Category Archives: Alternative Energy

Latest News about Alternative Energy i.e. anything other than Petroleum based, nuclear and coal run energy sources.

Ivanpah – The World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant

On September 24th it was announced that the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System produced its first output of energy when the Unit 1 station was synchronized to the power grid for the first time. Achieving this critical “first sync” is a major milestone for the project, which is jointly-owned by NRG Energy, Inc., BrightSource Energy, Inc. and Google.

ivanpah-solar-thermal-1

Some Interesting facts:

  •  Upon completion, Ivanpah will be the largest solar thermal power tower system in the world.
  • Electricity from Ivanpah will avoid millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants – the equivalent of taking 70,000 cars off the road.
  • The project will create more than 2,100 jobs for construction workers and support staff and 86 jobs for operations and maintenance employees in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state taxes.
  • Named after the Ivapah Dry lake in where it is located.

The stations Power tower technology includes large Heliostats that track the sun throughout the day,solar field integration software and a solar receiver steam generator. Power generated from Ivanpah’s initial sync testing will go to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which has a power purchase agreement for energy produced out of the plant’s Unit 1 station. ivanpah-solar-thermal-2

Located in California’s Mojave Desert, Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal plant in the world, spanning 3,500 acres of public land. Once fully operational, the 392 megawatt (377 megawatt net) plant will generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes annually. Ivanpah’s three power tower units will also nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal energy capacity now operating in the United States.

 

Read More about it HERE

Artificial Leaf To Harness Sun’s Energy

 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created an artificial leaf that could harness Sun’s energy and provide a potentially limitless source of energy by the process of photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert sunlight and water into energy.

The new device is a playing card sized silicon wafer coated on either side with two different catalysts. The silicon absorbs sunlight and passes that energy to the catalysts to split water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen.

“A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” said Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., who led the research team. “We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he said. “One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases would be stored in a fuel cell, which uses those two materials to produce electricity, located either on top of the house or beside it.

“Nature is powered by photosynthesis, and I think that the future world will be powered by photosynthesis as well in the form of this artificial leaf,” said Nocera, a chemist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Read More at ScienceDaily

Photo Credits@

Spisharam

mickeyvdo

Liquid Magma as Geothermal Energy Source

Magma

Image courtesy@ michi_s

An Icelandic team was drilling into the Krafla caldera as part of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, an industry-government consortium, to test whether “supercritical” water (very hot water under very high pressure ) could be exploited as a source of power.

They planned to drill to 15,000 feet, but at 6,900 feet, magma (molten rock from the Earth’s core) flowed into the well, forcing them to stop. But this prompted them to test magma as geothermal energy source.

Krafla Geothermal Energy

Krafla caldera

“Because we drilled into magma, this borehole could now be a really high-quality geothermal well,” said Peter Schiffmann, professor of geology at UC Davis and a member of the research team along with fellow UC Davis geology professor Robert Zierenberg and UC Davis graduate student Naomi Marks. The project was led by Wilfred Elders, a geology professor at UC Riverside.

When tested, the magma well produced dry steam at 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius). The team estimated that this steam could generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 25,000 to 30,000 homes.
That compares to 5 to 8 megawatts produced by a typical geothermal well, Elders said. Iceland already gets about one-third of its electricity and almost all of its home heating from geothermal sources.

When tested, the magma well produced dry steam at 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius). The team estimated that this steam could generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 25,000 to 30,000 homes.That compares to 5 to 8 megawatts produced by a typical geothermal well, Elders said. Iceland already gets about one-third of its electricity and almost all of its home heating from geothermal sources.

A paper describing geological results from the well was published this month in the journal GeologyA paper describing geological results from the well was published this month in the journal Geology

Source: physorg.com

Solar Wind: Answer to Earth’s Energy Quest?

Read this article on College News titled “Dyson-Harrop satellites: The answer to the energy crisis?” On reading the entire article I understood that 2 Washington State University Scientists Brooks L. Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch were proposing that a solar wind power satellite that could be an answer to the world’s energy crisis.

Solar Wind Ions charging the Moon by NASA

Solar Wind Ions charging the Moon by NASA

Wondering what is “Solar Wind”? I did too! The solar wind is a stream of energized, charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, flowing outward from the Sun, through the solar system at speeds as high as 900 km/s and at a temperature of 1 million degrees (Celsius).

Harrop and Schulze-Makuch suggest using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide (5,220-mile-wide) solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind, the team hopes their concept could generate 1 billion billion giga Watts of power, far more power than humanity needs — if they can get that power back to Earth.

