View Full Version : Alternative Energy Sources

2003-Jul-25, 11:51 PM
If everyone in the world was enjoying our standard of living, pollution would be a big problem unless we were to implement "new" and pollution free energy sources. The technology already exists for many of these (eg. solar power, nuclear power etc.), but what about energy sources yet to be developed or perfected (eg. nuclear fusion)? Use this forum topic to discuss anything to do with new energy sources, whether it be ways to generate electricity, ways to power motorised transport, ways to heat up your coffee, and importantly, ways to power future interstellar space missions!

Kashi :D

2003-Jul-28, 08:44 AM
Solar energy. We've got heaps of it! At least for the next few million years. I read once or twice that enough solar energy hits Earth in one minute that is needed to supply all our power needs for a year. Now how much is actually being used? bugger all!
When I was back in my final year of high school I did a physics paper on solar cells. At that point (about 8 years ago .. oh boy I'm getting opld! someone fetch me my walking frame) average efficiencies of solar cells were at about 8%. Recently I've heard of good (lab tested) cells working at approx 35% efficiency. An abundant, interminable (at least in the foreseeable future) energy souce ... how much coverage does it get? zippo! Now, unless you live in England and get no sun (sorry, just having another go at Dippy :D) this sort of thing should be the backbone of power stations.
...Is there something I'm missing?

2003-Jul-28, 02:19 PM
one new feasible technique under study dedicated for orbital planes propulsion is fuel cells. these cells rely on clean elements like hydrogen and oxygen, which are abundant in the atmosphere (mostly in the form of vapor). the trick is in using solar power to undergo electrolysis and gain H2 and O2 from the vapor. these 2 gases are used as propellents without the involvement of combustion(which is why it's classified as clean). after their use as fuel, it happens that they recombine into H2O (it's all part of the process) to electrified in the next session.
Consequently, this mechanism is clean, relies on completely renewable resources, and is perfect for minimizing pollution and costs dramatically.


here's the full detailed article:
[I][B]In the future, aircraft pilots may not have to rely solely on their jet fuel to power their planes. They could turn to fuel cells to power at least some onboard systems.

NASA researchers and aerospace engineers are working to do just that, develop fuel cells that could supply aircraft with the power needed to run onboard systems while jet fuel pushes the plane through the sky. More advanced fuel cells could even keep airships aloft for weeks at a time.

"What we're doing is mainly along the same lines as the [U.S.] Department of Energy, which is to focus on reducing the cost of these aircraft systems," said Anita Liang, chief of the aeropropulsion projects at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Fuel cells can convert a variety of fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas or even the Jet A fuel used in commercial airplanes into energy without combustion, making them a cleaner and quieter alternative for aircraft.

Airships away

Liang's team at Glenn Research Center is tackling the challenges of aircraft fuel cells on two fronts. The first is developing regenerative fuel cells for unmanned high-altitude airships.

Hydrogen fuel cells like those developed for automobiles produce water vapor as a byproduct of generating power. Since water contains the hydrogen and oxygen necessary for a fuel cell to work, an airship could reuse the wet stuff in a regenerative system by using solar energy to separate it back into gases.

During the day, solar panels plastered across the top of an airship would provide the power necessary to turn propellers and separate water into its component parts via electrolysis. The fuel cell then runs at night on the separated hydrogen and oxygen, combines the gases into water and in the morning the whole system starts again.

"These airships are something very closely tied with our science missions or surveillance," Liang told SPACE.com. "So we're trying to get the [operational] time up to something more like 14 days at an altitude of 30,000 feet."

But the project is still in the technology development stage and a working regenerative fuel cell plane will probably take about five years to complete.

An auxiliary power unit and one small plane

Closer to home than high-flying blimps is a project to adapt fuel cells into commercial jets in order to both save fuel and cut back on noxious emissions.

Aerospace engineers at Boeing, Co. are working with Liang's team to develop an auxiliary power unit (APU) for airplanes capable of using Jet A fuel to generate energy. Instead of hydrogen fuel cells, the plan calls for a solid oxide version that can handle the impurities of jet fuel. While the APU wouldn't power an airplane's engines, it would reduce the amount of jet fuel needed provide the electricity need for most other onboard systems.

During a presentation to the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) earlier this year Boeing's David Daggett, as associate technical fellow, presented the aerospace company's plan for a fuel cell APU.

According to Daggett, a tail-mounted solid oxide fuel cell APU could save up to 40 percent of fuel during a flight's cruise and be put into effect by 2015. The project does depend on the relationship between how heavy a fuel cell is and how much energy it can produce. A Boeing solid oxide fuel cell APU would have to be able to generate at 450 kilowatts total, with a power density of about one-kilowatt per kilogram in weight to be efficient.

"We need to improve fuel cells to be about 10 times better than what's available now," Liang added.

In the meantime, a determined pilot with an environmental state of mind could put together an eco-friendly electric plane using off-the-shelf fuel cell parts.

A small two-seater kit plane like the MCR-01 model could be modified to run on a hydrogen fuel cell largely due to the similarity of its power consumption with that of an automobile.

"Anything bigger and things don't scale well in terms of power requirements," said Jeff Berton, an aerospace engineer at Glenn Research Center who has analyzed the feasibility of small, fuel cell-powered aircraft.

A small electric airplane would be much quieter than a combustion plane, which would be useful in small airports near homes. But there are major hurdles too; not the least of which is infrastructure. A pilot would need a dedicated hydrogen production facility at the airplane's home airport, no small feat for a recreation flyer.

"And that's a tough nut to crack," said Berton.

Fuel cell flying

Putting fuel cells aboard aircraft is not the newest of ideas. Over the last few years, NASA scientists have been working to put such power plants aboard unmanned aircraft such as Helios, a large pilotless vehicle that was recently lost during test flights in Hawaii.

"In a sense, it's an automotive-type fuel cell system," said John Del Frate, NASA's Helios program manager at Dryden Research Center in California, before the crash. "But there are some challenges, particularly the higher you go."

Fuel cells developed today are built for sea level atmospheric pressure, he explained. So any airplane fuel cell flying over 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) has to contend with extremely low pressures and temperatures of about -110 Fahrenheit (-78 degrees Celsius).

With a wingspan of about 247 feet (about 75 meters), the unmanned Helios would have been the largest aircraft to be powered by fuel cells to date. Solar panels would provide the necessary power for liftoff with ground controllers switching to the fuel cell once Helios was in flight. But Helios crashed 29 minutes into a June 26 test flight.

Del Frate is currently regrouping his project, but did say that fuel cell technology is going to be a widely discussed and applied technology in the coming years.

"I think we're all going to be tired of fuel cells by the time we're done," he said.------

2003-Jul-28, 06:36 PM
My understanding of one-way mirrors is that light can pass through one way and only half the other. If we create a hollow sphere with this material, than shine a light on it, the light would move out more slowly. Now this should be enough time to finish the coat to make this a regular mirror if the photons where polarized then we could make a battery out of this.

