is not worth doing well." Even ignoring risks—bomb-spreading, wastes, uninsurable accidents—nuclear power is uncompetitive and unnecessary. After a trillion-dollar taxpayer investment, it delivers little more U.S. energy than wood. Globally, it produces less energy than renewables. In the 1990s, global nuclear capacity rose by 1% a year, vs. 17% for solar cells (24% last year) and 24% for windpower (lately adding more annual megawatts than nuclear). In the 1990s, California added more decentralized megawatts than its two giant nuclear plants—whose debts triggered its current utility mess.

Enthusiasts claim hypothetical new reactors might deliver a kilowatt-hour for 6¢, vs. 10+¢ for post-1980 plants. (Nearly 3¢ pays for delivery to customers.) But super-efficient gas plants or windfarms cost 5–6¢, cogeneration of heat and power often 1–5¢, and efficient lights, motors, and other electricity-saving devices under 2¢; and they're all getting cheaper. So are the next winners, fuel cells and solar cells—where a pound of silicon can produce more electricity than a pound of nuclear fuel.

Efficient use is the nation's largest and fastest-growing energy source: bigger than oil, growing 3.1% a year. Just electricity efficiency can save four times nuclear power's output, at 1/6th its operating cost.

Those faster, cheaper, safer options emit little or no pollution, and most are climate-safe. But buying nuclear power instead makes global warming worse. Why? If delivering a new nuclear kWh cost only (say) 6¢, while saving a kWh cost (pessimistically) 3¢, then the 6¢ spent on the nuclear kWh could instead have bought two efficiency kWh. The extra kWh not saved would be unnecessarily made from coal—which wouldn't have turned into global warming if we'd chosen the best buy first.

Nuclear salesmen scour the world for a single order, while makers of alternatives enjoy brisk business. Let's profit from their experience. Taking markets seriously, not propping up failed technologies at public expense, offers a stable climate, a prosperous economy, and a cleaner and more peaceful world. "

So its far from too late, there is only so long you can back a loser in a market if you say you believe in markets.

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