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Thread: Alternative Energy Reality - It's A Numbers Game

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    The nice thing about being connected to the grid, and with equal rates back and forth, is that the grid itself is the energy sink, in that for every erg you're putting into the grid, it's that much less coal or natural gas they're burning, or water they're letting out of the dam.

    Saves a lot on fuel cell stacks, particularly when managing power swings per capita is way less expensive to do for everyone than if done by each person.
    That's why I say we should have PV roofs before we have SPS. With better efficiencies of future solar PV cells and lower costs, distributed generation would be a better option than continuing the trend of huge capitalization. Now, if only we can get better and cheaper solar cells. I read about quantum dots, plastic PV films and other technologies, but I wonder if and when they will make it to market.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    So you see - the real solution has nothing to do with the hype. It's all in the numbers...
    The guy is ignoring certain scientific discoveries to make you think that numbers are bad. Let us take the example of nuclear power. Nuclear power can attack the energy problems in two ways. One way is the obvious manner of producing electricity. The not so obvious way is to use the nuclear reactor to boost the efficiency of electrolysis with very little cost added on. He based his entire argument off the hasty generalization fallacy. I hate people like these because there argument seems so logical until you realize they made some bad generalizations.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Brak View Post
    Actually the main reason that electric cars use less energy than internal combustion engines is because they are electric, not because they are delibrately constructed to use less energy. Electric motors are about 90% efficient while internal combustion engines are around 17% efficient, so in otherwise identical cars an electric motor will use much less energy to do the same work.
    There are multiple reasons why an electric motor is more efficient and a better idea than an ICE. One reason is the differences in the characteristics of the motor. An electric motor delivers maximum torque when stopped which is a good thing. Another reason is the fact that maximum efficiency actually occurs at a point where you can run the motor. An ICE rarely runs at maximum effiiency because of the weird efficiency curve.
    Quote Originally Posted by PraedSt View Post
    Wind energy: a Danger?

    Wind farm kills goats in Taiwan.
    That borderline sounds wooish. I've read the same thing being attributed to humans but there is abosultely no evidence that the phenomenon is real.
    Last edited by technoextreme; 2009-Jun-11 at 03:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by technoextreme View Post
    That borderline sounds wooish.
    No... That was actually news.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    That's why I say we should have PV roofs before we have SPS. With better efficiencies of future solar PV cells and lower costs, distributed generation would be a better option than continuing the trend of huge capitalization. Now, if only we can get better and cheaper solar cells. I read about quantum dots, plastic PV films and other technologies, but I wonder if and when they will make it to market.
    PV efficiencies range from 15% to 30%, depending on who you talk to. But that's only half the story - in the summer time, the energy they convert to electricity is shunted from the attic heating flow of heat. Thus, it both keeps your attic cooler, and supplies you with electricity to run your A/C.

    Regardless, PVs are marginally cost-effective as retrofits for your average house, due to the gross inefficiencies in modern, Western housing. For well-designed, highly efficient homes, however, PV's can be much smaller (cheaper) and can be used to power the home exclusively, thus getting you completely off the grid.

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    One comment about wind farms. Oppoents claim to to generate X about of electricty windfarms will cover Y % of Z country, state, wherever.

    What these numbers don't take into account is that winfarms don't alienate land. The lowers and support infrastructure actually cover a tiny fraction of the wind farm area. The rest can be used for crops, livestock etc.

    I've been to many wind farms and the noise is less than a typical highway and much less than a railway.

    Complaing about windfarms is just NIMBYism.

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Let's face it - who hasn't heard of a dozen ideas for alternative energy being touted as "the one" over the last few decades? Nuclear and Geothermal was going to save everyone because it was "inexhaustible." Then solar energy was the saving grace, as it's "replenishible." Now Wind energy mills are being erected at breakneck pace. Another thread here discusses oil from algae that's a near one-for-one replacement for diesal fuel.

    Enough of the hype, already!

    Enter David MacKay's Commentary.