Does this sound possible?

2003-Jul-28, 07:42 PM
There are two problems with a using hydrogen as a fuel source. One is that it is a transportation system, and not an energy source. You have to get the actual energy from something else. Right now they are talking about making if from oil. That means that the exhaust from a fuel cell is just water, but the pollution that comes from the plant that made the hydrogen is still a mess.

The other thing is that someone just figured that hydrogen can destroy the ozone layer. Even if you made hydrogen from a "clean" energy source, there would be so much leaked from the transportation system that it would still cause ecological harm via the ozone layer destruction.

As to fusion, when I was in college 25 years ago, we were told not to worry about the 70's oil crisis because fusion power was only "20 years away". I have heard recently with the latest advances in physics, it is now only "25 years away". It seems to be receeding into the future at a rate of one extra year for every five forward. 25 years from now it should be only 30 years away.

As to solar power. At work we recently acquired some 7" square Fresnel lenses for imaging purposes. Which means the first thing we did was take them outside and burn leaves in the parking lot. Now THAT is impressive. Made me take solar power seriously.

P.S. : solar battaries
The problem is that the reflectoin are not 100% effecient. If you sent in 100 photons, then you would loose 10% with each reflection. The problem being that because light goes so fast, in a split second you would have trillions of relections and have lost all of you light. Too bad, really. Great idea.

2003-Jul-28, 11:08 PM
"Right now is quite the right time to come up with an idea wich will solve atleast 60% of all energy problems of today". That what I heard from a scientist on a show on discovery channel.

Creating cheap energy has always had its consiquences, like nuclear plants which replaced coul. It was no problem 50 years ago, nobody seemed to care of the consiquences in the future. But then came the Tjernobyl disaster which was one of our first warning of nuclear power, and then came the nuclear waste wich had to be dumped.
If we continue making energy like this our planet may be inhabitable in some 70 years. It seems like a long time but it ain't long.
Some scientist have figured how to make fission in somekind of a reactor, they have managed to do the same chain reaction that happens on the sun or a hydrogen bomb. The energy released is tremendous, but lasts less than a second and is uncontrolable. It seems like we might have hope, but we are along way from making a plant able to generate so much energy wich lasts and can be controled. This means the idea is good but may have come too late to change anything.

If we are not able to come up with something effective, we may be doomed.

2003-Jul-29, 12:26 AM
I'm inclined to think that it is not so much that we CAN'T figure out a means to create more ecologically-friendly fuel sources. We can. I believe it's mainly three constraints:

1) We keep trying to make it "cheap." We try to develop wind sources, solar sources, fuel cells, then go back to the drawing boards because it isn't "cost effective" or less expensive than our current habits. But is that the only goal? I thought it was vital that we discover and use SOMETHING less damaging than fossil fuels, not just to save money whilst we do it. :blink:

2) We keep sacrificing good methods because they aren't a solve-all solution. We venture into a few solar panels here, use a few wind turbines there, but won't spend more on such things because they can't solve ALL our problems right now. I would vote we raise the percentage on all alternative sources while we're still working on it, and raise the level of research funding.

3) Pardon my foray into paranoid conspiracy-theory brouhaha, but such technological advances may be kept back or hindered. If I was the leading source of fuel usage on the planet, and didn't care much about the world beyond the present, I would do all I could to make sure I don't get replaced by something cleaner, cheaper and more ecologically wise. (This goes beyond the current thread to include hemp, which is itself a viable fuel source).

I'd heard about ten years ago that it was possible to get a car's engine to use gasoline so effectively it could get 90 miles to the gallon, but we somehow slipped back into SUV usage. We also know painfully well how corrupt energy companies can be. I think it's not only an issue of finding new ways to power ourselves, but also some political maneuvering and restructuring to help everyone recognize our need.

As a side note, I'm afraid I don't know enough about nuclear power plants to know their success rate and failure, risk level, etc... but I think that despite the very real horrors of what can happen if a meltdown occurs, it's a bit alarmist to veer away from its possibilities. It's a more commonly-used power source than one would think (read: all our vast Navy ships).


2003-Jul-29, 01:12 AM
TwAgIssmuDe, what you are referring to is Nuclear Fusion, which is indeed the process that the sun uses to generate electricity. It is the opposite of fission which splits atoms.

How can splitting and fusing atoms both produce energy you might ask?

It's all to do with the stability of a nucleus. The most stable atom is Iron (mass no. of 56 I believe). This stable state is one in which the least amount of energy (called nuclear binding energy) is needed to hold the nucleus together. As atoms get smaller and larger than this, more binding energy is needed per mass of nucleon. This binding energy is equal to mass (E=mc^2), so the some of the mass of all sub atomic particles in a given nucleas will actually be more than the mass of the nucleus, because some mass is lost as energy. Anyway, my point is that atoms smaller than iron (eg. hydrogen isotopes dueterium and tritium which are used in fusion) will give off energy when they are fused as less nuclear binding energy is needed. The same goes for when larger atoms like Uranium undergo fission.

Nuclear fusion has been sustained in a "small" laboratory scale experiment. Visit http://www.iter.org/. They've done it! The problem is containing the superheated "plasma" (matter that has been stripped of its electrons because of extreme temperature or kinetic energy of over 100 million degrees kelvin), which is required for matter to overcoming the forces of electrostatic repulsion so that atoms can actually collide and fuse. As soon as this plasma comes into contact with anything it will cool down and the reaction will stop. The way they're currently working to contain it (which has been modestly successful) is with large electro-magnets. The website will explain it better than I ever could!

Apparently they're working on plasma propulsion is a whole new kettle of fish. I don't really know much about it!

Keep up the good work everyone!


2003-Jul-29, 01:30 AM
Sorry, I made a mistake. ITER haven't "done it". But I think another group of scientists have. I'm investigating this source.

2003-Jul-29, 02:56 AM
I was going to say!! If they had achieved nuclear fusion it would be one of the most talked about things since the moon landings! Once one person has done it .. it's easy (well relatively). Like breaking the sound barrier. impossible ... impossible .. impossible... oh! it CAN be done .. and then people went faster and faster and faster. Fusion would open up the world to an unlimited (and most probably clean) energy source. What a thing that would be!

John Phillips
2003-Jul-29, 08:05 AM
Unfortunately nuclear energy has its problems. Besides the potential for disastrous accidents, the waste products take a long time to decay and are threat to future life.

Progress with controlled fusion sure has been slow. But there's already a huge fusion reactor at a safe distance of 150 million kilometres away providing up to 1 kW/m2 on Earth for free. The Earth does the courtesy of rotating so we all get a share of its radiation, too. B)

I think that solar energy, both direct and indirect, is the way of the future. For a start, the energy from our existing electricity generation plants would go so much further if a lot more use was made right now of solar collectors to directly heat the hot water we use in our homes and offices. As the technology is maturing, we then need to make more use of photovoltaic cells to generate electricity and wind-driven generators to capture indirect solar energy.

