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Captain Worley

Future Energy Alternatives

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So, what does the future look like for alternative sources of energy? Here is a little of what I think:

Fusion Power-I have a feeling we're less than 50 years or so away from commercial fusion generating plants. Helium-3 will probably have to be mined from the moon to provide fuel, so I guess its a good idea the moon program is up and running (so they say).

Hydrogen Fuel-Unless there is a HUGE breakthrough in storage and transportation logistics, I think this one is a technological dead end.

Tidal Power-There is a huge amount of energy stored in the rising and lowering of the tides. We need to explore the feasibility of generating stations based on this kind of hydro power.

Solar power-Truly nasty chemicals are used to produce solar cells. Theoretically, with 100% efficiency and no atmosphere, you can get 900 watts per square meter of cell. Might be useful for trickle charging smal electronics, and heating water in your hom, but that's about it.

Wind power-Turbine prices are falling rapidly. I could see this taking off in rural areas, because it takes an awful lot of land for a decent sized wind farm.

Anything else?

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For the foreseeable future, hydrogen fuel will largely be in the form of fuel cells for small appliances.

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In regards to solar power, I think a whole lot more could be done to heat buildings and provide hotwater using basically 1970's technology by putting panels on the roofs of flat buildings. (not solar cells)

There is another technology called a solar sunflower which kinda looks like a flower. The petals of the flower are mirrors that point to the pistil in the center and in full sun it gets extremely hot. Oil is circulated through it and used to operate a steam generator. The entire unit is small enough to be located at individual businesses and homes. It too was invented in the 70s, but 2000's technology have made controling it very economical. It could supplement a lot of electrical needs in this country.

I think the USA needs to follow Europe's lead and move from gasoline powered vehicles to diesel. It is much easier to biodiesel than it is to produce ethanol plus the engines get significantly more mileage.

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Man, I'd forgotten all about the solar sunflower. Read about that back in Popular Mechanics in the 70s. Solar is great for helping to heat water, and using the solar sunflower for room heating is a good idea too.

I would love to see more diesels in America. Unfortunately Americans have long memories regarding the godawful GM diesels of the early eighties.

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The real future lies in using less energy, not in finding new sources of energy.

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The real future lies in using less energy, not in finding new sources of energy.

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The best thing that would happen is the depoliticization of new energy sources and creative ways at being efficient. Somehow it has become a conservative thing to be either opposed or indifferent to these. As metro and others have said, current technology could go far if people and policy makers simply pushed for them.

- I agree on increasing diesel use, I actually think they should require diesel engines in SUVs.

- Creating a low-voltage standard to avoid all of the energy lost in down converting the voltage (someone else will have to ellaborate or correct me on these, as I am not too knowledgeable in electrical science). I believe it would allow for elimination of many of the wall wart charger converters that use significant energy.

- Using human metabolism. Right now, humans have the capability to warm themselves up using the food that they have already eaten. Instead of being converted to fat, that energy is already available for use in the body. Instead of using the heater, they can simply do some physical activity to spur the metabolism, and the body will no longer find the temperature to be too cold. Our inactivity has made many people in our country both overweight, and unable to withstand certain temperatures without fossil fuel assistance.

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- Creating a low-voltage standard to avoid all of the energy lost in down converting the voltage (someone else will have to ellaborate or correct me on these, as I am not too knowledgeable in electrical science). I believe it would allow for elimination of many of the wall wart charger converters that use significant energy.

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You make a good point with human metabolism. I'm sitting in a 60*F room and I'm fine right now. I love keeping my room around 60*F and sleeping with extra blankets.

I think conservation is the major player and alternative. People need to begin moving north again, and this isn't political at all. It takes way more energy to cool a building than to heat it. Our heating bills are only slightly higher than our cooling bills and this climate is a LOT colder than Phoenix, Arizona where A/C is necessary from March to October.

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would you consider this a future energy sytem?

More biofuel related news:

Kauai firm to build biodiesel plant

Source: Pacific Business News

A new biodiesel company based on Kauai will break ground on its first production plant early next year.

Local Biofuels received a use permit from Kauai's Planning Commission during a public hearing on Tuesday to build a 250,000 gallon-per-year biodiesel facility at the Puhi industrial park just outside Lihue. That's enough to meet about 10 percent of Kauai's current diesel needs according to Joyce Kehoe, one of the company's founders.

Kehoe said she expects to start selling biodiesel from the plant next summer.

It would be the third commercial biodiesel production plant in Hawaii. Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel has plants on Maui and Oahu.

