Saturday, June 26, 2010

Paper entitled - Is there really an Energy Crisis - Done Spring Term For WR 125

This is an introduction to Alternative energies

Is There Really An Energy Crisis
We hear all this panic about peak oil but with all types of alternative energy options out there, is there really an energy crisis? Our lives are flooded with messages about pollution, the energy crisis, and energy problems. We watch the news and environmental documentaries that show us the world crisis of global warming and worse yet the pollution caused by mishaps of drilling for oil.  We watch as prices go up at the gas pump month after month and everyone speculates that they might not be able to drive in the future.  With all of this hoopla we are left with a vague guilty feeling and the thought in our minds “Are we really doing everything we can?”  Some people say we can save a ton of electricity by changing a light bulb, yet in a way it seems so futile.  After researching sustainable energy creation I say there is no energy crisis! Now days with technology and basic economic theory, the world is already adapting and sustainable energy is the next natural step.  I think it’s possible to totally convert to clean energy before we run out of oil.   Below is a list of options that are either being developed or already in use: (many of these are have facinating videos on
Ocean thermal Electric Conversion – (OTEC) is Ocean Water energy creation- thermo haline circulation by using the deep water formation - “70 % of the earth is covered by water, 97.4% is ocean water”   the oceans waters store.. more than 300 x the earths electrical needs are in the solar power contained in the tropical ocean. It is stored in the earth by Thermo haline circulation. “  right now in the Atlantic basin  there are areas where 40 degree cold water is  accessible very close to where 80 degree water  is on the surface – one suggested location for this project is the “coast line of Puerto Rico – at Punta Tuna – less than 2 miles from the shore. The changes in temperature are necessary to create the Ocean Thermal Electric Conversion or  OTEC …. This system uses continuing renewing energy to generate electricity – without oil, coal, natural gas or any other fuel.  OTEC only needs the temperature difference between the upper water and cold deep water of the ocean.  Some disadvantages:   there are only certain areas that are close to shore that have the depths and temperatures to achieve this.  Also this still appears experimental in nature.
Wave Power –  The theory behind wave power is to use a device to harness the energy that the waves naturally create.  According to  there are several types of machinery being tested to capture wave energy -  one is the Pelamis which looks like a gigantic sea snake.  Alternative Energy news lists several types of wave energy capture devices being developed including but not limited to the buoys, oyster wave, bio wave, and bio stream.   Some disadvantages:  t each type has many parts that would be difficult to service  and the harsh conditions of the ocean could cause them to break down easily.  The devices and their systems and maintenance could potentially upset the delicate balance of the eco system.   The variations of waves could also pose a problem with consistent capture of electricity.  And lastly some of these options are very expensive and make other options of capturing electricity seem more cost effective. 
Solar thermal power  - This is a option that combines solar technology with thermal combustion.  Mirrors  reflect sunlight to a tower that  heats either air or water which runs a  turbine that generates electricity .  The larger plants are cumbersome to manufacture and erect.  Bill Gross of eSolar  said “We want to compete with coal.  We looked at all of the renewable technologies that can be deployed at scale and they were all variations of solar thermal. “ Bill Gross was  also asked with this technology having been around 20 years why is his product different? H e explained that other Solar thermal plants were very large and had to be specially manufactured. Then after the long duration of manufacturing there was also a difficult installation and finally after installation the directions of the mirrors had to be manually changed to reflect light. He has designed a smaller Solar thermal design that can be built in 2 days that is also controlled by a computer program that he has now patented.   (Q&A Bill Gross 1).  Some disadvantages:  The electricity plants must be located in distant locations.  Certain designs of the Solar Thermal may not generate enough electricity to make it cost effective.