Despite the recent alarming reports about the potential impact of hydrogen on the ozone layer, I am sure the problems of its containment during storage/transportation and emission of uncombined hydrogen during energy conversion are ones we can solve.

Although hydrogen is favoured because its oxidation does not produce so-called greenhouse gases, carbonaceous fuels not derived from oil could still have their place. The carbon dioxide their oxidation produces is part of a much shorter-term cycle than that of the carbon dioxide that is produced from burning fossil fuels. The formation of fossil fuels is simply too slow. As an example, CO2 from releasing the energy in methane generated by bacterial decay of recently dead organic material (bio-gas) is absorbed by the next generation of plants grown for the purpose of fuel or food.

I think that hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells promise an excellent solution as a chemical-to-electrical energy conversion element for transport. The convenience of being able to refuel and resume a journey in a short time frame cannot yet be equalled with storage batteries.

Hydrogen is also compatible with the internal combustion engine so it could be phased in with today's automotive technology and be ready for the tomorrow's cars.

Paraphrasing what has been stated in a previous posting, hydrogen is indeed effectively a means of storing and transporting energy captured from another source. But so are fossil fuels, really. We are the privileged who have unlocked (and squandered) the sun's energy that was stored in oil millions of years ago. I think the use of energy in the future is going to place a huge emphasis on efficiency, because the collection of sunlight, despite its abundance, will take up valuable space and probably won't be as convenient (at least initially) as extracting energy from the Earth's oil resources has been.

Bill AH
2003-Jul-31, 12:57 AM
There is much research going into alternative energy sources such as geothermal, tidal, wind and solar as well as more research into nuclear power. One technique I have seen is called the Advanced Fast Reactor. I do not know a lot about it, but it is apparently very efficient, produces little waste and passively safe, meaning without human or mechanical interference it will shhut itself down when there is a problem. Maybe someone knows more about this and can explain it further. I do not know where progress stands at this point.

I think overall that a combination of many or all of these solutions would be the best method unless advancement in one made if far superior. I also agree with Polarbeast that because the oil business is a billion, if not trillion, dollar industry and any research into something cheaper, more efficient and enviro-friendlywould be viewed as detrimental and ways found to discourage it. I suspect if some of the old predictions about the oil supply running out were true, we would see the major oil companies leading the way with new, superior alternative energy products (to be fair, BP is investing a lot into solar power research).

2003-Jul-31, 05:07 AM
I think they actually have contained fusion reactions, but only on an experimental scale. Visit http://www.plasmas.org/fusion-mag.htm for more info.

2003-Jul-31, 05:01 PM
hey guys, ESA is givin in new ideas, OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY ROUND, we are those whoo...4get it!!

http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEMORAYO4H...otecting_0.html (http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEMORAYO4HD_Protecting_0.html)

Space shows way to Europe’s renewable energy future

31 July 2003
How can we more effectively harness the free and endless energy resources of the Sun, wind and water? One answer is orbiting above us.

Satellites provide us with a wide variety of data that can help with many aspects of the building and management of renewable energy plants.
ESA recently held a workshop at its Frascati-based centre in Italy, attended by representatives of the Earth Observation (EO) service industry together with renewable energy companies and utilities to explore how satellite data can be exploited in this area.

And this month the Earth Observation (EO) Market Development section of ESA announced plans to fund an international project to foster the development of EO-based services for the wind, solar and hydropower energy industries.

Europe is already the world leader in renewable energy. Denmark is flanked by some 2,300 wind turbines, supplying 15% of its electricity. Germany is on course to have 140,000 solar-panelled rooftops by 2005. More than half of Scandinavia’s energy comes from hydropower.

And as part of Kyoto-protocol efforts to curb carbon emissions, the European Commission has pledged that renewable sources will make up 22% of Europe’s energy supply by the end of this decade (up from 14% in 1997). As the importance of the renewables sector grows, the idea has arisen to use satellite data for better exploitation of its various energy sources.

Solar power

Meteorological satellites such as the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) series can provide ‘sunshine maps’ that can help select optimal sites to build new solar-cell plants.

And speaking at the Frascati workshop, Murray Cameron of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) explained how space data could also be used to help quantify the potential power expected from a given solar plant and its associated performance.

Wind energy

Selecting the optimal location for windfarms is very important. Christof Stork of UK-based Garrad Hassan told the Frascati workshop how satellite data on land use, surface topography and roughness could improve the accuracy of regional wind atlases currently used to site land-based windfarms.

Offshore windfarms are more productive and most future farms are likely to be built in the coastal ocean due to the saturation of land-based sites. To be viable, offshore developments have to generate at least 200 MW, and to build on such a scale costs at least €300 million.

The problem is there is hardly any offshore wind data available to industry. Furthermore, existing data record mainly extreme wind events. And to gather in-situ data from a single offshore meteorological mast can cost a million Euros a year, and provides data only for a small area.

But using satellites enables a shift from a local to a global view. The sophisticated Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instruments on board ESA’s ERS-2 and Envisat can provide high-resolution 100-metre data on the wind field, and a decade-long data archive is available.

Other space-borne instruments could come into play through the cycle of wind turbine planning, construction and maintenance. Optical sensors such as Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) could be used to carry out environmental impact assessments. And satellite images could also be used for marine traffic management during initial construction and later repair work, as well as for daily energy production forecasting.

Currently supplying around one fifth of the world’s energy needs, hydropower is a pollution-free power source that requires only the flow of water to spin a turbine. Accurate quantification of how much water will flow from a given region at any one time is extremely useful for optimising hydroelectric power production, deciding dam levels and setting electricity prices.

In Norway for instance – where hydropower supplies almost all the country’s energy needs – around half of all winter precipitation accumulates on the ground throughout the winter as snow. By measuring snow coverage and thickness, then combining this information with meteorological data such as ground temperature, run-off can be accurately modelled and predicted.

Optical EO data is already used to monitor snow coverage, together with ground observation. The operational use of optical data remains however severely limited by the presence of clouds. But radar instruments such as those aboard ERS-2 and Envisat have the potential to greatly supplement the amount of snow data gathered, because they can see right through clouds.

Anders Rognes of the Norwegian Computing Center told the Frascati workshop how they have worked with Statkraft, a major Scandinavian hydropower company, to prepare a snow reservoir mapping system called SnowStar. The SnowStar server automatically processes satellite information of several different systems, including radar imagery, for display within geographical information system (GIS) software.

The next step

Representing a first in the EO field, the Invitation to Tender issued by ESA this month is open to applications until 5 September 2003. The hope is that pilot services to the renewables sector can be developed, then grow to become self-sustaining.

“The ESA gathering was very useful in getting service providers and potential service users together,” said workshop participant Marion Schroedter-Homscheidt of the German Aerospace Centre DLR. “Now the Invitation to Tender gives both sides the opportunity to turn the ideas we discussed into reality.”