Concept of the Dyson Sphere has been around for 50 years, the scientists do not consider it a pragmatic solution, as it requires excessive matter to create and too much energy to stabilize. The technology needed to realize such a device is far beyond what we are capable of at this time.

What is the Dyson-Harrop (DH) satellite?

DH satellites use electrons from solar winds to generate energy, and then use photons from the sun to eject the used electrons.  It’s best said by Harrop and Schulze-Makuch, “DH satellites can be produced to collect any amount of power desired, up to the total energy of the Sun.”

What are its pros and cons?

Pros:

  • Easy to manufacture and it is made almost entirely of copper with no circuitry. The copper would capture electrons flowing out from the sun.
  • Modeling suggests it is an effective generator – modeling suggests that the DHS can provide power at a rate that increases proportionally to the square of current through the Main Wire.
  • Even large satellites have a minimal impact on the Sun’s solar wind output.
  • They believe it may be possible to design a satellite that can remain in a stationary position.

Cons

  • Compared to the Dyson sphere, the DHS generates power at a fairly low rate.
  • Initially it could be used to power the space station or satellites, rather than the earth.
  • The simplicity of the DHS could also be its downfall – this model possesses no method of protecting itself from debris or actively maintaining its position.
  • Heat dissipation could also be an issue.
  • Distributing power – Right now they are looking at existing laser technology to transmit power to a collector on earth, the accuracy from that large a distance allows for very little error in aiming.
  • By their own admission they have not made allowances for engineering difficulties.

Opinion:

The idea of a clean energy dependent sustainable lifestyle is mind-blowing! It is fascinating via research new ideas and new horizons keep coming up. Hopefully some day this idea will be feasible enough and create enough energy for the human race to survive.

Sources –

Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch

Brooks L. Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch (2010). The Solar Wind Power Satellite as an alternative to a traditional Dyson Sphere and its implications for remote detection. International Journal of Astrobiology, 9, pp 89-99 doi:10.1017/S1473550410000066

College News Article By Misty Mix

MSNBC article

MagneGas: Recycling Liquid Waste Into Usable Fuel

CNN Money.com™ had an article titled From Trash to Gas, it piqued my interest and following it I got to a video link about MagneGas™ a natural gas alternative and metal working fuel made from liquid waste such as sewage, sludge, manure and certain industrial and oil-based liquid wastes. The Company’s patented Plasma Arc Flow™ process gasifies liquid waste, creating a clean burning fuel that is essentially interchangeable with natural gas, but with lower green house gas emissions. MagneGas™ can be used for metal cutting, cooking, heating, powering bi fuel automobiles and more.

The MagneGas technology has been developed by the Italian-American scientist Dr. Ruggero Maria Santilli. He developed a new class of fuels called MagneFuels™. The Company MagneGas founded in 2007 in Florida sells a device which turns waste water into clean water and a natural gas alternative.

Prof Santelli calls his machine the PlasmaArcFlow Recycler™, it can convert everything from sewage water to used motor oil to MagneGas™ a synthetic natural gas alternative.

The PLASMA ARC FLOW(TM) process gasifies a number of liquid waster into usable byproducts. The byproducts include: A fuel MagneGas, heat, carbon precipitates and sterile effluent fuid which can be used for irrigation or as a liquid fertilizer (ongoing research).

The machine can process 2000 gallons of sewage an hour and produce just under a 1000 cubic feet of gas an hour.

There are 3 kinds of PlasmaArcFlow Recycler™

  1. “Total Recyclers” – intended for maximum conversion of liquid to fuel. Waste is converted to MagneGas™ and a carbon deposit which the company is trying to find uses for in the production of electrodes etc.
  2. “Linear Recyclers” intended for the sterilization of bio-contaminated liquid wastes (such as city or ship sewage) via its single passage through one or more electric arcs. This results in the production of MagneGas, carbon precipitates, plus sterilized liquid that can be processed further via industrially available filters and other systems to produce final effluent as clean as requested by local environmental requirements.
  3. “Total-Linear Recyclers” for the processing of farm manure and ship or city sludge via their treatment in the Total Mode until the entire liquid is sterilized and its solid content is carbonized. The liquid is then processed in the Linear Mode for the removal of carbonized solids and completes other processes as may be required by local environmental authorities. This process results in MagneGas, carbon precipitants plus sterilized liquid that can be processed further via industrially available filters and other systems to produce final effluent to meet local environmental requirements.

