As the White House considers curtailing subsidies to traditional domestic energy suppliers, its support of alternative energy has soared.
A new report from the Department of Energy shows that subsidies to the solar and wind industries skyrocketed 626 and 946 percent, respectively, between 2007 and 2010. Total subsidies to these industries rose from $5.1 billion to $14.67 billion in that period, reports CNSNews.com.
In April, President Barack Obama reiterated his call for an end to subsidies to oil and gas companies and said that, “instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, we should invest in tomorrow’s.”
Offshore wind farms cost twice as much to produce energy in the as coal-fired powered stations a UK report has warned.
Costs of building sites at sea have doubled in the past 5 years due to rising steel prices and the weak pound according to a report form the UK Energy Research Centre.
Could urine could be the next big alternative energy source? Two researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh believe it can.
Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan, are developing a urine fuel cell.
Urine could constitute a much safer solution than hydrogen, much cleaner and non-toxic than methanol and could offer an abundant source of energy… from obvious reasons.
“We’re only at prototype stage at present, but if this renewable material can be used as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly energy source, we will be absolutely delighted, and many people around the world will benefit,” Tao said.
“Growing up in rural eastern China I was aware of the use of urea as an agricultural fertilizer. When I became a chemist and was looking at fuel cell development I thought of using it in the process,” he also explained.
Their revolutionary new fuel cell dubbed the Carbamid Power System is designed to take in urine and produce electricity and clean water.
Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity through a series of reactions between a fuel and an oxidant. Fuels can include hydrogen or methanol gas, while the oxidants are usually, unsurprisingly enough, oxygen, although chlorine is also sometimes used. Unlike conventional batteries, they don’t store any chemical energy inside them, and so only operate when external fuel sources are supplied.
In theory, fuel cells could be a powerful producer of electricity, but their designs are often impractical. Hydrogen is highly flammable and methanol is toxic, creating major challenges in safely storing the required fuels. Also, some fuel cells require membranes and catalysts built from platinum, which obviously drives up the cost.
But the Carbamide Power System might just offer an alternative. The brainchild of Doctors Shanwen Tao and Rong Lan, this new fuel cell uses cheaper materials for its membrane and catalysts, and it uses a non-toxic, non-combustible fuel: urine. Specifically, a component of human and animal urine known as urea, which is currently mass-produced as an industrial fertilizer.
If this takes oil companies will be pretty “pissed off”!
With the opening of the Thanet Wind Farm off the coast of England the UK is now the world’s largest producer of wind energy.
The Thanet Wind Farm started sending power to the UK electric grid last week. It sits, at its closest, about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) off the shore of Foreness Point, which is located at the most eastern part of Kent, England.
The $1.2 billion farm has 100 V90 wind turbines that have a total capacity of 300 MW. It creates enough power for 200,000 homes.
The UK’s offshore wind energy capacity has increased 30% as a result of this new wind farm and it makes the UK the largest producer of wind energy in the world.
The farm is owned by Vattenfall a leading wind energy company in Britain and the 5th largest energy producer in Europe.
A device out of Stanford University is promising to revolutionise solar panel technology by being able to harness the power of both light and heat.
Scientists have always used both light and heat from the sun to produce energy, however, they hadn’t yet discovered a way to efficiently utilize both simultaneously – until now!
Most accountable renewable energy invokes the following: *Solar Radiation *Wind Power *Wave Power *Hydroelectricity *Biomass And only a fraction of the radiation gathered from the sun is really used but scientists at Stanford have found a way to crack this with their Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission device, or PETE device.
What a PETE device ultimately does is simultaneously combine light and heat from solar radiation, which helps to produce electricity from solar technology. In technical terms, photon enhanced thermionic emission is a process that harvests wasted heat and solar energy and brings together thermal and solar cell conversion at high temperature levels for the best and cleanest results.
What this means is that unlike most solar panels, which have decreased efficiency as the temperature rises, the PETE technology process creates panels that work the other way and actually increase efficiency as the temperature rises.
This is not only a state of the art technology but could potentially reduce the costs for the production of solar power to the point of where it could be a real competitor against oil as a source of energy.
Real world practical solutions like PETE provide for greater sustainability and are a minuscule step towards ultimately lowering earth’s carbon footprint.
Author: Jack Lundee
- Follower of the Clinton Global Initiative, brainchild of Doug Band.