2003-Aug-13, 12:42 AM
I may have missed it, but did anyone mention magnetic energy yet? This is a natural and a renewable source that is cheap, powerful & economically friendly, but it has hardly been researched. Nikolai Tessla made an engine with magnets that was one step away from being an over-unity engine. I know for a fact than a magnetic motor has been designed & patented for automobiles, but the energy commision has covered it up. Probably because the large car manufacturers don't think they could make much money on a motor that will last 90 years without a tune-up. ;) Politics again. Humph.

2003-Aug-13, 09:32 AM
I've heard of such methods of electricity generation. I think tesla's invention was actually a generator that converted motion to electricity using the Earth's magnetic field (i.e. it didn't just pluck energy out of thin air).

My understanding is that a motor than runs soley on the positioning of magnets is theoretically impossible as it would suggest perpetual motion, in which energy is not conserved.

I've heard all sorts of conspiracy theories before just like you are suggesting. I'm open to the idea but I don't think there is any proof.


2003-Aug-13, 10:16 PM
It is possible. We built one out of everyday magnets, wood & syrofoam that ran for over 6 months. The patent exists. I believe it is Chrystler that owns it at the moment. All of this is verifiable. I believe most of the diagrams are in Tessla's biography.

2003-Aug-13, 10:18 PM
...Oh, and it is not a perpetual motion machine, because it does decay over time. But it does approach being an overunity machine (i.e. puts out as much or more energy as it consumes).

2003-Aug-13, 10:21 PM
I'd love to see the plans for this.

2003-Aug-15, 06:18 PM
Solar power, wind power, fussion, cars that get 90 mile per gallon. They all sound good. I haven't heard ion power yet.

There is a lot of technology out there we see developed as long as the oil industry keeps their world domenation on energy sources.

I remember reading years back that Denmark or some place like that developed a system which can turn garbage into fuel like gasoline which cars can use.
but the oil industry bought it up and we havn't heard of it since.

I'm not suprised when I watch my local city government turn down an industrial tycoon's plan to end our garbage and landfill problem with a process that seperates and recycles 98% of our local garbage making it into usefull products,
in favor of comdeming a farmer's quarry to build a regional landfill whereby the city can make money accepting garbage from other states. They use the sad excuse of our local landfill being nearly full to justify their venture without looking t alternitives.

Now if my city can do that, and the oil industry is buying out inventions, what do you think a pair of oil tycoons in the United States White House are going to do about alternitive energy sources?

I'd bet a week's pay that if someone could build a spacecraft that ran on crude oil
old G.W. and his croonies would be backing up space travel then.

We'd be on our way to Mars, every other planet in our Solar System and maybe even Alpha Centauri to see if we can find more oil.

2003-Aug-15, 09:29 PM
I've got six 145 watt crystal solar panals and one 900 watt wind generator that charges six T-16 batteries. From this, (through an inverter) I can run my 1hp well pump, water heater, lights, computer, and stove unless it is overcast, and there is no wind. Then I either have to fire up my generator, or flip the switch and run off of the grid. Id by the equipment to sell my power back to the Provider, but it is quite expensive to buy then have the Power Co. install.

Alternative energy is a great way to go. When it works. Anyway, I recomend that you have a back up plan if you run alternative.


Oh, the question was will it run vehicles like the space ship types? Answer: I don't know. From my experience with this stuff, I would not want to rely on it to make sure that I could do little things like continue breathing, or reliably get me from point A to Point B then back to Point A again. :)


2003-Aug-16, 05:09 PM

I can't imagine the solar panels being very effective for you during the fall, and winter, (when you need it the most)
I lived in Portland in 1978 and 79, and while I conceed it by far the most beautiful state I have ever been to, it is also the rainiest, especially from early Oct through April. I remember being very upset because I didn't see a full solar eclipse because of overcast skies. Which I think also caused me to miss seing skylab come down.

Now much wind either, except for up in the cascades.

2003-Aug-17, 12:47 AM
hi everyone!
I just thought up of something that sounds pretty weird but may be able to relive some problems.
What if we get hamsters or any pet that likes to run.. like a rat, put them each in a small running wheel, hook up all the wheels, then let them run. Or we could just wire these mind control things (Believe me, people have made these AND tested them) onto the rodents and make them run a certain distance before switching them with replacements. The problem would be getting all the rodents and taking care of waste and all the things rodents do. Or maybe we could get some people to do this, and pay a whole ton of money to get them running. The problem with that would be the money.
I get crazy ideas but somehow, if improved some way, this idea just might work.


2003-Aug-17, 12:55 AM
oh, and one more thing.. about using hamster wheels? unstead of just connecting the hamster wheel directly to a generator, we could use gears to increase the rpm to give more power.
Very basic stuff. hmm.. We could even use a bike-like thing for humans.. I think I'm getting on to something.. ;)
well, ttyl!


2003-Sep-03, 05:14 AM

A company drilling deep down in the desert in Australia where the granite is very hot. They pump water down and it's forced out another pipe as steam and used to power a turbine to generate electricity. There's enough energy down there to match the biggest hydroelectric schemes in the world. This isn't operational yet, but what a great idea.


2003-Sep-11, 11:10 AM
Nobody's mentioned zero-point energy?!

Yes, alternatives like solar energy & hydrogen fuel sound so logical, and within our reach technologically...but I don't think we're gonna see them replace the ridiculous oil monopolies too soon...?! Maybe when the oil runs out...?!

2004-Jun-10, 09:39 AM
With the instability in the Middle East driving up oil prices, perhaps it's time to breathe some fresh air into this old topic.

2004-Jun-10, 02:11 PM
I believe that a long term solution to the energy supply problem should receive the highest of priorities. I discount zero point vacuum energy harnessing out of hand because, even if it proves doable, the technology for doing it is centuries away.

Let's see whether we can order our thinking (I'll try to discard using the Higgs field) to define the problem and evaluate and prioritize solutions to it.

How accurately can we estimate fossil fuel reserves that can be retrieved for positive energy production (is the coal sufficiently accessible that it produces more energy than it costs to retrieve it)?

What amount of fossil energy is required to emplace alternative technologies?
Photovoltaic panels
Fission plants (fusion is too far off in the future)
Biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol)
Geothermal equipment
Hydrogen (production and packaging)
Non-fossil methane
Man/animal power
Orbiting solar power arrays
Genetically engineered microbes

What percent of total energy consumption is currently provided by fossil fuels?

What portion of energy production can reasonalbly be assigned to each alternative?

What are the detrimental effects on the environment caused by the use of each?

How will the massive use of hydro-thermal power affect cooling of the earth's interior thus affecting volcanism and plate tectonics?

Can hydrogen be packaged for safe use by the "average person"?

What efficiencies and total energy costs can be achieved across the spectrum of events associated with hydrogen packaging and use?