What Makes MagneGas Different:

  • MagneGas™ is produced from liquid waste and the byproduct clean water, can be used to water plants lawn etc.
  • MagneGas™ is a greener, cleaner and safer alternative to acetylene in torches used in metal work.
  • MagneGas™ manufacturing costs 1/3rd of what petroleum costs, can be produced anywhere and produces virtually no emissions when it burns.
  • It has been available for fleets since 2006.
  • MagneGas™ can be used in place of natural gas in any automobile.
  • MagneGas™ will be cheaper than propane and other alternatives. MagneGas™ can be used instead of acetylene in torches for metal working.
  • MagneGas™ has is in the process of building a 200kW PlasmaArcFlow™ refinery for a DDI International in China, which should be done by end of this year.
  • PlasmaArcFlow™ ranges from a 50KW unit that produces MagneGas™ for a metal cutting shop up to a 1 megawatt plant capable of processing various liquid waste in high volume.
  • It has the lowest Green Gas emissions when compared to fossil fuel. The refinery has no odor or noise pollution as it runs quietly in a completely sealed environment. The fuel can be used for metal cutting, cooking, heating, or powering natural gas bi fuel automobiles.

Check out the video below – 1.What is the latest with MagneGas™ 2.Video About MagneGas™
1.

2.

If MagneGas™ works like the manufacturers say and becomes a viable alternative for natural gas, the day might not be far before we see towns and cities turning their trash and sewage into fuel to run vehicles.Less Pollution, trash to fuel what is more Green!

CNN Money has this video report from Fortune Magazine HERE

Source for data and Pictures – MagneGas

Air The Next Alternative Power Source

Imagine capturing power from thin air, seems unbelievable doesn’t it? Nikola Tesla dreamed of capturing and using electricity from air, even before that and after him for centuries man has wondered about lightning and how it is discharged in our atmosphere. Remember the experiment by Benjamin Franklin using the kite to figure out whether lightning was really an electric phenomenon. Lightning causes many deaths and injuries worldwide every year along with millions of dollars in property damage.

According to a report presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) scientists are already in the early stages of developing such devices.

The study leader Fernando Galembeck, PhD says “Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future” His research may help explain a 200-year old scientific riddle about how electricity is produced and discharged in the atmosphere. Dr.Galembeck works with the University of Campinas, in Campinas SP, Brazil.

Scientists have noticed formation of static electricity as steam escaped from boilers. Using that premise Gambleck and his team figured out through experiments in their laboratory that simulated water’s contact with dust particles in air accumulated electrical charges and transferred it to materials that came in contact with it. They have named it “Hygroelectricity” meaning “humidity Electricity”.

“These are fascinating ideas that new studies by ourselves and by other scientific teams suggest are now possible,” Galembeck said. “We certainly have a long way to go. But the benefits in the long range of harnessing hygroelectricity could be substantial.”

Their aim is to create collectors which can harness this electricity just like the solar cells trap the sun’s energy. It should be interesting to see how far it goes and how soon.

My Opinion

I for one never did think that man would ever be able to harness the magnitude of power a lightning strike generates. It would be the breakthrough of the century for me if man did succeed! Last week we had a strike right next to our home and it hit this giant oak tree splintered and spread its bark all around. Now I watch it slowly dying bit by bit by bit… Just imagine being able to trap a lightning strike and use all that energy! That would be mind blowing!

Read the entire article on the ACS website HERE

Cost-Effective and Viable Second Generation Biofuels

Yesterday Royal DSM N.V., the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences Company headquartered in the Netherlands announced a major breakthrough in the technology to produce second generation biofuels more efficiently and cost effectively. I wondered what second generation Biofuels were and decided to delve a little deeper into Biofuels on the whole and then get to the discovery part.

Once in a while I see these buses passing by with huge signs on them saying “Soybean Powered or Sunflower Powered etc…” I have understood they run on biofuels or sometimes plain vegetable oil in place of fossil fuels! I have thought “wow! How green is that!” and then I start looking at it in detail as I wish to adapt it to for my vehicles too…

Courtesy Wikipedia

Source of Picture Wikipedia

Then I realized most biofuels in the US is Corn or Soy based, so I thought let me take a look at the US agricultural sector. That’s when I realized that in the US with a population of approximately 300million, there are only 3 million farmers left and they produce enough food to feed 2 Billion people! Most of this feed is not used as food but transformed into bio fuels and cattle feed. This is when almost a billion plus people go hungry in the world everyday! To me it is basic common sense not to use food which can feed the hungry to create biofuel and I wondered how it made economic sense too… To understand it I decided to understand Biofuels better.

