Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Renewable Energy

The world has it's ups and downs, and at this time, there is change, change a long time coming, in the air. We are realising that, without the help of volcanoes, we have had the insidious greenhouse gases equivalent to many volcanoes, of thousands of chimney stacks and millions of exhaust pipes slowly poisoning the air. With the joyless toil (and bad backs and deaths) of the lower socio-ecomonic classes, we have been eating up the coal and oil, created by the lives and deaths of mostly microscopic creatures in ages past, and spewing forth the carbon and other elements, they stored there for millennia loose into the atmosphere. The filthy air has been making children sick, acidifying our oceans, which is easy to ignore for some, but it is slowly blanketing our thin atmosphere in gases that have ultimately a greenhouse effect (letting the heat in, but not out). Soot from Asia (we ALL have this dirt on our hands) is covering the Arctic, exacerbating the melting of the ice there. These are effects that are at first invisible to the eye, especially if you live in an urban environment, which most do. The child down the road has asthma, the summer is unusually hot, the spring rains came late, the evenings cloud formations change their path and shape, the farmers complain about the floods, or drought. Politicians bicker about water supply. And then fire or water consumes your neighbourhood.

We all know that change is coming, but what kind of change? It could be a disaster of blithering, as the pressure cooker slowly spoils the food, or we could plan for the long term, longer then a term in a political office, because we are all sharing the future, or our children will be, or we could re-incarnate in the mess we made this time round, if that is your view. If not, God loves what They created, and helps those who help themselves, and I won't want to explain why everything They made is dead or dying. Something about birds of the field and lillies of the valley. Anyway, who wants to live in sooty air, dirty oceans and rivers, with a bunch of sick farm animals and cold concrete and pipes for comfort? Plastic fantastic (credit cards) can't help you there, and is the cause of the current financial problems of the world. Band-aid solutions are wearing thin.

Or the change could be great, in a better way. If the population is willing, and the vast majority really are, we could mosh in together and save ourselves from, well, ourselves. Carbon trading is a buzz word when it comes to greenhouse gases, and although there are other fairly dire pollution problems, it is a great way to bring back life to our party exhausted planet (the "it" crowd of previous periods has had it's fun). There are risks in this change, but the Chinese define risk as "a dangerous opportunity". In the huge changes, healthy ones, that this entails, upheavals will happen. Upheavals will happen anyway, they already are, but they have been coming in distressing forms. In establishing new healthier ways to do our business, jobs will be lost, but many more will be created. Jobs you can love and be proud of for the right reasons. Also, with all that is coming, it will be all hands on deck. Many countries will be hard up for manpower! If you doubt this, or are looking for work (since the debt based global financial crisis), plug "Renewable Energy Jobs" into the Internet. Plenty of work there, and it is only the beginning! Anyway, enough preaching, let's look at one of the areas of solution, Renewable Energy. Coal is out (unless they can eventually get a satisfactory pollution-free method working), and nuclear is a dangerous joke. There is plenty of energy everywhere in the world (and cosmos), in a raw and active form, not just as a potential (as in matter). The ocean roars with it, the sun powers life into it, the air and water shapes entire continents with it, cosmic rays (gamma for instance) penetrate right through planets, dark matter changes the paths of galaxies. There is so much power, even in thought. It is very easy to tap into without trying too hard, or changing anything much. You just have to go with what it is doing, and could not stop doing, anyway. I have rated them out of five for potential I my humble (ha!) opinion.

Wind Power is already being established in many countries, proving to be an efficient provider of power. I personally think it should be put on everything mechanical that moves at high sped for increased efficiency, as well as being land bound. I think they look very futuristic and inspiring, like beacons of hope. It is greatly favoured, because it is very clean, and is easy to meter. I wonder if there is a way to get the blades to turn into the wind from whatever direction it blows, turning itself naturally, like pressure that lifts an aeroplane wing. A suggestion for research. *****

Water Power is presented in several forms, old and new. Firstly, ocean technology let's explore ocean technology.

Wave Power is one path being experimented with, which is currently using floating devices being pushed and pulled to and from the other by the waves. I think it has a way to go, and maybe thinking inside the box may help, or simply turning it inside out! *** (extra star for originality)

Osmotic Power, which uses the flow of salt from a high salt solutions (ocean) to low salt solutions (river mouths) in an estuary type situation as a method of creating power. I think desalination plants may be more interested in developing this technology. There is another "out there" (love them!) field of research called vortex power which I didn't understand. ***

Tidal Power is being researched that uses the ebb and flow of tides, channelled, for generating power in the usual hydroelectric way. Maybe they can use technology from the wave power research. ****

Ocean Thermal Power uses the flow of warm water flowing into cold water and visa versa to harness power. I think it would have be fairly mobile and be capable of catering to seasonal and el Nino etc cyclic change, but I may have not understood clearly enough. ****

Marine Current Power is where the currents of the ocean are harnessed for power. This would work well around the Cape of Good Hope of South Africa, the Bass Straight of Australia or any other channelled consistent areas of current. ****

Then there is the more traditional river hydroelectric power.