    Don't get me wrong - I don't like wind power. I think that thirty years down the road we'll discover wind power alters the surface ecology as much as hydroelectric damns alter river ecology. Solar power, however, I like. I mean, why allow all that sunshine to heat the roofs, attics, and living spaces of houses in the summertime when it can be converted to electricity used to cool them, instead? And so far as combatting global warming goes, the only thing that's more effective than converting the solar influx directly into electricity is coating roofs with aluminum foil to reflect it right back out into space. Speaking of which, why aren't we doing that, anyway? Seen any houses looking like thermos bottles in the 115 deg desert heat, lately? Why not? Why unnecessarily absorb that heat then work that much harder to get rid of it? Why not reflect it out in the first place?

    Back to MacKay: He's right, you know - It's all about the math. When you crunch the numbers, the RIGHT answers surface, instead of the politically correct answers (like cutting CO2), or the environmentally conscious answers (like bio-fuels), or the media-hyped answers (like wind power).

    Couple of figures for you, based on numbers, the facts behind this so far as the US is concerned:

    Solar: "To supply 42 kWh per day per person from solar power requires roughly 80 square meters per person of solar panels." That's more than 8,600 square miles, around the area of Vermont or New Hampshire.

    Wind: "To deliver 42 kWh per day per person from wind for everyone in the United States would require wind farms with a total area roughly equal to the area of California, a 200-fold increase in United States wind power."

    Nuclear: "To get 42 kWh per day per person from nuclear power would require 525 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations, a roughly five-fold increase over today's levels."

    By the way - 42 kWh per day is just one-third of the minimal 125 kWh per day per person that might be achieved if we radically change transportion, technology, building construction, and lifestyles. This would require 42 kWh from each of Solar, Wind, and Nuclear.

    Right now, we Americans are burning 250 kWh per person, per day. By contrast, Europeans are using just 125 kWh.

    Boy, do we have our work cut out for us!!!

    In closing, I'd like to make another plug for all-electric vehicles, as they use around 12 kWh per 100 km, as opposed to the average fossil car in Europe, which uses 80 kWh per 100 km.

    "Go to a hydrogen economy!" you say? Yeah, right - "The BMW Hydrogen 7, for example, uses 254 kWh per 100 km."

    So you see - the real solution has nothing to do with the hype. It's all in the numbers...

    Edit: This just in...
    I would say that touting any ONE alt energy solution as the only feasible alt energy source is bound to run up against the problems you've just described. However, use of a mixture of these solutions is definitely feasible. One thing we do need, however, is to realign our wasteful lifestyles closer to the European model; otherwise, any type of scheme that tries to wean us off fossil fuels will be doomed to failure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    PV efficiencies range from 15% to 30%, depending on who you talk to. But that's only half the story - in the summer time, the energy they convert to electricity is shunted from the attic heating flow of heat. Thus, it both keeps your attic cooler, and supplies you with electricity to run your A/C.

    Regardless, PVs are marginally cost-effective as retrofits for your average house, due to the gross inefficiencies in modern, Western housing. For well-designed, highly efficient homes, however, PV's can be much smaller (cheaper) and can be used to power the home exclusively, thus getting you completely off the grid.
    True, retrofitting a house might entail making some other changes as well. Replacing old single-pane windows would be a good start, adding thermally reflective films on top of that would be good too, and extending the eaves of roofs would help some more. Then, thickening walls with insulation could help some more, but that would mean re-siding the house.

    Landscaping might help some, but it would take a while for the plants to grow and some lots don't have the room. I recall the practice of evergreens to the west and north of a lot to block winter winds with deciduous on the south to block the summer sun and allow the winter sun.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Another part of the problem is land use/zoning. The planning commissions have all sorts of regulations that mandate houses and lots be of certain sizes. Instead of cheap mass-produced homes on 4-5 acre (about 2 ha) lots, why not emphasize quantity over square footage/meterage? Firstly, you need less energy to heat/cool a 1500 sq ft home than you do a 4000 sq ft McMansion. Secondly, families are getting smaller (though that hasn't stopped McMansions). Secondly, when you give up space for the sake of quality construction, your society saves resources in the long-run.