What Are Biofuels?

Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass (meaning any plant matter). Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, and concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. Biofuels are mostly manufactured from grains and oil seeds which is essentially food and requires large amount of fertilizers etc to grow.

What are First Generation Biofuels?

Biofuels manufactured from food products like soybeans, sugarcane, corn, Palm oil etc are called First generation Biofuels and they are not considered a viable alternative to Fossil fuels as their mass production will impact food supplies and biodiversity. Not to mention the subsidies required to make them financially viable alternatives.

Bio-ethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant resources. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bio-ethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil.

This is where Second Generation Biofuels come in. Second generation biofuels can help solve these problems and can supply a larger proportion of our fuel supply sustainably, affordably, and with greater environmental benefits.

The goal of second generation biofuel processes is to extend the amount of biofuel that can be produced sustainably by using biomass consisting of the left over non-food parts of current crops, such as stems, leaves and husks that are left behind once the food crop has been extracted, as well as other crops that are not used for food purposes (non food crops), such as switch grass, jatropha  and cereals that bear little grain, and also industry waste such as woodchips, skins and pulp from fruit pressing etc…

A Breakthrough in Second Generation Biofuels

Every Year hundreds of thousands of tons of vegetable / vegetation waste goes into landfills. Royal DSM N.V., the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences Company headquartered in the Netherlands announced a major breakthrough in the technology to produce second generation biofuels. This breakthrough will help second generation biofuels to become more cost effective and to become a viable alternative to both first generation biofuels and conventional fossil fuels.

As mentioned earlier second generation biofuels do not compete with the food chain because 1. food waste and bio waste is used to make biofuel and the plantss used can be grown on land that is deemed less suitable for food production. By enabling second generation processes the biofuels industry will be able to greatly improve its sustainability as it continues to grow and replace fossil based fuels.

DSM’s breakthrough comes as a result of two separate innovations;

The First of which relates to its enzyme technology; Its research on a fungal organism that typically thrives in compost heaps or on fallen trees has helped the company identify enzymes that are able to break down biomass into its constituent sugars much more efficiently compared to products and prototype formulations available in the market today.

DSM’s second innovation lies in its new advanced yeast technology. Through classical strain improvement combined with metabolic engineering DSM has developed an advanced yeast strain that is capable of converting all the major sugar components found in biomass to ethanol. It has been estimated that, taking a mixed sugar fermentation as an example, the overall ethanol yield using DSM’s advanced yeast can be improved by up to 100% as compared to the yield of standard yeasts used today.

John Monks, Business Director Bio-Conversion Solutions at DSM commented: “By leveraging our century-long heritage in industrial biotechnology, we have been able to develop highly innovative conversion solutions for the emerging second generation biofuels industry. DSM holds a unique position in this field, and among our industry peers, based upon our ability to creatively combine enzyme and yeast technologies in an integrated way. This places DSM firmly at the forefront of new technologies that will enable the sustainable production of second generation biofuels, which will likely become the default transportation fuel of the future. I’m extremely proud of DSM’s achievements to date in this field and look forward to being able to announce further innovations from our programs that support future generations of bioethanol.”

DSM’s approach to market development and business model for second generation biofuels is also innovative. Rather than opting for the classic industry model of remotely producing and bulk selling enzymes and yeasts, DSM is working with customers and partners to develop more localized, on-site production. The company views this approach as the most sustainable in the long run, because it bypasses long and expensive global supply chains and to truly integrate conversion technology into the biofuel process itself.

You can read the entire press release here

Sources :

DSM N.V. website

The Wikipedia

Suggested Reading –

Run Your Diesel Vehicle on Biofuels : A Do-Yourself Manual

Continued Human Dependence On Fossil Fuels A Folly

Picture courtesy US Coastguard

The Line most people say when there is a talk about fossil fuels “America is addicted to Oil”, does that mean the rest of the world does not use it? No it basically means we use more than our share of oil. Approximately the number of registered vehicles in the US could be between 254 to 265 million and a vehicle on average uses 600 gallons of fuel annually which would total to 152.4Billion gallons of fuel! US population of 309.5 million is around 5% of the world population and we use around 26% of the world’s fuel. US has around .8 cars per person!

Experts estimate the earth has around 1.05 trillion barrels of crude oil remaining. We are using around 24billion barrels of oil annually. If that rate remains a constant we will run out of oil approximately by the year 2053. If the usage increases as it is increasing right now that date will be much closer than further.

