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Posts Tagged ‘energy’

According to an article IBM has designed a dish to concentrate sunlight onto Photovoltaic cells keeping them cool using water. Ahhh, maybe people have a really short memory but this is nothing new. Moving onward….

My preference is sill using a dish to focus sunlight onto a stirling engine which gives and impressive 25-35% efficiency in converting sunlight to heat and electricity with far less effort. Stirling engine also last a fairly long time with little maintenance. What IBM is proposing is good for areas with water or that could use the dish to desalinate water but not in a desert, but stirling engines with concentrating mirrors are perfect.

I’ve now been unemployed coming up to 2 1/2 years and I am finding new freedom in the lack of work. I just have to get use to being so poor.

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Coal has always been controversial because it burns producing a large amount of soot and other pollutants. When it was first came into widespread use during the industrial age it has already found many uses as far back as 400 BCE by the Romans. The Aztec also used coal but some was more for ornamental purposes than burning it. During the industrial age it was used to fuel industries and heat homes which lead to a thick cloud of soot that hung in the air which made breathing often difficult. The smoke would get so thick that it would not only block out the light from the sun it would seem almost night, or twilight, making it hard to see where you were going. Coal produced a dirty black smoke that left many of the well to do to hire maids and servants that did nothing more than wipe every surface more than once a day to keep the house clean.

That’s the end of a brief history for coal. Nothing has changed much except that with the Clean Air Act and changes in the way coal fired power plants were regulated helped to clean up the air by removing much of the soot. There are still varying amounts of other material that leave the smoke stack but nothing like in the industrial age of the 1700’s and 1800’s when pollution was unregulated.

Currently we in the U.S. get the majority of our electricity from coal fired power plants, around 55%. Along with electricity power plants give us a vast amount of pollutants: mercury, radioactive particles, sulfur dioxide, haze producing particles too small to filter, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, arsenic, lead and carbon dioxide. Anyone trying to sell you on ‘clean coal’ is trying to give you pile of stink. To say it more plain, clean coal is horse shit. There is just no such thing! They would have to remove all smoke stacks and filter out all the contaminants 100% somehow and then get rid of the toxic soup that results. Coal pollutes, end of story.

Coal unfortunately will be with us for some years to come. But, that may not be for much longer. As of 2000 the energy output of coal has been dropping, not because of less energy produced but we have had to use a lesser quality of coal which just doesn’t produce as much energy as the harder higher quality coal we have been using. We have reached the peak in coal energy. There are coal supporters claiming we have at least 200 years to go before we hit peak in coal production, and that may be true but the quality of that coal will only go down forcing power plants to burn ever increasing amounts to produce the same amount of energy. So, who is right? It depends on your view really. I am of the view that if it takes every increasing amounts to produce the same amount of energy then we have hit a peak.

So. what is the answer for our future? Leave coal behind us, in our past. Coal is not only, and will always be polluting despite the clean coal double-speak there are other hidden costs people tend to overlook. Mountain top remove is the worst. Instead of sinking shafts into the ground it is now common practice to remove everything on top, haul it away, then extract the coal, and leave behind a waste land and tailings ponds where nothing will grow for a very long, long time. Some areas can be rehabilitated by replanting but it is becoming less of a desirable thing as it only adds to the cost and cuts into the profits.

Mountain top remove pollutes on many levels: tailings ponds of poisoned water, tailings piles and over burden, run off that chokes a river until it no longer flows, poisoned run off down stream, and then the heavy equipment which uses huge quantities of petroleum. There is nothing positive to say about this method of mining.

To leave this behind we can divert the subsides in every increasing amounts toward Solar and Wind energy instead. Start with as little as ten percent. Then add a pollution tax that goes toward renewable energy only to help home owners to add energy saving devices, insulation, solar panels and maybe a helix windmill. Then every two years move another ten percent from coal subsides toward renewable energy installation nation wide. As we produce enough electricity from renewable sources it is time to shut down the dirtiest coal fired plants first until we have so few left coal fired plants that they can be left as a back up should they be needed while new forms of large scale energy storage are installed.

Of course that is a very simple view there is so much more to it. The idea is that homeowners get the assistance to help us move toward renewable energy sources as businesses should have enough funds themselves to do this transition. As we transition to a new future powered by renewable energy sources some business will not survive and there is no reason to throw money at a business to move from dirty fossil fuels to renewable source if it isn’t going to survive the move.