When do we start monitoring the O2 content of the atmosphere to ensure safe levels are being maintained?

How can we influence the rules makers to take appropriate action?

Does this topic deserve its unique forum with the list of alternatives under constant editing? Each question as well as others, as appropriate, could be a separate topic.

2004-Jun-13, 06:03 PM
Originally posted by kashi@Sep 3 2003, 05:14 AM

A company drilling deep down in the desert in Australia where the granite is very hot. They pump water down and it's forced out another pipe as steam and used to power a turbine to generate electricity. There's enough energy down there to match the biggest hydroelectric schemes in the world. This isn't operational yet, but what a great idea.

Do you mean geothermal energy? I think we have it and it's operational. Here, in a place in Jawa Barat, Indonesia, there is a region with many natural hot gas sources. People from national company make long pipe network to distribute the gas to the power supply structure. The water is boiled and used to move the generator. I think geothermal energy is a good alternative. I'll try to gather more info about it.

2004-Jun-13, 06:10 PM
Geothermal ( pertamina&hl=en)

I've got the link. Check it out ;) !

2004-Jun-15, 05:32 AM
Whatever energy is produced from "something" currently goes down the grid to the points of use, the houses and offices and factories. If that "something" is burned, like oil or coal, about 30% of the energy content is lost as heat at the point of production. Another 30% of the energy is lost through the grid as heat from electrical resistance and through conversion losses.

All the information I have seen indicates that about 90% of the remaining energy which reaches the house is used wasted through inefficiency.

So, 100% - 30% - 30% = 40% left at the point of use /(divided by) 10 = 4% actual amount of energy needed to run things, or 25 times less energy than is present at the point of production.

It is always a good thing to reduce the work load by 25 times. Most alternative solutions would then have a fair chance of working quite well.


2004-Jun-15, 01:08 PM
So, 100% - 30% - 30% = 40% left at the point of use /(divided by) 10 = 4% actual amount of energy needed to run things, or 25 times less energy than is present at the point of production.

It is always a good thing to reduce the work load by 25 times. Most alternative solutions would then have a fair chance of working quite well.

But then the alternatives also have their inefficiencies probably at near the same percentage levels.

2004-Jun-19, 06:34 AM
The best solar cells to date capture about 15 percent of the energy in sunlight. Some good news recently is that a new solar cell has been developed that captures 30 percent and is relatively inexpensive to manirfacture. Once this becomes mass produced, the future solar cells will likely begin to be able to rival gasoline for cost per energy produced. Once gasoline becomes less abundant on 20-40 years, next generation solar cells will begin to look quite atttractive in terms of cost per kilowatt hour.

2004-Jun-19, 03:27 PM
Mmmm solar panels are better then that, I think some of the high-end Gallium Arsenide cells can hit efficencies in the 60% region. Trouble is, solar cells in general of any kind are way too expensive to rival gasoline. We're talking an area on the order of hundreds of square miles to be able to put a big dent in that kind of energy demand.

And how will solar panels operate cars, trucks, trains, and planes?

One of the coming cost solutions to regular inorganic solar cells are polymeric solar cells, which are way less efficent (like 10% would be really high for them), but they are dirt-cheap to produce, at least in theory. You could even maybe "spray" heavy-duty plastic wrap with the cell material and make the stuff by the yard, and not the square inch.

2004-Jun-19, 08:49 PM
Well every energy source we think of has its disadvantages.
Solar panels- expensive
hydropower- requires a lot of land to flood to produce enough force
nuclear-expensive and dangerous
wind -requires a lot of land and it isnt very efficent

Almost anything you think of has its disadvantages. In order to change this, your going to have to convince people to hate money. I believe that a combination of these would be the cheapest and most efficent energy source. But i have a question, plants have been gathering and storing energy for millions of years and they have also supported the entire planet (food chain), why arent we researching them for a better way to use the suns energy?

2004-Jun-22, 06:13 AM
While we are all waiting for a room temperature superconductor, why aren't we using the absolute zero of space and the earths magnetic field to generate energy?

Which begs the question, what problems do circuit boards onboard space probes face if they become superconducting in the cold vacuum of space?

2004-Jun-23, 05:54 AM
Reducing consumption is more cost-effective than power generation.

Some recent postings about Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs:

Compact Flourescents and Heat Reduction (http://www.universetoday.com/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=10&t=3592&hl=&view=findpost&p=32277)

Buy 1 Compact Flourescent Light Bulb and Save Trillions of Dollars (http://www.universetoday.com/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=10&t=3592&hl=&view=findpost&p=32478)

But then the alternatives also have their inefficiencies probably at near the same percentage levels.

As part of a well-designed "System", Photovoltaics, even at 10% efficiency, can produce all of the power for a home and the cost for the Photovoltaics is essentially FREE!
Photovoltaic Produced Electricity Can be Free! (http://www.universetoday.com/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=10&t=3322&hl=&view=findpost&p=29473)

GCNRevenger, re-

We're talking an area on the order of hundreds of square miles to be able to put a big dent in that kind of energy demand.

Again, about 30% of the energy that would be produced in a giant Solar energy farm would then be lost through the grid as heat from electrical resistance and through conversion losses.

And then, about 90% of the remaining energy which reaches the homes would be wasted through inefficiency.

It is better to make energy-efficient homes and produce the balance of the needed electricity on site, next to the house, with a minimal-sized solar photovoltaic system, than to make giant, expensive solar farms and waste almost all of the energy produced.

Would you care to take a guess as to what industry is spreading the propoganda about the high price of solar photovoltaics, and coming up with impossibly expensive scenarios(like giant solar power farms) to use it? Hint-Rhymes with "Oil".

There is even an experimental solar power farm out in the west(Airzona, I think) that is now making more money by selling off its panels directly to consumers. Too much power was getting lost down the grid, and they were losing money. B)

2004-Jun-27, 10:43 PM
The moon is covered with hydrogen and helium from millenia of solar wind deposition. Plenty of fuel for fuel cells and fusion reactors.
Just for digging it up and processing the lunar soil.

2004-Jun-27, 11:34 PM
Originally posted by CharlesBell@Jun 27 2004, 10:43 PM
Just for digging it up and processing the lunar soil.
Ummm, how many tons of rock do you think you'd need to dig up to get enough hydrogen for a cubic meter of water? How much energy do you think it would take to process the rocks to get the Hydrogen out?

2004-Jun-28, 12:13 AM
Its well documented by NASA.

Larry Kellog wrote about it last week.

2004-Jul-01, 06:50 AM
As far as Helium3 is concerned, 200 million tonnes of Lunar Regolith would need to be processed to get one tonne of He3; this sounds impossible, but as He3 is potentially an excellent power source it may well be worth it.

If other elements can be extracted during this process,using solar thermal heating the whole enterprize should be worth doing. Hydrogen for water is one potential resource, although it may well be cheaper to export this relatively light element from Earth.
But elements like aluminium, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron are all there in abundance, so may help to make the He3 mining operation worthwile.