    In short, we need to build denser. This will make mass transit more fesable AND reduce emissions. Also, it's less stressful to ride the train than it is to fight the daily rush hour traffic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by filrabat View Post
    Another part of the problem is land use/zoning. The planning commissions have all sorts of regulations that mandate houses and lots be of certain sizes. Instead of cheap mass-produced homes on 4-5 acre (about 2 ha) lots, why not emphasize quantity over square footage/meterage? Firstly, you need less energy to heat/cool a 1500 sq ft home than you do a 4000 sq ft McMansion. Secondly, families are getting smaller (though that hasn't stopped McMansions). Secondly, when you give up space for the sake of quality construction, your society saves resources in the long-run.

    In short, we need to build denser. This will make mass transit more fesable AND reduce emissions. Also, it's less stressful to ride the train than it is to fight the daily rush hour traffic.
    I have no problem with houses and condos/apartments being big, as long as being big doesn't dramatically increase energy use. A well designed big house can be more efficient than a poorly designed smaller house. Density can be useful, but can have it's own problems. Pack humans too closely together and you get thermal problems. Also, the more dense you pack people together the more greenspace you'll need within that vicinity, unless you plan to drive residents crazy. Going vertical is a good idea but can have drawbacks. Also, the dense you pack people into a certain area, the more strain will be placed on mass transit in that area.

    Personally, I like larger abodes that increase flexibility in the use of space. However, design makes a difference in how large the space feels. I've been in 600sqft apartments that seem big and 1200sqft apartments that feel small.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by filrabat View Post
    Another part of the problem is land use/zoning. The planning commissions have all sorts of regulations that mandate houses and lots be of certain sizes. Instead of cheap mass-produced homes on 4-5 acre (about 2 ha) lots, why not emphasize quantity over square footage/meterage?
    That's already been done in California. Very few people have 5 acre lots in California, except way far out from the cities.

    In short, we need to build denser. This will make mass transit more fesable AND reduce emissions. Also, it's less stressful to ride the train than it is to fight the daily rush hour traffic.
    I don't have a problem with switching to long term energy sources, improving efficiency, etc. I have a big problem with people telling me where and how to live. Things are crowded enough already, thank you very much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by filrabat View Post
    Instead of cheap mass-produced homes on 4-5 acre (about 2 ha) lots, why not emphasize quantity over square footage/meterage?
    I predict that in 30 years, individual "homes" will be much smaller, but will have communal living spaces with select neighbors, with well-planted interior courtyards. Thus, you might have four to 10 families all living in small, dense personal spaces, but with larger, more open communal areas.

    Then again, many cultures have been doing this for decades...

    In short, we need to build denser. This will make mass transit more fesable AND reduce emissions. Also, it's less stressful to ride the train than it is to fight the daily rush hour traffic.
    Vertical high-rise is what you're talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    One comment about wind farms. Oppoents claim to to generate X about of electricty windfarms will cover Y % of Z country, state, wherever.

    What these numbers don't take into account is that winfarms don't alienate land. The lowers and support infrastructure actually cover a tiny fraction of the wind farm area. The rest can be used for crops, livestock etc.
    Generally true, but you can't have human-occupied structures close by. Ice flying off of bladetips is moving at several hundred miles an hour, and when the big ones come down they make a big mess (like my Avatar?). Smaller turbines have shorter setback requirements (you can see lots of them fairly close to structures in Europe especially), but don't produce much power.

    I've debated with co-workers whether we're safer standing next to an operating gas turbine or an operating wind turbine. Gas turbine usually wins until one of the the guys who have actually been injured by an exploding turbine tells the story. Then some wind guy tells the story about being stuck on the ladder when a blade hit the tower, and the vote goes the other way. One guy (a former submariner, of course) always votes "reactor control room". Finally, we all agree we'd rather stand next to a solar panel.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonClarke View Post
    Complaing about windfarms is just NIMBYism.
    I can understand when it comes to turbines on mountaintops and in undeveloped woodlands. Certainly adding them to existing farmland and so far offshore that they can't be seen isn't going to bother anyone. The transmission lines to get the power somewhere useful are probably more of a problem. All in all I'd still rather build nukes and not waste space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I predict that in 30 years, individual "homes" will be much smaller, but will have communal living spaces with select neighbors, with well-planted interior courtyards. Thus, you might have four to 10 families all living in small, dense personal spaces, but with larger, more open communal areas.