Coal and renewable sources of energy could live side by side for at least the next 25 years but not much longer or we will never let go of that which is causing health problems, environmental pollution and is one of the dirtiest sources of energy we currently use. It’s time to make our peace and say goodbye to coal.

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This is going to be a short and not so supportive article of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral. Nuclear energy is not clean. Nuclear energy is not 100% safe. Nuclear energy is not going to be way to power the future.

Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral. Nuclear energy is not clean.
Let us start at the beginning. Mining the raw material requires huge amount of dirty fossil fuels to extract from the earth, process and finally refine or later reprocess into material that can be used in a nuclear power plant that produces electricity. All along that path there are huge amount of pollution released and carbon dioxide. Anyone claiming it is carbon neutral are only talking about there not being a smoke stack – they literally have blinders on and only see through the very small slit in their blinders.

Then, after the material is all used up and is no longer usable to produce electricity it is sent to a plant that can reprocess it taking out the spent parts and reform the usable material, which is a good idea but it requires energy to do so. It then has to be shipped back to the power plant and this can be repeated several times before the nuclear material ends up in a pool of water for storage on site where it stays until we can figure out what to do with it.

Nuclear energy is not 100% safe.
Nuclear material is unsafe for more than a one thousand life times (1,000 x 80 years = 80 thousand ) and possibly longer depending on the material and the way it is stored. This means that it is radioactive and harmful to all life forms on the planet for the entire time it is radioactive. Not only that there is the problem of tailings from mining and other sources along the path of processing or reprocessing.

Then there is the plant itself which after about 40 or so years becomes unsafe for people to work in as the whole plant becomes increasingly more radioactive. The only safe thing to do it to dismantle it and bury it. We have no other solution at this time.

Nuclear energy is not going to be way to power the future.
I have scoured for articles or any information on how much longer we can expect to mine material for our nuclear power plants and I have found varying time frames. Some say we have nothing to worry about we can use it well into our future while other’s say we will run out around the time we run out of oil, coal and natural gas – around 60 to 100 years. Just because it will be around for another 100 years does not mean we can sit back and do nothing, it means just the opposite. As we get closer to running out we can only expect the cost of it go up, and up as supply declines which means that near the end it will be so costly we just won’t turn on our lights or heat our homes any longer. We shouldn’t be complacent but rather act right now to overt the high costs we can expect in the coming future.

My Solution:
Follow what most of Europe is doing right now, moving toward a sustainable future with renewable energy and conservation. Europe has a three prong approach to the future: make use of all the current available measures that help to cut energy consumption by the maximum, like the Passivhaus. Then add Solar heat (and cooling), Solar Photovoltaic panels and a wide variety of windmills, from large windmills out at sea to smaller helix windmills on roof tops within cities or not as large windmills in the countryside. And last, add measures to help store excess energy in the form or pumped water or with biogas plants built near or on farms.

This is exactly what Germany and Sweden,  among other European countries, are doing to produce all of their own energy within their own borders. Automobiles are also being replace with public transit and bicycles.

Nuclear energy can play a small part as we transition toward renewable energy sources but not for the long-term for the one big issue so many people brush aside – where are we going to keep radioactive material that is harmful to all life forms for such a long time. Some try to mislead you by saying it has a half-life of such and such but that is only represents half of the time required for us to store it safely. What about after that? Nuclear material and everything form tailings to the power plant itself need to be dealt with. The sooner we can close them down the sooner we can move on to something less dangerous to life on planet Earth.

A few references:
http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2010/02/will-we-run-out-of-uranium.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/15/nuclear-power-after-the-flood
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-05-nuclear-power-world-energy.html
http://timeforchange.org/pros-and-cons-of-nuclear-power-and-sustainability
http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/nuclear-power-pro-con
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/sunday-dialogue-nuclear-energy-pro-and-con.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/15/the-case-for-and-against-_n_781567.html#s178811&title=Con_Its_Safety

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Joyce, sorry for the wait on your question on magnetic motors. No, I have no information on them. I did some searches and found some videos but really no information. The people who claim to have built them say they are producing more energy than is going in. That would violate the laws of physics. Now if it is somehow possible then why aren’t these people building them quietly to produce all of their own electricity, and for their family and friends? They could literally be making electricity to could sell to the utility company each and every month, but that is not happening. I want to see such a motor, have it tested and if it is for real I would produce them at cost for anyone that wanted one.