The future energy strategy for the Earth should be something like this;

Coal will last many hundreds of years so clean coal power plants are a priority.
Use fission plants to make up the shortfall in oil production as fossil fuels begin to run out.
The solar energy falling on the Earth represents 18,000 times our total current energy use; efforts should be made to collect as much of this as possible.
One good way of collecting solar power is by Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion; this method uses the ocean as a collection surface.
Geothermal energy is only viable in geological hotspots because of the thermal conductivity of the crust (think about it); but there are many such hot spots.

Fusion power will eventually begin to pay its way; probably deuterium fusion on Earth extracted from seawater.

He3 mining on the moon will probably power the exploration of the solar system rather than be exported to Earth; similarly the silicon on the Moon could extract fabulous amounts of solar power by satellite photovoltaics and solar arrays on the lunar surface; but this energy too will be best used to power space enterprises.

2004-Jul-01, 02:36 PM
Here (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.07/oil.html?tw=wn_tophead_8) is a source that is not "alternative" in the usual sense but is nice to know about. We may be able to use it to build the tools and equipment needed to develop real alternative sources.

2004-Jul-01, 02:50 PM
What is the latest thinking on the ultimate source of petroleum deposits. Have abiological processes been completely ruled out? Titan seems to have quite a bit of hydrocarbon material which is probably not of biological origin. Could the early earth have "stored" similar material and converted it into the current supply of petroleum by geologic processes?

It may be worthwhile to incentivise the biotechs to develop microbes by genetic engineering to both clean up much of our waste and to produce some sort of fuel. These would be self replicating and self repairing renewal energy suppliers. Not the equal of Al Capp's shmoos but much better than nothing.

2004-Jul-01, 08:48 PM
What is the latest thinking on the ultimate source of petroleum deposits. Have abiological processes been completely ruled out? Titan seems to have quite a bit of hydrocarbon material which is probably not of biological origin. Could the early earth have "stored" similar material and converted it into the current supply of petroleum by geologic processes?

Since Tom Gold died there aren't many serious proponents of abiogenic petroleum; it is not a good idea to invest in that idea without better evidence.

It may be worthwhile to incentivise the biotechs to develop microbes by genetic engineering to both clean up much of our waste and to produce some sort of fuel. These would be self replicating and self repairing renewal energy suppliers. Not the equal of Al Capp's shmoos but much better than nothing.

Hopefully, with suitable nanotech/biotech, any given waste product will truly become a resource looking for a market - even radioactive byproducts.

2004-Jul-04, 04:24 AM
the cmb is a free energy source...it's minimal, but available 24/7 anywhere.

2004-Jul-14, 03:09 PM
I think the massive kinetic energy of ocean waves and currents is an abundant and obvious potential source of energy. Several years ago I read an article in Science Digest of some experiements with a turbine atop a long verticle pipe in a donut-shaped float. After the swell crested, the float and its pipe containing a column of water dropped, driving the column of water up the pipe and through the turbine, which naturally turned a generator.

There are people planning and building large fenced enclosures that are submerged to appropriate depths to slowly float major currents. They intend to farm fish, hoping that by the time the cage reaches the other side of the ocean (picture going from Florida to just off England or France) the fish will have grown and matured to marketable size. We know many of those currents, especially fast and deep currents through deep, underwater canyons. Suppose we put an aquatic form of our wind turbines down there?

The practical considerations are tremendous in this latter case--pressures almost unimaginable in their fast and massive flows. But think of the energy present! If today's hydroelectric power is a model of efficiency, imagine the potential in some of the deep currents of our oceans. Big, slow paddles might work for the large and comparatively shallow currents, so as to minimize danger and damage to ocean life. But down deep, where life is scarce and the cold water's flow fiercely, something different is needed.

Such a shame, however, that generating large amounts of electricity in the far and scarcely travelled reaches, whether from wind and waves on the surface or currents down deep, would also be hard to transport that power to where it is needed. Electricity and water are problematic partners. Imagine some big offshore generating facility and connected with undersea cables like old underwater phone lines. Now picture the insulation getting broken! I can just see the engineers and technicians exclaim, "Why couldn't they just pave some desert place with solar cells?" But then the ocean's waves and winds and currents don't shut down at night.

2004-Jul-14, 07:04 PM
Good analysis of the Ocean Potential Iswinford!

"Why couldn't they just pave some desert place with solar cells?" But then the ocean's waves and winds and currents don't shut down at night.

Fortunately, most homes,offices and factories do shut down at night, and peak electrical demands are during the day. Also, some overproduction from solar during the day could create hydrogen for use in fuel cells for the smaller demand at night.

This, and other alternatives, as you have brought up, along with reducing overall demand by good design and efficiency, should allow us to have plenty of power. Diversification is good.


2004-Jul-15, 02:30 AM
How about using the ocean generated power to produce hydrogen. It could be shipped to where it is needed by a tanker or a submarine pipeline. The Aleutian Islands in Alaska have almost continuous high winds. They could use wind power to generate electricty and use the electrical energy to produce hydrogen. This probably wont happen until most of the fossil fuel becomes too expensive to develope.

2004-Aug-09, 02:47 PM
Maybe we could power cars and vehicles with nuclear batteries and RTGs. The nuclear batteries which power the lunar rovers and probes, even though they have been sent out 30 years ago, are still good. Electric vehicles powered by such sources would eliminate the range and energy limitation problems.

If those don't work, I think there was a helium gas turbine cycle small reactor being anaylized somewhere.

I am very much a fan of nuclear fission power, because the energy it gives us is amazing, and the reactor systems are simple and easy to run. The waste products are so ridiculously small and easy to deal with that once people get over their irrational superstitious fear of radiation, there will probably be a revolution in energy generation.

It'll probably start in the military. Reactor powered Tanks and artillery without fuel supply trains would greatly enhance mobility, and the extra power would aid in communication, jamming, recharging power on special ops equipment, and other high energy tasks.

As for hydrogen, one of the problems that no one mentions is that it is a pain in the *** to store. It either has to be under intense pressure, or extreme refrigeration, and the failure of the refrigeration or pressurization systems could cause an explosion. Zeolite containers wear out and are made of expensive material. The whole system is more expensive and a lot more complicated as a result, even assuming you could get the same energy worth of hydrogen for the price of gasoline. In contrast, it doesn't take a whole lot of equipment or technology to store alchohol or gasoline and burn it safely.

If we could attach the hydrogen to carbon, our artificial fuel would be much better behaved.

Another consideration - to replace the energy consumed by transportation in this country alone, it would take literally hundreds of giga-watts of energy. We would need thousands of powerplants running full out to power the fuel factories if we were to turn to an artificial fuel source. It has to be done, but if you are scratching your heads wondering why we still use oil, the true economics of an artificial fuel economy are not as straightforward as pouring water into "Mr. Fusion".