    Then again, many cultures have been doing this for decades...
    Maybe. With the construction boom, we may have an abundance of houses that are available. If population increases slow down or if population decreases, then living together may not occur. Energy may drive part of it, if the aforementioned McMansions and other less efficient structures are abandoned to to the inability to afford upkeep. Climate change may alter things as well, such as destroying coastal areas from storms or sea level rise forcing more people to relocate and decreasing the house supply such that people do decide to love closer together as you mention. The US has a lot of land available for development, but I doubt that even sea level rise will make people decide they want to live in Nebraska.

    Quote Originally Posted by Demigrog
    Generally true, but you can't have human-occupied structures close by. Ice flying off of bladetips is moving at several hundred miles an hour, and when the big ones come down they make a big mess (like my Avatar?). Smaller turbines have shorter setback requirements (you can see lots of them fairly close to structures in Europe especially), but don't produce much power.
    What about the horizontal-and-perpendicular-to-the-wind-axis wind turbines, the ones that a are helical in shape? I hear they are safer and work better if installed on the roofs of buildings. I also saw a documentary recently about rotating skyscrapers, where the floors rotate around a central elevator core, which also supports a vertical axis wind turbine between each floor module.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    What about the horizontal-and-perpendicular-to-the-wind-axis wind turbines, the ones that a are helical in shape? I hear they are safer and work better if installed on the roofs of buildings. I also saw a documentary recently about rotating skyscrapers, where the floors rotate around a central elevator core, which also supports a vertical axis wind turbine between each floor module.
    If they are roof mounted they are not very big. I assume at that size a horizontal axis would be cheaper and safer as less mass would be at the top of the tower. They also don't have the high tip-speed problem that flings ice all over the place. I've never seen one though, or had any training on them--the industrial wind industry almost exclusively uses 3-bladed into-the-wind designs with the blades up-wind of the towers. It has the lowest cost, and manufacturers can standardize on one or two sizes and stamp them out thousands at a time (though the blades are often uniquely shaped for each tower).

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    Never heard about the ice problem with wind
    turbines before. But I should not be surprised.
    Wonder if internal solenoid plungers are being
    considered in blades to break it off quickly?
    But then blades must be strong and solid.
    Lets have some video of the problem sometime.
    News reports always have the same type of
    pictures of the thing though this should
    make the side on views less frequent. Bit
    nervy those camera people sometimes.

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    The wind turbine I was thinking of is mentioned in this article (the Chicago emplacement), however this article is critical of building integrated designs in general.

    I just had an wierd question pop into my head. Could a wind-based power generator be made out of some sort of stalk attached to a piezoelectric base? I recall researchers working on piezoelectric sidewalks meant to make electricity from pedestrians.
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    Sure it could.
    But compared to a windmill there's very little effect vs. area needed since the stalks are where the wind is low.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    The wind turbine I was thinking of is mentioned in this article (the Chicago emplacement), however this article is critical of building integrated designs in general.

    I just had an wierd question pop into my head. Could a wind-based power generator be made out of some sort of stalk attached to a piezoelectric base? I recall researchers working on piezoelectric sidewalks meant to make electricity from pedestrians.
    And dancers even..

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    Mugs: "I predict that in 30 years, individual "homes" will be much smaller, but will have communal living spaces with select neighbors, with well-planted interior courtyards. Thus, you might have four to 10 families all living in small, dense personal spaces, but with larger, more open communal areas."
    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Maybe. With the construction boom, we may have an abundance of houses that are available. If population increases slow down or if population decreases, then living together may not occur.
    I base this less on building booms or busts than I do on observation of the way newer apartment complexes are going up. For decades the American Dream has been to own one's own home, but a growing number of people are opting for apartment living. Instead of just a pool, however, they're opting for (and are willing to pay for) sculptured landscapes and communal rooms. In fact, one of the apartment complexes I looked at recently has a communal room that's large, with a huge kitchen, pool tables, a 16-place business/Internet center, popcorn popper, 16-seat home theater with full, booming sensurround, pool with built-in hot-tub, double top of the line grills...