Until I can verify it for myself I don’t think they work the way some claim and there is no free electricity. It would be better to follow the European example, convert your home to a Passivhaus design (much, much better than Leeds) and then add Solar Photovoltaic panels or helix windmill. With conservation you would produce so much energy each and every month you would be paid by the utility company instead of paying them.

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Another thing. I do have to apologize for the not so good article on hydrogen but I just find the whole thing one big fat joke. It will never power any economy much less your car or home. It is such a scam! Hydrogen is, 1) not a source of energy but an energy carrier, 2) all along the energy path you are losing energy and what you get back in the end is no better than an internal combustion engine, 3) you are better off using the electricity, natural gas (methane or biogas) directly rather than waste energy to convert it to hydrogen. Hydrogen at best may play a small part as a form of energy storage, but a very small part because compressed air and water pumped uphill have better returns. Not only that recently a professor at MIT came up with a battery that can store a good amount of energy for a good price.

We need to stop wasting energy and money persuing hydrogen as a source of energy.

That would have not made a good article either but I dare anyone to look at the data, the research and see for themselves and they will have no other conclusion. Anyone pushing for hydrogen never back what they say with data, they only talk in fantasy, dream like statements of possibilities. They are just full of hot air and if we could harness that we would be energy independent for sure.

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And lastly. I have decided after some thought that I need to add something to this blog to help bring in some, even if it’s small, income. I’ve decided to look at adding some books from Amazon to my posts as a way to make money. I know, I know. I’ve done my research and found that people are no longer making a so called living at blogging, unless they have more than a handful of them each bringing in some money. But, being unemployed and finding it hard to find work that would actually pay the bills I need to look at having more than one income source and this blog is going to be one of them.  I am also looking to teach classes with regard to sustainability, around the Greenhouse Project itself, and what we have to look forward to in the future with regard to peak oil, peak water and peak land. Anyone interested in hiring me to speak at their event please email me. Thanks.

 

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A major cost of running a commercial greenhouse is the cost of heating or cooling. Fans run almost continuously. Massive heaters spew out a large amount of heat in the colder parts of the year while some type of cooling system keeps a greenhouse from burning up in the warmer parts of the year. The plants inside have to live in a temperature zone that is right for them or they could die or just not thrive. So the next few articles will be all about energy, the future of energy, types of energy available to us and so forth.

As we are currently headed over the cliff of peak fossil fuel energy and we are faced with some very though decisions – what are we going to replace oil, coal and natural gas with? I will not discuss just how long we have but I do believe in all my research that we don’t have very long and we should be following the lead Europeans have set moving toward a decentralized system of power production and distribution. What that means is all the old paradigms have to go.

Corporate control over our lives currently is what has lead us into a downward spiral we are currently heading in. Economic models aren’t working. Just look at 2007/2008 the start of the decline in world-wide economies that still haven’t fully recovered. Up to the very minute before it was announced and made public we were in a Recession many big name economists were cheering how good our economy was and how policies have made money for a lot of people. Then the truth of the Recession hit and they went silent. In fact many economist went into hiding because they could not explain the economic drop, decline in jobs, businesses going bust and so forth. They only play one tune, not necessarily the truth.

So, these systems for the coming future will have to have some radical surgery done to them and much of these current systems we use or are aware of can not survive past the current generation if life on this planet is to survive. All the old systems have to be cut out in a very radical manner, complete and in a permanent way. These systems have to thrown out and when mentioned we have to talk about how stupid we were and there is no going back unless we want to commit suicide once again. In other words, we have to face the truth of the manner and what we were doing was not in our best interests, or the planets.

As for energy the future will look very differently. Fossil fuels will be replaced with renewable sources of energy – wind, tidal, solar and methane being the primary ones. Current forms of energy – nuclear, coal, oil – will have to be thrown out. Conservation and energy storage will play a big part in the future too. I hope to go into enough detail to make what I’ve come to understand as our way forward understandable so everyone can see what I see. I make no claim to be 100% correct. This will be based on what I’ve learned and nothing more.

I’ll stop this article here and write the first one in this series now.

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In the last few years I have heard time and again about Living Green, or Green Living. The idea is to live in a more sustainable way. Yet, so many people who don’t know better seem to have the notion that if they adopt some of the ideas labeled as Green that they are living in a sustainable way. Not so.