Damless Hydroelectric power consists of simply harnessing the power of fast flowing rivers, like a water mill used to. A great method, that works with what nature is doing anyway, without interfering too much. *****

Micro Hydroelectrics are used in small amounts all over the world already. All together they produce quite a bit of power. *****

Large Dam Hydroelectric Power is an old traditional that needs little explanation. However, regular flushing and byways for spawning fish to travel is a lesson we have learnt and need to accommodate. Fish such as salmon that go from ocean to river take nutrients back into the land by being eaten or otherwise dying, returning the minerals and proteins back to the land. Damless systems are preferable, because it goes with the flow better. **

Splitting Water Molecules for burning is where they are researching splitting the hydrogen element from the oxygen (in H2O, splitting the H2 from the O), both which are combustible (you can burn hydrogen and oxygen). Then, when you have burnt them for energy, they can be recombined as water. It is a tricky thing to want to do, as well as ironic (burning water), and it would have to be clean. Apparently there are already vehicles that run on water, of methods unknown to me (one case is rumoured to be in California), but the inventors have been quieted for now because of the difficulty in metering the fuel for profit. Or so the gist goes. ***

Solar Power is being used and experimented with in various forms as well. I might add that you could use combinations of things, not necessarily "solar" separately from "water" or "air". These factors all effect each other in nature, so combining their effects in energy tapping is an area that could be explored more. Using them together but separately is fine as well (let's say wind and solar farms), but there is greater scope (what about solar winds?!)!

Solar Cells are well known and being established in a lot of different forms. They are in deserts, on roofs, and even on vehicles. A new battery has been designed that charges very fast, so storage of energy could be a problem solved. ****

Concentrating Solar Power, like a magnifying glass or satellite disk is being used to. That way the energy is condensed and amplified. Maybe it can be used in conjunction with other methods. ***

Solar Updraft Towers uses the flow of heat from the sun and the way it rises (like when you see heat rising off the ground on a hot day) to create energy.*****

Hydrogen Generation uses solar panels and rust (very cheap, stable and accessible) to split water molecules to utilise to hydrogen. Other methods like electrolysis are more difficult and expensive. Other methods split it out of gas, which create greenhouse gases. If it has safe bi-products this will be great. ***

Solar Thermal Panels heat panels and then send the heat up through a chamber thus creating power. It is sort of like a mini solar updraft tower. ****

Passive solar building design uses architecture to make the building cool in the heat and warm in the cold. Termite nests have inspired east/west placement and air flow for temperature maintenance. Using vines and trees to shade in the summer and let the sun in in the winter (by dropping their leaves) is another technique. Insulation is another. *****

Solar Ovens are wonderful things that use the sun in concentration to cook food. They look like a space aged barbecue, and are popular amongst the futuristic and the developing world alike. It is fun and it uses absolutely no fuel. *****

Solar Air Conditioning uses the energy from hot days to cool air in the air conditioning. The hotter the day, the more energy there is to cool the office/house/school whatever. Very savvy! *****

Solar hot water systems can be installed to create hot water for the home. Also you can use solar water heating on camping trips and other temporary situations.*****

Biofuel is another area of research. This includes ethanol (pure alcohol), biodiesel and bagasse (sugar cane left overs).

Liquid Biofuel includes ethanol. There is research into butanol, which is worrying as it is highly combustible in the explosive sense (it is close to lighter fuel). The other is to use animal fat (lipids) and vegetable oils. I'm not sure it is ethical to use food to travel when others are hungry. Also the biofuel may originally just use offcuts and wastes, but demand may outstrip supply leading to further decimation of living biomass, which we do not need in reducing greenhouse. It's only "asset" is it is easily metered. *

Solid Biomass and Biogas includes wood fuel which produces less sulphur then coal. However, using wood means less trees and more CO2. The other idea is using manure and other organic bio"waste" to create methane as it decomposes for fuel. The remaining byproduct of decomposed organic material can be used as fertilisers, therefore returning the nutrients and energy to the earth. It is an excellent idea that solves several problems at the same time. China has these methane generators established already on farms. *****

Another area being explored is the heat in the earth's core.

Geothermal Power puts a pipe into a thinner layer of the Earth's crust into the warmer rocks underneath. Water is poured down and heated, creating steam for power. *****

There is a Magnetic Power Generator available which uses magnetic attraction/repulsion to spin a turbine, creating free energy absolutely without any fuel.*****

If you are interested in Magnetic Power Generators or any of the other products, look up www.energy.sourceguide.com for information and products.

Maybe turbines can be put in drains? Or on windy building tops? Or use the down draft of cold wind from icy mountain tops (after all, glaciers move tonnes of rock). There is massive energy everywhere in the world, all it needs is creativity, nouse and respect and we can tap into it!

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