The facility will use a combination of used-grease and virgin oil to make biodiesel, which runs inside most diesel engines.

art1bx.jpg

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Solar power-Truly nasty chemicals are used to produce solar cells. Theoretically, with 100% efficiency and no atmosphere, you can get 900 watts per square meter of cell. Might be useful for trickle charging smal electronics, and heating water in your hom, but that's about it.

Wind power-Turbine prices are falling rapidly. I could see this taking off in rural areas, because it takes an awful lot of land for a decent sized wind farm.

Anything else?

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A good place to mention the E85 emphasis that he govt has proposed... ethanol is only good in terms of lowering our import of oil from foreign nations. In most other ways, it falls flat IMO. You can't transport ethanol in pipelines, therefore it must be trucked or sent via rail... net energy loss. Also, ethanol is slightly less efficient than regular gas... not much gain there. Ethanol is made mostly from sugar cane (Argentina) or corn (US), which BTW is FOOD(!), and requires a tremendous amount of input energy to actually produce usable ethanol... more net energy loss. When I say net loss, I mean that significant energy input (usually from fossil-fuel-burning from power plants) is req'd to make ethanol usable, therefore the total energy saved is minimal if it's even a savings at all.

The bottom line to me is I have no idea why we are attempting to ramp up ethanol production (other than the obivous benefit to US corn farmers), as it provides little environmental benefits over regular gas.

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The bottom line to me is I have no idea why we are attempting to ramp up ethanol production (other than the obivous benefit to US corn farmers), as it provides little environmental benefits over regular gas.

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What do you suggest Captain Worley?

Do you honestly think we'll just be putting along happily in 50 years on oil and natural gas? If you think that, then you've got your head buried in the sand.

It seems as if you're just standing there shaking your head at any new energy source unless it is somehow perfect and more efficient and better than oil.

Perhaps then you should be the one fighting in the wars that are surely to come to secure the little dribblings of oil that are left under our soil. It'll be the naysayers blood spilled so I can keep my lights on all night if I want to.

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Also, ethanol is slightly less efficient than regular gas... not much gain there. Ethanol is made mostly from sugar cane (Argentina) or corn (US), which BTW is FOOD(!), and requires a tremendous amount of input energy to actually produce usable ethanol... more net energy loss. When I say net loss, I mean that significant energy input (usually from fossil-fuel-burning from power plants) is req'd to make ethanol usable, therefore the total energy saved is minimal if it's even a savings at all.

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A very interesting article from Popular Science about a "plasma converter".

The Prophet of Garbage--PopSci

It melts garbage into plasma....

The radiant energy of the plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds.

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I'm not sure the reason to use less is to ward off global warming as it is so much about the depletion of resources. I don't believe many modern nations, especially the United States, can continue using as much energy (that includes oil, gasoline, ethanol, natural gas, electricity, etc.) as we have grown accustomed to in the last hundred years or so. It's simply not sustainable, and to date there are no viable alternative sources to fill the gigantic void we'll have after peak oil has come and gone.

The real future energy alternative, in my opinion, is to use far less.

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A very interesting article from Popular Science about a "plasma converter".

The Prophet of Garbage--PopSci

It melts garbage into plasma....

it seems to be clean...

and it's output is higher than its input...

What do ya think?

P.S.- the entire article is 5 pages if you want to read it all.....very interesting.

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I don't see the world consuming less energy anytime in the future.

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I hate when people claim ethanol is less efficient than gasoline. It just demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge about IC engines and the fuel used. Ethanol is completely useless in an engine designed for gasoline. Engines built for ethanol make more power and get better milage than similarly sized gas engines. Ethanol has an octane rating of 116 versus 87 for gas. As I've said several times, a 9:1 compression ratio is wasted on ethanol, it needs a 14:1 or 15:1 to show its ability. If you try to put 87 octane gas in an ethanol engine it is quite possible to severly damage it due to the compression ratio. If ethanol is so bad, why is it used in Indy/F1 and high horsepower (2000+ HP) drag racing applications?

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In the meantime, how many coal refineries have gone online in China and India? The US may be the highest energy user per capita in the world, but soon China and India are going to dwarf us in total energy usage.

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I've heard some talk of nano-technology being used to infusion paint with what something that amounts to microscopic solar panels. In theory your paint could help power your building.

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I've heard some talk of nano-technology being used to infusion paint with what something that amounts to microscopic solar panels. In theory your paint could help power your building.

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