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Old 11-03-2008, 02:50 PM  
MagicHef MagicHef is offline
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Alternative Energy

I don't know how much attention this will get the day before Election Day, but given that there are several threads based on alternative energy / global warming, etc. I was wondering what people's opinions were on any possible solutions. I am focused mainly on electricity production, as it seems to me that with the imminent production of a plug-in hybrid, large-scale electricity production will become even more important than it is today. I'll copy my posts from one of those threads below in the (hopefully not) vain hopes that someone will want to discuss this, and simply didn't see it surrounded as it is by name-calling and mud-slinging.
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:50 PM   #2
MagicHef MagicHef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Obama
Let me sort of describe my overall policy.
What Iíve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody elseís out there.
I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; itís just that it will bankrupt them because theyíre going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas thatís being emitted.
That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.
The only thing Iíve said with respect to coal, I havenít been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.
Itís just that it will bankrupt them.
One thing that bothers me is the idea that money will solve our energy problems, that if we throw enough money at this, we will be able to rid ourselves of coal and other evil energy sources. The commercials on TV that are demanding 100% clean energy within 10 years make me laugh. Right now, the DOE is working with GE, Vestas, and other such companies to try to get the US to 20% wind energy by 2020, and this is a VERY ambitious goal.

Other than nuclear power, wind energy is easily the most viable alternative energy source, but it cannot solve our problems. Take a look at Wyoming: we currently get more coal from Wyoming than from anywhere else, but we do not burn the coal in Wyoming and transmit the electricity to where it is needed, we ship the coal around the country because the electric losses would render the power unusable by the time it got to any major city, save maybe Denver. Wyoming is also far and away the best source in the country for another energy resource: wind. The I-80 corridor through the Rockies is widely considered the best wind resource in the entire world, and the plains east of the Rockies are much better resources than most of the rest of the country. However, you obviously cannot ship wind around the country, the electricity must be produced on site, limiting its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the losses in transmisson are not something that money can easily solve. People have been researching ways to limit losses for as long as we have had electricity, and there is not going to be a major breakthrough that will suddenly make building massive wind farms in Wyoming to power the country worthwhile. For now, we are limited to using poorer wind resources around the country, which is what limits the amount of power from wind to around 20% in the next 12 years.

It seems as if solar energy could be more effective, as there are major cities (LA, Phoenix) in areas that are also great solar resources. Unfortunately, solar power is much less efficient than wind or coal, and building solar plants can be cost prohibitive, given the large amount of land and equipment needed to produce the same output as a typical coal power plant.

In my opinion, if we want to get clean energy, nuclear power is the answer. France, for instance, gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power, and is the largest net exporter of electricity in the world, from which it receives around 3 billion euros per year. Unfortunately, it seems as if our current political climate does not allow for a huge increase in the amount of nuclear power plants.
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:51 PM   #3
MagicHef MagicHef is offline
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I don't want anyone to get the idea that I am anti-wind power, it actually has more benefits than most people know about. For instance, power generation currently accounts for about 39% of our current water usage. Wind turbines use no water, which can become a huge deal in the southwest. I support building as many wind farms as make sense, I just believe that we have to look at other areas for power generation as well.
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:55 PM   #4
Demonpenz Demonpenz is offline
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with gas going down in price I am not worried about it. We just need to keep gas at around 2 dollars
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Old 11-03-2008, 02:56 PM   #5
Hydrae Hydrae is offline
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For the solar concerns you noted above, check out the concept of a solar tower. Much less room involved!

http://www.livescience.com/technolog...lar-tower.html
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Old 11-03-2008, 03:05 PM   #6
MagicHef MagicHef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydrae View Post
For the solar concerns you noted above, check out the concept of a solar tower. Much less room involved!

http://www.livescience.com/technolog...lar-tower.html
Any solar plant's power depends on the area of sunlight it captures. If you look at the picture in that link, there is quite an area of mirrors located at the base of the tower. In the story itself, it says that the optimum array of mirrors is a circle with a 1.5 mile radius, and that the system itself is 1/10th as efficient as photovoltaics. That's a pretty huge area, and photovoltaics are already regarded as very inefficient.
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Old 11-03-2008, 03:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demonpenz View Post
with gas going down in price I am not worried about it. We just need to keep gas at around 2 dollars
I do find it quite interesting that a few months ago, everyone was discussing how we needed energy independence, clean energy etc. etc. I'm sure that it was just a coincidence that the rhetoric corresponded exactly with extremely high gas prices, and now that gas prices have fallen again, these issues are not as important.
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Old 11-03-2008, 03:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydrae View Post
For the solar concerns you noted above, check out the concept of a solar tower. Much less room involved!

http://www.livescience.com/technolog...lar-tower.html
It's also supposed to cost a billion dollars! That's about 3 times the cost of wind turbines producing the same amount of power.
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Old 11-03-2008, 07:27 PM   #9
Hydrae Hydrae is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicHef View Post
It's also supposed to cost a billion dollars! That's about 3 times the cost of wind turbines producing the same amount of power.
Wow, ok that was not the example I was looking for. Sorry, at work and very busy earlier so I was unable to follow up.

What I was looking for is a towerlike setup that uses mirrors to focus the solar energy to a single point. If I am remembering correctly this is being used to heat water and produce steam which then drives a turbine. Then you collect the condensation from the steam at the very top, allow it to cool and you can run additional turbines that are pushed by the cooler water as it decends back to the reservoir.

