(old found draft post) Energy News

Dec 16, 2008 @ 8:35

This was just going to an energy links roundup.

Wireless Power Transmission test have been successful. Yeah for Tesla!

Suck it Al Gore: “Greenhouse Gas Comes from Solar Panels

Bjorn Lomborg Says Cool It!: Getting our priorities right on climate change and the world’s top problems

West Allis (Milwaukee news)
: “Mini wind turbine proposal blows into council chambers”

“Another potential big deal is the thorium breeder reactor.”

The US case for radical energy use efficiency and for switching to alternative energy sources

I have been looking to blog on this for sometime, but it came out in a comment at TDAXP:

The best case for the US to move to radical energy use efficiency and to switch a lot more to alternative energy (while sharing or selling the techniques and technology to the rest of the world to use as well) is that it will reduce the economic power and freedom of action of lots of bad actors in the world who tend to work against the interest of the US and other democratically inclined actors.

To be clear: I am not a green, I am not a watermelon. I have not been sucked into the faux-science quasi-religion of Global Warming. I don’t secretly want to de-industrialize the west. I do not advocate lower growth or less industry.

I want to drive an affordable electric or gas/electric or some sort of flex-fuel vehicle as a mobility device. I want to take a train once a month to Madison or the Fox River Valley. I want to see a new nationwide network of smart electrical grids powered by small scale nuclear plants, municipal plasma furnaces, wind and solar (where the make sense) or whatever else entrepreneurs can dream up and successively execute. I long for the day of orbital solar power.

I love the idea of (and the change it will make) of Russia and Saudi Arabia and the others of their ilk being deprived of their ability to make mischief  and misery for the rest of the world. I welcome their fall. This will be a good thing for the world.

I want the science fiction future promised to me as a kid, and I want it shared with the world.

One day…

Energy Entrepreneurship: Plasma Gasification of Trash

I found this (with photos) via Slashdot:

Recently St. Lucie County in Florida announced that it has teamed up with Geoplasma to develop the United States’ first plasma gasification plant. The plant will use super-hot 10,000 degree fahrenheit plasma to effectively vaporize 1,500 tons of trash each day, which in turn spins turbines to generate 60MW of electricity – enough to power 50,000 homes! Cutting down on landfill waste while generating energy is a pretty win-win proposition, and the plant will also be able to melt down inorganic materials to be reused for other applications, such as in roadbed and heavy construction.
Plasma Gasification plants generate much less emissions than standard waste incineration plants, and also cuts down on landfills, which are the US’s largest human caused producer of methane gas. No word yet on the cost-effectiveness of maintaining such plants (all that plasma gas and filtration must be expensive), but if Geoplasma is able to make the process more efficient they could simultaneously solve our landfill problems while generating a significant amount of energy.

I like this: less landfills and non-petro based energy!

Prev: A Tech-based Energy Idea That I Like – Municipal Plasma Furnaces

More on the Hyperion Mini-nuke reactors

From The Guardian (via Instapundit):

Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.

The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.

The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. ‘Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,’ said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. ‘They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.’
The reactors, only a few metres in diameter, will be delivered on the back of a lorry to be buried underground. They must be refuelled every 7 to 10 years. Because the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use, few countries are expected to object to plants on their territory
‘You could never have a Chernobyl-type event – there are no moving parts,’ said Deal. ‘You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium. Temperature-wise it’s too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands.’

Other companies are known to be designing micro-reactors. Toshiba has been testing 200KW reactors measuring roughly six metres by two metres. Designed to fuel smaller numbers of homes for longer, they could power a single building for up to 40 years.


“Hyperion Nuclear Power Generator”

I got the scoop from a post at NextBigFuture.com. This looks very cool:

Hyperion Power Generation, Inc., (HPG) with the assistance of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is developing and commercializing a small, factory-sealed, mass-produced, transportable nuclear power module that is uniquely safe and proliferation-resistant. The technology utilizes and builds upon similar features of the 60+ TRIGA training reactors that have been safely operated for years in universities and laboratories around the globe.
Three factories, spread across the globe are planned by the company to produce and ship the approximately 4,000 units of the first design.
Each unit produces 70 megawatts of thermal energy, or 27 megawatts of electricity when connected to a steam turbine. That amount is enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average-size American-style homes or the industrial equivalent.

I would like to see safe distributed nuclear power around the globe to power the grids.

Attention Entrepreneurs: More of this, and faster please!

Future Closer: Space Solar Power

Solar Power generated from orbital satelites and then beamed down to earth is one of the 2 great future energy sources (the other being fusion) – and the most likely.

It is one step closer:

A former NASA scientist has used radio waves to transmit solar power a distance of 92 miles (148 km) between two Hawaiian islands, an achievement that he says proves the technology exists to beam solar power from satellites back to Earth. [Link]

The test was a proof-of-concept, but all great things have to start somewhere.