I'm also highly interested in various fuel farming activities. It could become for us a form of biological solar energy. And the amount of carbon dioxide emmitted by our vehicles becomes a moot point, because it is equivalent to the amount being sucked up by our fuel farms. I wonder what the most efficient plant to use would be. Algae? Some grass or grain? It would have to suck up sunlight, grow very very fast, and have minimal depletive effects on the soil. Maybe genetic engineering could help us out here.

What are your thoughts?

2004-Aug-11, 07:14 PM
Living in the North American interior, I wouldn't directly benefit, but for those on the coasts I've had some musings about something that might provide some economies to reduce the energy needs. I thought about this when I worked for a government air conditioning contractor. We had some buildings that had some rather specialized big chillers that cooled water which ran through air transfer fan coils units to provide chilled air in some large housing complexes. Somewhere I was reading about the ocean's water temperatures generally being largely (certainly not completely) lifeless, dark, and very cold down deep. So I wondered that if in some cities people paid for steam or hot water to come from the local utility, why not pipe up cold sea water (or a more chemically inert freshwater piped down to chill and then pumped back up) for our chilled air? Normal air conditioning pumps heat out of room air, dumping it into our environment, along with the equipment heat to perform the work. In this we cook water (increasing environmental heat) to make the steam to make the electricity (increasing the environmental heat) to make the air conditioners dump some excess heat into the environment outside our targeted offices and homes. Bringing chilled water, or taking water down to be chilled, in deep ocean canyons, quickly pumping it up to coastal city users reduces the energy usage in keeping us cool. The fans blowing across the water coils and the utility pumps to keep the fluid network moving would replace an enormous amount of compressors and chillers (and more than a few hot electrical transformers), large and small. Heat exchangers along the pipes on the way down dump that resulting 80-100 F water into the coastal waters, reducing the flow to 40-50 F water at the target cooling depth for the return flow to chill offices, apartments, and homes some more. How's that sound?

2004-Aug-12, 01:00 AM
Iswinford, heat exchangers are very simple, and for the folks living in areas that could take advantage the the cold waters, every bit of alternative can help.

2004-Aug-13, 11:06 PM
How about growing Water Hyacinths in sewage effluent lagoons and feeding the Water Hyacinths into anerobic digesters to produce methane?

2004-Aug-14, 04:58 AM
JESMKS! That would work very well. In fact, Hyacinths are great for helping to process sewage, and the cellulose in them actually helps to increase methane production in a digester ( adds carbon). And they make a real pretty blue flower!

If you were to make Methane(CH4) from the waste from an average household, and burn it in a generator, or better yet, in a fuel cell, it would produce about 5% to 10% of the energy consumed by the typical house. If you combined that process with a home that was energy efficient, say one that consumed 90% less energy than a typical house, then the Methane produced would cover all the energy needs.

So, combining good design and efficiency with energy producing systems that also process the waste products can work really well together.

I know an engineer in Alaska who made a Methane digester/generator system for a food producing greenhouse for an Eskimo tribe. The cellulose from the plants was added to the digester, the exhaust from the generator was water vapor and CO2, which was exited into the greenhouse (both good for the plants), and the energy from the generator was fed to extra lights for the plants.

They increased plant growth by a factor of 5. Much more food. And, I bet they didn't even know they were refining a Closed-Cycle Environmental Life Support System for Space applications! :)

2004-Aug-18, 03:09 PM
I seem to recall that Arizona State (or was it U of A) had a test site in Mexico several years ago. They ran a diesel generator to power a seawater desalter to provide water to some greenhouses. They also piped the diesel exhaust into the greenhouse enclosures. Supposedly there were some good results but it obviously didn't catch on, but I don't know why (probably because it costs the farmer some investment, which rich countries wouldn't bother with for common commodities and poor countries can't afford). Personally, I worried that working in a greenhouse that was getting the exhaust gases, whatever the process source, to help the plants, they wouldn't exactly help a worker's lungs (or maybe nose) much. But then, with all the composting manures and fermenting silages of many farms "fresh country air" isn't always sweet and pristinely clean.

Also, weren't there some sort of grasses and rushes used in those bio-sewage systems? I know that there was an electric generator in El Centro, California that ran on hay. Imagine pumping sewage from San Diego and Los Angeles over the 'hills' to something near the farmlands around California's Salton Sea, which is to irrigate (and fertilize) hay fields. Then they burn the hay to generate more electricity that they need there. I am guessing that burning hay is possibly cleaner, and certainly more renewable, than digging up and burning coal.

2004-Aug-21, 02:16 PM
Heat exchangers along the pipes on the way down dump that resulting 80-100 F water into the coastal waters, reducing the flow to 40-50 F water at the target cooling depth for the return flow to chill offices, apartments, and homes some more. How's that sound?

At first glance this sounds great. We need to know more about the costs in energy to emplace and service as well as operate the system. Then there's the environmental effect of adding heat to the ocean in this way; it'll probably benefit some species of marine life and hurt others. It could even change the courses of ocean currents and precipitate an ice age. The butterfly effect (from chaos theory) will be difficult to assess. We should proceed modestly.

From the reading I have done on the subject it seems that fossil fuels provide upwards of 80% of the energy currently being used to power our technology including the production and distribution of food and fresh water. Although I strongly agree that we need to develop alternative sources and practice conservation, we must be careful to assess the energy required to create and operate the alternatives. It is mandatory the we develop reasonable and pragmatic alternatives because the supply of fossil fuel is limited and if we run out before we have viable alternatives in place, we face horrendous disaster including drastic reduction in human population.

2004-Aug-21, 03:48 PM
I don’t think I’d sweat the “running out of fossil fuels” fright too much.

Taking the really long perspective, the human species has never run out of anything.

The most superficial analysis reveals that, as for fossil fuels, the United States currently generates more than half of its electricity from coal, and we have enough coal to last many centuries. For this we have to change nothing.

And, while more expensive than just sticking a straw in and watching the oil flow out, fossil fuel alternatives are numerous, abundant and very feasible.

Shale oil was produced in the 1970’s at about $200 per barrel in 2004 dollars. That would be the equivalent of about $8 per galleon of gasoline; hardly a population devastating catastrophe. Maybe we could do better price-wise now, and there are centuries worth of shale oil in the United States.

Oil from tar sands may be even less expensive and there’s even more of that in Canada.

Methane from methane hydrates in the oceans exists in quantities that dwarf all other sources of fossil fuel. These hydrates represent a substantial environmental danger since many events (an impact, for instance) could release the methane into the atmosphere in very large quantities. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; and such an event could overwhelm, in an hour, any contributions humans have made to atmospheric gases in the last few centuries.

It might be worth figuring out how to use this stuff up, but there's so much of it, millennia would be required.