Wind  farms –These are giant modern day windmills that  are around 275 feet high and have a blade that the wind pushes around that creates electricity from a turbine.  However,  according to  they have developed a bladeless  wind turbine that is said to be better for the environment(1).  Wind farms are popping up everywhere and are a great clean energy source.  Some disadvantages:  According to Hal Bernton, wind power is a “roller-coaster “ for generating electricity and “is placing large new strains on efforts to manage regional power grid” here in the Pacific North west(p1).   In the same article by Hal Bernton, Jim Smith said   “It’s not as easy as the wind-power developers would like us to believe”(2).  Bernton also said that “Currently the wind farms don’t have a way to store the power.”  They try to balance slow days of wind out with Hydropower but “There are Limits to hydro-powers ability to balance out the system”(3).
Geo thermal Energy – This option uses heat from the depths of the earth to create energy. According to Agency Group 05In a typical binary geothermal power projects, hot water is drawn from wells as deep as 4,500-6,000 feet below the Earth's surface .. U.S. Geothermal's supercritical binary geothermal cycle is more efficient than other systems”.  Some disadvantages:  are finding good sites to build an energy site as well as this resource being potentially  dangerous and unpredictable(1).
Bio Mass – This form of energy is produced from vegetable, animal or, urban waste, its called the sleeping giant. It has multiple applications.   Can be turned into bio gas. Bio diesel and bio ethanol.  Some disadvantages:   the use of some of the bio diesel and bio gas seem like they would be a pollutant.
Solar  - photo voltaic - On the website   it says that the  sun can create enough energy in one day to power the world for a year. If that is true I think that solar energy is the most viable type of energy available. We need to harvest that energy and take advantage of it “Estimated that over 20 million square  meters of solar panesl  were installed in 2006. Solar energy is also converted into electricity in solar mirror plants or directly using panels of photo voltaic cells.  Either grouped together in plants  or placed on facades of buildings or roofs. Or in isolated sites.  Solar panels are made from photo voltaic (PV) cells – enables the creation of electricity using light.  The UK seems to be ahead of us they’ve come up with incentives on how to get people involved and have already made a commitment to make 20% of all energy creation renewable energy.  The  PR Newswire   writes that the UK has just started a program in April 1, 2010 all people have to do is install  “Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels - an investment that could save you money by generating the electricity you need to power your home while also earning you benefits through the Government's Clean Energy Cashback”.  Some disadvantages: areas that don’t get as much light will need to use other energy smart options.  The solar panels produce a limited amount of energy.
Overall it seems we have many options to beat this so called energy crisis.  In the website - there are fascinating videos about Europe and the middle east with sustainable technologies, wind turbines, and solar panels being used to harvest energy. As long as we strive for sustainability peak oil will become irrelevant .  If any of these new options fall short there is plenty of technology and philosophies out there where we can create our own energy right in our house.  Bicycle generators can be used to power a tv, cell phone charger, and small appliances. Personal  solar panels on your house can take off some of the load.  Maybe one day we can drive algae  or solar fueled cars.  There are even new technologies where the activity of walking creates energy that can be stored in a cell.  Personally, I think there is much more we can do than just changing a light bulb.  Sustainability is about letting go of some of our traditional ideas of how things run and start looking for new technologies.  Not only are there a multitude of new designs for sustainable energy there is also a growing awareness  of how to live more healthy in a neighborhood that has everything you need within walking distance. Maybe  knowledge will be what saves us in combination with solar energy.  

Works Cited
Agency Group, 05. "Department of Energy offers $102 million conditional commitment for loan guarantee to US Geothermal, Inc." FDCH Regulatory Intelligence Database (n.d.): Business Source Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 June 2010
"Alternative Energy News." Alternative Energy News. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2010. .
Bernton, Hal. "As wind power booms, so do the challenges." Seattle Times 23 May 2010, Fourth ed., sec. News: A-1. Print.
"Q&A Bill Gross." Technology Review 113.2  (2010): 10. EBSCO Host. Web. 13 June 2010.
"Solar Aero Research alternative energy: wind, solar, hybrid, geothermal." Solar Aero Research alternative energy: wind, solar, hybrid, geothermal. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2010. .
Stienstra, Tom. "Expect costlier gas for summer trips." San Francisco Chromincle  9 May 2010, 5star ed., sec. Sports: B10. infoweb newsbank. Web. 1 June 2010.
"Wave Power - Energy from ocean surface waves." Alternative Energy News. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2010. .
"What's next for 'drill, baby, drill?'...." Washington Post, The (DC) 9 May 2010, F ed., sec. Financial: G2. infoweb. Web. 1 June 2010.