Fossil Fuels in the coming years

Data courtesy Society of Sedimentary Geology

We all hear about Climate Change / Global warming; many of us accept what the scientists say and many question it. What is constant or common between the believers and the doubters is the acceptance that there definitely is some difference in weather patterns and related natural phenomenon across the globe. The Inter governmental panel for Climate change our planet is at the warmest in 420,000 years!

Some thoughts about fossil fuels:

  • As the Oil Spill in the gulf shows us, drilling and siphoning oil from 5000feet under the ocean is not an easy solution or an environmentally friendly one to say the least.
  • All the technology in the world cannot take on nature and prevent manmade disasters.
  • It might sound utopian but a field of sunflowers powering our vehicles sound so much less stressful than burning oil from the Middle East.
  • A single car using 600barrels of oil will produce around 12,000 pounds of CO2 which will take 240 trees to absorb! Just imagine the number of trees we will need for 260million vehicles!
  • The remaining tropical forests remove a massive 4.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year i.e. they are carbon sinks (anything which absorbs more carbon than it releases).
  • Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), referring to the goal of limiting global warming to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius as compared to temperatures in pre-industrial times.
  • If flights were fuller it would mean lesser number of flights and there for lesser carbon emissions.
  • European Union too followed the US and decided to give up on the Kyoto Protocol! An international agreement adopted in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The protocol sets binding greenhouse gas emissions targets for developed countries that would reduce their emissions on average 5.2% below 1990 levels.
  • Flying injects exhaust emissions directly into the upper part of the atmosphere, where they cause the most damage. The effects of the resulting mix of chemical reactions are complex and hard to calculate, occurring over timescales between three days and 100 years. Even so, scientists believe that between 1992 and 2050, the overall impact of these emissions will prove somewhere between 1.2 and four times that of CO2 at ground level.
  • There still is no solid data as to how much Oil is flowing into the gulf. It varies from 12,000 barrels to 50,000 barrels!
  • We won’t know of the environmental and economic impact of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill until the leak is plugged and the cleaning is all but done.
  • For the future of the earth there is no way but alternative energy. For each one of us that is also the way to a better lifestyle.

Well these are just some of the information out there wonder how much more information is out there… which if I knew would make a difference in how I live my fossil fuel dependant life.

Small changes I have made; I have started planning more about the number of times I go grocery shopping so that I don’t rush to the store burning more fuel to pick up something I forgot.

I believe until the day we are truly rid of fossil fuel addiction we need to keep trying to wean our selves off… Not an easy fight I know… If not, the catastrophe that is on the front page these days will repeat, with what kind of impact only time will tell.

This link will give you an idea about how large the area of the spill is in distances which make sense to us… check it out, I found it useful.

Sources:

Bureau of Trasportation Statistics

EDF

Earth Trends

Science Daily

BBC

Time for change

10,000 Cows Can Power 1,000 Servers

HP Labs Design for a Farm Waste Data Center Ecosystem

HP engineers offers a fresh alternative energy approach for IT managers.

Researchers at HP Labs presented a paper on using cow manure from dairy farms and cattle feedlots and other “digested farm waste” to generate electricity to an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference held this week.

In the paper, the research team calculates that “a hypothetical farm of 10,000 dairy cows” could power a 1 MW data center — or on the order of 1,000 servers.

Farms that now use anaerobic digestion system to generate electricity and heat typically get some funding from federal and state grants. In such cases, a payback of four years or less on the technology is likely. Without grants, the payback can be about 10 years, said McEliece, an environmental consultant for RCM International in Berkeley, Calif.

Source

Research Paper [PDF]

Electricity from Algae

 

Remember learning about photosynthesis in school? It used to be very intriguing. Many of us friends would dream about being more like a plant (basically not having to stay in and have lunch during lunch break, just run and play outside and your skin producing energy using photosynthesis!) it sounded so farfetched still photosynthesis was something that awed us even at that age. During Photosynthesis Solar energy is used by chloroplasts to create energy for the plants, a change from light energy to chemical energy.

The Stanford University Researchers have gone ahead and worked a way to trap the energy the plants produce and use it to generate electricity! What can be greener?

WonHyoung Ryu is the main author of this work. He says, “We believe we are the first to extract electrons out of living plant cells.” The Stanford research team created an exclusive, ultra-sharp gold nano electrode for this project.

At the end of the day for any energy solution to be viable it has to be affordable. According to Ryu that will take further research and investment. May be not so far in the future we will have algae tanks instead of coal run power plants. Green energy!

You can read more about it here