As an alternative to fossil fuels, current nuclear technology is here now, widely and successfully used, would last for centuries, and is cost competitive with cheap fossil fuels. France generates about 75% of its electricity from nuclear, and exports a lot to other European countries, such as Germany and Denmark, who are too environmentally pure to conspire with the nuclear genie.

Of course, there are so many other alternatives, I would think it's hardly a problem that could ever directly result in significant depopulation.


2004-Aug-22, 03:20 AM
Oil from tar sands may be even less expensive and there’s even more of that in Canada.

I knew we should have taken them over when we had the chance. <_<

I think we still have mostly full oil reserves in California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. What took out our oil independence wasn&#39;t technology limitation, or resource depletion, it was NIMBY. We still produce 40% of our own oil.

Of course, if we&#39;re worried about carbon dioxide, we could probably set off one of those monster algae blooms out in the pacific ocean and fix some of that carbon.

2004-Aug-22, 05:28 AM
Not to mention ANWR

2004-Aug-23, 06:56 PM
I was thinking about the conservation thing mentioned earlier. My son&#39;s SUV gets twice the gas milage of a good light pickup from the year he was born. I once got to conserve a lot of gas when my car broke down and I had to walk to work until the parts came in. (I sure was happy that it got fixed when it did because just a week later it snowed and while I don&#39;t mind a stroll in the snow, walking to work and back everyday would have made me appreciate snow a little less).

As for the petroleum reserves, we have to remember the asymptopic character of recovery. After the field&#39;s midpoint, when the reserves are a little over half drawn, it becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to extract the rest. They never really &#39;deplete&#39; a field, just drain it down to where it is no longer economically practical to extract more. So even the depleted fields still have a lot of oil coating the rocks down deep, even after you&#39;ve flooded it, steamed it, and soaped it. Specialty chemical needs will still have a petroleum source for a long, long time. But if we begin to stop using petroleum for burning then there will be more for various plastics and special chemicals.

As for the Tar Sands, I&#39;ve got a little bit of my retirement money in a company that works those things. I hear they&#39;ve got more oil in those Canadian sands than Saudi Arabia brags about. Americans had The Oil Shale Company to mine and extract oil from Western Colorado, but I haven&#39;t heard what happened to it, though I know that environmentalists were fighting tooth and toenail to stop it.

There are piles of projects to discover plants that can be producers of or feedstock for our petrochemical needs. This ranges from versions of algae that produce vegatable oils to supplement, or even replace if necessary, diesel. There are several pilot plantations of an Amazon-basin tree, a sort of balsa wood tree, that fills its hollow tubes with something very close to diesel. As one report said something close to, &#39;maybe with a little filtering you could put this tree&#39;s sap directly into your [VW diesel] rabbit.&#39; Then there are the kelp farms, lots of kelp farms, that are not only intended to provide food for humans, but habitats for fish, and the processing requirements to convert to oil refinery feedstocks as well.

I bet that if religion and politics weren&#39;t problems, then large parts of various coastal desert lands might one day be filled with greenhouse farms for food and fuel. One notion, using an arched cover, over tanks of seawater [and yes, the sun and wind could provide the energy to pump it] to grow algae. During the nights, the same heat radiation that cools the desert sands would cool those plastic or glass covers and condense some of the steamy growing environment, which is collected in gutters and directed to the greenhouses for plants requiring fresh water. Keeping things in these closed environments minimizes or conserves the water loss in those dry environments. The future high prices for food and fuel will pay for these ventures which are already found in limited use in several coastal desert Arab countries.

So here, on the one hand, are the petroleum-rich Arab countries paying cash for imported comforts, socking away enormous excess cash in real estate and government debt of the Western countries. On the other hand, there are Western energy companies sitting on masses of cash or buying back their own stock (at its highest prices, good economic sense that it is) and afraid to find more oil, build more efficient refineries (to replace those with less efficient processes and smaller capacities or simply incredibly old age). Meanwhile we wait to see what the tipping point is, or what the empowering event will be, before we take the serious steps to move in the next major technological direction.

Keep it up guys, maybe someday something will dawn on those who make the decisions and investments. Perhaps a well-turned phrase or descriptive picture will percolate out to those who need something to galvanize their "vision" for the future. ;)

2004-Aug-24, 12:54 AM
Maybe we could have a little &#39;nuclear revolution&#39; and build mini reactor powered cars. B) Hey, if it&#39;s good enough for the lunar rovers . . .

2004-Aug-24, 03:34 AM
Rovers don&#39;t drive drunk. :o

2004-Aug-31, 07:33 PM
Here&#39;s a piece from the September 6, 2004 BusinessWeek ("Another Dawn for Solar Power" by Otis Port, pp. 94-95).

Some 35% more solar power equipment was produced and shipped in 2003 than the previous year. Something close to half of the world&#39;s solar power generation was in Japan (Germany second) and "installed five times as much new solar power capacity as the U.S."

From their table of 2003:
Sharp sold 198 megawatts of capacity
Shell Solar 77 (mostly after buying Siemens Solar Group)
Kyocera 72
BPSolar 70
RWE 42
(Mitsubishi, Isofoton, Sanyo, Q-Cells, and Photowatt round out the top ten)
Key names in new technology are Stirling Energy Systems, Solaicx, SunPower, ShellSolar (organic solar cells), Nanosys, Nanosolar, Matsu****a, Konarka, Energy Conversion Devices, GE, IBM, and Molycell.

Stirling has some mirrored generators that they&#39;ve about got the costs down to something invitingand have efficiencies of close to 30%. Solaicx is into silicon photovoltaics and expects to get their costs down to the same neighborhood on cells with some 21% efficiency. Several of them (Shell Solar and the nano companies), have low-efficiency (5%) materials that are very cheap paints, films, or portable pads for things like cell phone or laptop recharging. They think they could coat a whole roof cheaply and make up for the lower efficiencies of the high cost equipment.

Solar is starting to cook&#33;

2004-Aug-31, 08:33 PM
Well, thats cool.

We still need a few terawatts, and an inexpensive artificial fuel medium if we are to replace gasoline. Perhaps artificial generation of alchohol, or power driven coal gassification would work.

2004-Sep-01, 02:05 PM
This is from one of my inputs to another thread.

Take a look here (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/trends/table1.html) for how heavily weighted our energy production is in favor of fossil fuels. It is surprising how small the contribution from hydrothermal and wind is. This table reveals at a glance that developing the alternatives before we run out of fossil fuels is strongly essential. Energy Production Ratio (EPR) of each new source must remain above unity (e.g., the energy production from one unit of coal must always be larger than the energy required to make it available to the furnace that uses it) and the larger the better. Not all coal reserves meet this requirement; I&#39;m not sure about petroleum reserves. It is not obvious that advocates of each of the alternatives has really grasped how difficult the transition to alternatives is going to be. We are all in this single lifeboat; if it must be rocked, do it gently.

2004-Sep-02, 08:20 PM
Large orbiting solar arrays, that can "beam" the energy they capture to Earth via microwaves.