Some of the ideas being pushed as being Green: turn off unused lights & other electronics, use recycled products and recycle as much as possible, buy paper made from non-tree sources such as kenaf or hemp, have houseplants to clear the air, use a ceramic mug instead of a paper or plastic cup each time, use washable flatware and dishes rather than throwaway, add a green roof, carpool, walk more, bicycle, skateboard, roller blade or roller skate, insulate your home, use green energy, use public transportation, change your light bulbs to more efficient ones, turn the thermostat down in winter up in summer, compost and so on …. But are these things sustainable? NO, not by or of themselves. They are only a small piece of an overall puzzle. Don’t get me wrong they are worth doing.

Let me explain. All these things and many more that people are suppose to do that are called Green are on their way to being sustainable but they are not in and of themselves sustainable. Each of these plays its part, if made from things that Nature can recognize and then reabsorb without effort. You see, only Nature is truly sustainable and if Nature can not deal with the waste that an item generates or the item itself once it can no longer be used, reused, recycled or repurposed then it is not sustainable nor is it anywhere near being truly “Green.”

We need to stop producing things that are not sustainable. Rather we need to look to nature to find ways to mimic it. Has anyone looked a beautiful shell? Wondered how it was made? Did you know it was made at so called “room” temperature (in the water or on land) and with a minimum of energy input. The shell was made without mining anything or causing destruction. It was produced one layer at a time from freely available materials without much effort and yet we can not do the same without using a lot of energy and effort. That is what we need to change.

I think that for something to be labeled as “Green” then it should also be fully sustainable in the bigger scheme of things. It should generate no waste, unless that waste is food for something else. It should be easily reused, repaired, recycled, or repurposed before it is returned to Nature to be devoured – with exception of metals which should be continuously recycled.

Nothing should ever find it’s way to a dump-site, burial ground or be disposed of the way in which we currently do. All landfills should be, 1) harvested for the methane until there is no more, about 25-30 years, 2) then opened to have all materials mined for recycling, including the goo at the bottom needs to find a use other than burning it.

So, what does any of this have to do with feeding people or the Greenhouse Project. Everything!

The idea behind this project is to close the loop and recycle nutrients so the soil doesn’t become depleted for continuous production and health of the plants. As the health of the soil goes so does the health of the people, and other life forms.

I propose that the greenhouse itself be made from reclaimed items as far as possible or items that are renewable in some way. The water within the greenhouse be reused as much as possible – grey water used to flush toilets, in hydroponics or a living machine. Black water is used to produce methane before it too is put through a living machine leaving only clean water at the end. The energy (heat, electric, methane, …), which has been reduced to its minimum, be produced from Solar and Wind mainly. (All energy consumption is used in the most efficient manner and no more.  Hard to explain in such a short piece.) That the greenhouse become a model of efficiency, low energy use, maximum food production and an ecosystem itself.

Once food production has been achieved that the project move onto producing fiber for the making of cloths and paper. It grows oil seed plants which can be used straight or converted to biodiesel. The oil can also be turned into plastics or other products. That whatever waste the greenhouse produces is made into something; methane, alcohol, worm food, …, which is then returned to the soil to grow food. No waste. Everything is used somehow.

The fiber which was turned into cloths once used up and can not be used as rags either that it be consigned to the compost or burned as fuel and any metal or plastic items be reused on a new shirt.  That it is returned to where it started from, the soil.

By following this principle we could grow more than enough food to help feed people who normally could not afford healthy organic whole food.  I am not much for giving food away – give a person a fish they eat for a day. I am more in favor of giving people a helping hand to help them feed themselves – teach them to grow food, fish, they feed themselves for life.

Food for life. Hence my overall idea of establishing food forests within the city which neighborhoods maintain and harvest. Would this put us out of business? Maybe. But, that is a long way down the road and we could run out of cheap fossil fuel energy long before that happens. I want to create this process to: 1) work out the kinks and teach others wherever  to do the same, 2) get more people to once again respect Nature as the source that maintains all life on this planet, 3) to grow food in a truly sustainable manner.

We will face opposition from supermarkets, wholesalers, even farmers who would all claim they would go out of business. They would be right. But a system that uses between 10 and 50 calories of energy to bring people their food is not sustainable nor can, or will it, last forever. As cheap energy begins to run out these farmers, wholesalers and supermarkets will go out of business and I hope that this project, and many other projects like it, will be around to help feed people and teach people the skills they need to survive.

Until next time, Go Green to end up Sustainable.

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