Basically, you are correct about the issue with transmission of electricity. The only way around that issue that comes to mind would be to convert the power to microwave energy and bounce it off of satellites to supply other parts of the country that don't have the room or access to wind power. Not being an engineer and really never being able to wrap my mind completely around electronics I could be completely off base here but don't think so.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:19 PM   #10
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Drill now and drill here...thats the bridge...

Build nuclear for elecrticty..as fast as we can

Fund new technology research

Offer tax breaks for conservation in homes

Do it all and do it now.

Global warming is bull and is a means for wackjobs to gain more control over all of us.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:42 PM   #11
MagicHef MagicHef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydrae View Post
What I was looking for is a towerlike setup that uses mirrors to focus the solar energy to a single point. If I am remembering correctly this is being used to heat water and produce steam which then drives a turbine. Then you collect the condensation from the steam at the very top, allow it to cool and you can run additional turbines that are pushed by the cooler water as it decends back to the reservoir.

Basically, you are correct about the issue with transmission of electricity. The only way around that issue that comes to mind would be to convert the power to microwave energy and bounce it off of satellites to supply other parts of the country that don't have the room or access to wind power. Not being an engineer and really never being able to wrap my mind completely around electronics I could be completely off base here but don't think so.
Like this?

http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/04/10/...-power-fields/

That is quite impressive, and seems like it would work well. At $3 billion for 900 MW, that is better, but still quite a bit more expensive than other power sources. Another problem is simply scale: this plant, which would be the largest of its kind in the world, would provide enough power for 375,000 homes. According to the 2006 census, there were 3,356,353 homes in LA alone.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:48 PM   #12
Hydrae Hydrae is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicHef View Post
Like this?

http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/04/10/...-power-fields/

That is quite impressive, and seems like it would work well. At $3 billion for 900 MW, that is better, but still quite a bit more expensive than other power sources. Another problem is simply scale: this plant, which would be the largest of its kind in the world, would provide enough power for 375,000 homes. According to the 2006 census, there were 3,356,353 homes in LA alone.
Yes, exactly! Thank you!

At this point anything we do, especially with solar is going to be very expensive simply due to market type pressures. When you have little demand and little product, each piece stays expensive. If we can enlarge the market, quality would improve, advances would happen faster and the price of each unit will drop dramatically.

Personally I advocate that all new big box stores opened anywhere in the country having those huge, flat roofs covered in solar panels and being energy neutral. For that matter, I would support this for houses as well. Heck, if the government wants to seriously resolve this problem they can give me a tax break to install solar on my house. I will sell the extra back to the co-op and we will massively reduce the drain on current generating systems.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:54 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicHef View Post
In my opinion, if we want to get clean energy, nuclear power is the answer. France, for instance, gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power, and is the largest net exporter of electricity in the world, from which it receives around 3 billion euros per year. Unfortunately, it seems as if our current political climate does not allow for a huge increase in the amount of nuclear power plants.
I don't believe that the limitations to rapid growth in nuclear plants are purely political. As evidence I put forward the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. From Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts_B...rating_Station

Quote:
"Unit 2 was about 80% complete when its construction was stopped in 1988. The official reason given for halting construction was a decrease in demand for electricity, but the decision was hailed as a victory by anti-nuclear activists. Unit 2 remains partly completed (several of its parts being cannibalized for use on other TVA units), but on August 1, 2007 the TVA Board approved completion of the unit. Construction resumed on October 15, 2007, with the reactor expected to begin operation in 2013."
This plant was already permitted and approved and still it takes more than 6 years to bring it from more than 50% complete (80% minus canibalization and needed technology updates) to operational. Plus, we have not been producing enough nuclear engineers over the last 20 years to support a massive nuclear energy program. If we began today and threw everything we had at it, without political resistance, I think it would be 20 years before nuclear would contribute significantly more to electricity production in this country.

We should start building more nuclear plants now, but we also have to be realistic about the role it can play in the near term.
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Old 11-03-2008, 08:56 PM   #14
Hydrae Hydrae is offline
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I will agree with the original post that we need to seriously ramp up electrical generation. Most likely that is how we will get our transportation off the nasty fossil fuels but noone seems to recognize the problem that will cause with a HUGE new drain on an already stretched system.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydrae View Post
I will agree with the original post that we need to seriously ramp up electrical generation. Most likely that is how we will get our transportation off the nasty fossil fuels but noone seems to recognize the problem that will cause with a HUGE new drain on an already stretched system.
Liquid transportation fuels have many advantages over electricity for transportation: 1) liquid fuels are a parallel pathway to transportation energy that does not tax overstressed electricity generation; 2) conventional electricity production projects (coal, nuclear, hydroelectric) take over a decade from conception to production; cellulosic (not corn) biofuel plants could be constructed and producing energy with a couple years; 3) if you are talking about batteries, it takes much longer to recharge them than it does to refuel using liquid sources 4) cellulosic biofuel doesn't depend on economies of scale-- it can be produced and used locally, thereby circumventing the transmission loss problem.

I don't think biofuels are a panacea, but they should not be written out of the equation. It is going to take a mixture of many different technologies that come online at different points in time to solve this problem.
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