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Installing solar panels or a wind turbine can be a very good investment in the UK thanks to the feed in tariffs which pay householders a tax-free, index linked income for the energy they produce, providing over a 10% annual return.
The tariffs pay up to 41.3p for every 1kWh of electricity produced using solar panels and an extra 3p per unit on top for any surplus electricity sold back to the grid.
The average cost of home solar panel installation is £14,000.
From this outlay, Ownenergy, a company that advises consumers on renewable energy, suggest that averge 3 or 4 bedroom hosue can expect a return of approx £950 per year.
Given that the income is tax free the return is equivalent to 12.9% for a 50% taxpayer and 10.3% for a 40% taxpayer, with the investment being recouped in as little as 7 years.
Electricity feed in tariffs were introduced by the UK government in April 2010 as a means of encouraging householders to install solar panels or wind turbines.
A sycamore seed design may be set to revolutionize the wind power industry.
British engineers have designed a giant wind turbine called the Aerogenerator that would rotate on its axis mimicking the way sycamore seeds fly.
The Aerogenerator has two arms coming out of its base to form a V-shape, with rigid “sails” mounted along their length. The arms act like aerofoils as the wind passes over, helping to generate lift.
It would measure nearly 900 feet from tip to tip and could generate 20MW or more of power.
Engineering firm Wind Power Limited is developing the Aerogenerator, along with architects at Grimshaw, academics at Cranfield University and Rolls Royce, Arup, BP and Shell.
The first Aerogenerator could be up and running by 2013.
Feargal Brennan, head of offshore engineering at Cranfield University, says “Upsizing conventional onshore wind turbine technology to overcome cost barriers has significant challenges, not least the weight of the blades, which experience a fully reversed fatigue cycle on each rotation.”
“As the blades turn, their weight always pulls downwards, putting a changing stress on the structure, in a cycle that repeats with every rotation – up to 20 times a minute.”
“In order to reduce the fatigue stress, the blade sections and thicknesses are increased which further increases the blade self-weight. These issues continue throughout the device.”
“Drive-train mountings must be stiff enough to support the heavier components inside the nacelle on top of the tower, otherwise the systems can become misaligned and the support structure is also exposed to extremely large dynamic thrust and bending stresses, which are amplified significantly with any increase in water depth.’”
Wind power is now generating 2% of global electricity demand, according to the World Wind Energy Association.
The countries with the highest shares of wind energy generated electricity: Denmark 20%, Portugal 15%, Spain 14%, Germany 9%. Wind power employed 550,000 people in 2009 and is expected to employ 1,000,000 by 2012.
Globally 38,025 MW of capacity were added in 2009, bringing the total to 159,213 MW, a 31% increase. The graph shows the top 10 producers (with the exceptions of Denmark and Portugal) and includes Japan (which is 13th).
From 2005 to 2009 the global installed wind power capacity increased 170% from 59,033 megawatts to 159,213 megawatts.
Over the 4 year period the capacity in the USA increased 284% and in China increased 1,954%. China grew 113% in 2009, the 4th year in a row it more than doubled capacity. In 2007, Europe had for 61% of installed capacity and the USA 18%. At the end of 2009 Europe had 48% of installed capacity, Asia 25% and North America 24%.
The airline industry is taking its first steps towards green energy.
British Airways has announced it is investing in a factory that will convert tonnes of household rubbish into enough jet fuel for all its flights from London City airport twice over.
Some 500,000 tonnes of waste generated by Londoners will be used by the UK facility each year to produce 16 million gallons of fuel.
Construction of the plant in east London will start within two years. It is set to produce fuel from 2014, creating up to 1,200 jobs.
BA said the plant would produce twice the amount of fuel needed to power all its flights from London City Airport.
It will be the first plant in Europe to produce jet fuel from waste matter.
It is estimated that the overall equivalent CO2 reduction as a result of the plant producing sustainable energy and fuel is approximately 550,000 tonnes per year.
The plant will be built by the US company Solena Group, with BA committing to buy all of its output.
The waste wil be fed into a high temperature “gasifier” to produce BioSynGas.
A chemical process called Fischer Tropsch is then used to convert the gas into biofuel.
Waste products from the process can be used to power the plant as well as supply 20MW of electricity to the national grid.
A solid waste product can be used as an aggregate in construction.
BA argues the plant will cut the amount of waste that is sent to landfill, reducing the amount of methane that is produced. Methane is thought to be a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.