Tag Archives: Alternative-Energy

Good news for solar power, but problems remain

From FuturePundit, we get a rough outline of the solar situation in the US.  Basically, solar power is growing more popular, but the percentage of homes using solar power is still tiny.  According to this article at the Wall Street Journal, various problems await homeowners looking to install solar panels.  In addition to months-long waits, one of the biggest problems is that the panels are installed incorrectly, making them very inefficient.

Overall, though, solar usage is growing and expanding into markets beyond conventional home power.  Golf carts, pool heaters, and solar water heaters are all becoming more popular.  Other good news includes a move from solar thermal cells, where the sun heats up liquid that is used to make electricity, to photovoltaic cells which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

As a young, single guy who hasn’t lived in a place more than three years since high school, buying a house and making it energy efficient won’t happen anytime soon.  I plan on keeping a close eye on developments, however.

(image via Beige Alert)

(Yet another) reason why biofuels may not be the answer

In addition to worries about driving up food prices around the world, especially in developing nations, there comes a study from Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen that biofuel may be even worse for us than fossil fuels.  The team calculates that biofuels can release 50-70% more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, as well as release roughly twice as much nitrous oxide (N2O) as previously thought.

I think the problem here is that everyone is looking for a way to maintain their current standard of living and not admit that this level of energy usage will have to decrease.  The funny thing is, it’s not all that difficult to reduce the usage, if only just a little.  I think it’s actually more difficult to get your car converted to biodiesel than biking/walking to nearby places and not leaving lights on.  But that’s just me.

(via SciTechDaily) (image from neilsphotoalbum)

Update: Apologies, I misread the news report. I should’ve found the original paper first. It turns out that Dr. Crutzen found that N2O was marketdly increased, and if the environmental effects of N2O were converted into how much cooling CO2 would do, it comes out to be the afore-stated 50-70% increase. Which is a lot. Dr. Crutzen also stated he did not take into account the fossil fuel required to power the agricultural process (plowing, harvesting, etc), not did it take into account any beneficial co-products. He only focused on N2O production. It seems there is also some controversy about the efficacy of the calculations used. Please see the paper here(pdf).

UK Government announces feasibility study on Severn tidal barrage

how a tidal turbine worksFor 150 years there have been plans to build a barrage across the Severn Estuary, close to where I live in Bristol, England. Yesterday the government revealed a new detailed study into the possibility of such a construction in the near future. The barrier would cross the Bristol Channel from near the Welsh capital of Cardiff across to Weston Super Mare, south of Bristol. The 16km-long barrage could provide as much as 40,000 jobs and provide a rail link between England and Wales.

This is an exciting development. The distance between Bristol and the corresponding coasts on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean causes a resonant frequency in the tides, causing one of the biggest tidal shifts in the world. If this plan were to go ahead it could provide 5% of all of the UK’s electricity demands. There are environmental concerns about wildlife but the formation of a cleanwater lake beyond the barrage may also create new habitats. Another option is a series of tidal pools such as the one being proposed as a test site near my hometown of Swansea.

{image from the bbc article}

Want to use biofuel? There’s oceans of possibilities.

Could this green slime be a goldmine?

{image by Juvetson via Flickr Creative Commons}

A British biologist has suggested that there may be an overlooked candidate to make biodiesel. Corn, soy and Palm oil are three of the main crops converted into the alternative fuel but all have significant problems with environmental impact as well as raising the price of the foods themselves.

 John Munford proposed this week that much of the algae growing on the surface of the ocean could be harvested to produce biodiesel. Utah University has been studying fresh water algae, which can produce as much as 10,000 barrels of oil per acre. Munford says that seaborne algae has the advantage over this kind of pond scum by being self-maintained by existing ecosystems. An area similar to the North Sea could produce all the biodiesel currently used in transport across the world.

 [via The Economist]

UK government approves first large scale wave farm


Today the UK government gave planning approval for the world’s first large scale wave farm off the coast of Cornwall in South West England. The project, dubbed Wave Hub, is a world first and will include an onshore substation connected to electrical equipment on the seabed about 16 kilometres (10 miles) offshore via a sub-sea cable. Wave Hub could generate enough electricity for 7,500 homes, directly saving 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 25 years. Because Wave Hub is also a research facility, it could create 1,800 jobs and put £560 million into UK economy over the same 25 year period.

[via Gizmodo]