(The future to be: Space Elevators and Orbital Solar Power)

Energy/Incentives Idea That I Like

I can’t find where I heard this, but it was a neat application of incentives (economic thinking) to energy policy.

The suggestion was something like:

1) States That don’t allow drilling for oil and natural gas off-shore shall have their federal gasoline tax increased $1 (or $2 or $X) per gallon.

2) The collected money shall be redistributed on a per capita basis to people living within 50 miles (or 100 miles or X miles) of working coal mines.

If I can find the reference I will post that.

A Tech-based Energy Idea That I Like – Municipal Plasma Furnaces

From Cringley:

The challenge of the Day Cycle is profound: to solve at once the problems of how to power our society and what to do with all of our garbage, all without making the world worse for the effort, which is to say without increasing the problems of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Eric and Andrew Day propose going back to burning our trash, but instead of using open-air incinerators or even high-temperature Basic Oxygen furnaces, they like the idea of burning our crap in electric plasma furnaces at temperatures in excess of 15,000 degrees Celsius. Take everything that would have gone to the landfill, add to it, if you like, everything that would have been recycled, and even leave in the really bad stuff like medical waste, toxic waste, heavy metals, and radioactive waste. Grind it all up into little chunks, some of which could be in a chemical or water slurry, and pump it into the plasma furnace.
Dividing 251 million tons of municipal trash by 365 days by 100 tons per furnace says we’ll need 7,000 such furnaces to burn all of America’s trash. That doesn’t really sound like a lot of furnaces to me, when you consider that’s about how many landfills we have today and about how many municipal trash incinerators we used to have. Moving to this method of waste disposal and energy generation is a no-brainer… if it works.
Their claimed net production from each ton of municipal solid waste:

112 pounds of hydrogen
55 gallons of biodiesel
a little electricity
926 pounds of oxygen
Multiply all these numbers by 251 million tons of solid waste and convert them, where possible, into equivalent barrels of oil and it comes down to about 2.6 billion barrels per year if all waste treatment facilities were so converted. That’s half of our current oil import volume — enough to substantially destabilize the international oil market if that’s the goal.

If I where a policy maker I would…

1) Very the feasibility of this.
2) Create a Plasma Furnace Finance Corp to help facilitate financing of this for municipalities.
3) Set aside matching funds along the lines of 50% of infrastructure cost to match municipalities investment.
4) Have a special joint Deputy SecEnergy / Deputy SecTreas position to facilitate this through the federal government with a dedicated White Deputy Chief of Staff to keep the President in the loop.

Hmm…perhaps naming the new plasma furnaces after sitting US congressmen would speed the rollout and funding.

“Huge penis engines are the answer”

How to generate cheap energy is the question.

Scott Adams writes:

As you can see from the story, big companies are building Stirling engine farms to capture the sun’s energy more effectively than photovoltaic panels. This could work, but it’s not the economic model that will set us completely free. Let me tell you what is: Giant penis engine co-op investments.
Let’s say the next president of the United States fast-tracks the following concept: Any company can buy a bunch of land in the desert, and start building Stirling engine farms that connect to the country’s electrical grid. The genius part of my idea is that individual investors can own one specific penis engine and the profits from it. The organizer of the venture just rents the space and provides maintenance, insurance, administration, and installation for the devices

I like the idea. Would work? Maybe, maybe not. That’s entrepreneurial capitalism: give it a shot, let the market decide, get rewarded for success, get weeded out for failure.

More on Sterling Engines here.

Brainstorming Climate Engineering

Let me say, I am not convinced that there is global warming going on. I do believe having the ability to do positive planetary Climate Engineering or Geo-Engineering is an important survival skill for the human race especially since it looks like we will only have earth as are home for quote some time to come.

I would like to see something like the Core nations moving to something like this for:

Continue reading

Positive Effects of Higher Oil Prices Example: Floating Wind Farms

Via digg:

Huge turbines mounted on floating platforms could make wind power competitive with fossil-fuel-generated electricity. These advanced wind turbines, which are in development, could be situated far from the shore, too, avoiding battles with onshore residents who object to the presence of large wind farms.

read more

The positive effect of higher energy prices, is that the potential for making profit through alternative technologies and processes increases and creates entrepreneurial opportunities.

The use of wind power, earth-based solar, geothermal, bio-diesel will all become used a bit more on the margin to fulfill demand. None of these can replace oil/carbon energy completely. I think only some combination of underground networked small nuclear power plants and orbital solar power satellites have the ability to replace electrical generation. The electricity generated could also be used to create hydrogen which could be then used for hydrogen based automobiles.