    In short, living the good life! Wide open spaces, and lots of young professionals kicking back and having a good time. Yet the best apartments in town where I went to school had no such amenities.

    Energy may drive part of it, if the aforementioned McMansions and other less efficient structures are abandoned to to the inability to afford upkeep.
    Exactly! And excessive water usage per capita in a home with lawn is one factor; high HVAC bills are another.

    Successful migration to alternative sources of energy must be accompanied by massive scaling back and greatly increased efficiences - and not just token ones, either. The 30 mpg "fuel efficient car" is a sick joke, a slap in the face of the American intellect, particularly as I owned a 48 mpg go-anywhere, carry-anything (incl four adults, + bags and skis) VW Diesal Rabbit twenty years ago!

    30 mpg my eye...

    Climate change may alter things as well, such as destroying coastal areas from storms or sea level rise forcing more people to relocate and decreasing the house supply such that people do decide to love closer together as you mention. The US has a lot of land available for development, but I doubt that even sea level rise will make people decide they want to live in Nebraska.
    Probably not. I've also noticed that some of the newer apartments around town are four-story units, not two story, and complete with elevators. Going verticle became popular in big Eastern cities a hundred years ago because it worked - the units were affordable whereas spreads were not.

    With the recession, many people are making changes, some permanent, to their spending habits. Moving towards a more communal lifestyle is something humans have done for millennia. It's in our blood. If economics dictates cutbacks, it's conceivable that people will make the move.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I base this less on building booms or busts than I do on observation of the way newer apartment complexes are going up. For decades the American Dream has been to own one's own home, but a growing number of people are opting for apartment living. Instead of just a pool, however, they're opting for (and are willing to pay for) sculptured landscapes and communal rooms. In fact, one of the apartment complexes I looked at recently has a communal room that's large, with a huge kitchen, pool tables, a 16-place business/Internet center, popcorn popper, 16-seat home theater with full, booming sensurround, pool with built-in hot-tub, double top of the line grills...

    In short, living the good life! Wide open spaces, and lots of young professionals kicking back and having a good time. Yet the best apartments in town where I went to school had no such amenities.

    <snipped and moved>

    Probably not. I've also noticed that some of the newer apartments around town are four-story units, not two story, and complete with elevators. Going verticle became popular in big Eastern cities a hundred years ago because it worked - the units were affordable whereas spreads were not.

    With the recession, many people are making changes, some permanent, to their spending habits. Moving towards a more communal lifestyle is something humans have done for millennia. It's in our blood. If economics dictates cutbacks, it's conceivable that people will make the move.
    Well, that sounds a lot better than the crap apartments I've seen and/or lived in. Communal living can work, but you need community, something you can't always get with a mobile lifestyle. Plus, if people want to expand with a family, they pretty much have to leave, unless the communal block has a larger suite available. Another issue may be economic problems forcing people to conduct their own "cottage industries" which might be difficult in such a setting if it involves loud noise and the need for work room. So, a communal living arrangement might be good for singles, or couples, or families if they are service employees or salarymen/women, but perhaps not all in the same block. Entrepreneurs and artists might have to move elsewhere, but perhaps they're okay with that. But proper design can minimize any of the issues I just mentioned.

    Exactly! And excessive water usage per capita in a home with lawn is one factor; high HVAC bills are another.
    That will really be a regional issue. Where I live, we get plenty of rain and you can't not have a lawn. The stuff just grows naturally. You can't practice xeriscaping, but you can't let it grow too wild or you'll violate pest ordinances.

    Successful migration to alternative sources of energy must be accompanied by massive scaling back and greatly increased efficiences - and not just token ones, either. The 30 mpg "fuel efficient car" is a sick joke, a slap in the face of the American intellect, particularly as I owned a 48 mpg go-anywhere, carry-anything (incl four adults, + bags and skis) VW Diesal Rabbit twenty years ago!
    I don't know that we need to scale back massively, in the sense that we need to contrain ourselves from out current lifestyle. Even moderate advances in a few key areas could see dramatic changes in our energy use without dramatically affecting our lifestyles.

    Maybe you really should start that other thread about alternative house design and we can include appliances and related lifestyle equipment.
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