Water Power – Wave Power Generation Systems

Most of the emphasis these days is being placed on the latest solar and wind turbine systems to generate electricity.  Part of the reason for that is that hydro generation has traditionally meant dams closing off rivers, which is both expensive and disruptive to nature.  The Columbia River’s dams, for example, have taken major fire for that they interfere with salmon spawning.  Any time a dam is put up within a state, those downstream of it will be upset that their source of fresh water is controlled by those upstream.  The Rio Grand is a mere trickle of a stream by the time it gets to the Mexican border, and complaints about damming up the Colorado River are myriad and longstanding.  The bottom line is that this has given people the erroneous perception that hydro-generation isn’t feasible.  In this article, we’ll take a look at technologies that are entirely passive, and some new ideas that could generate considerable electricity by harnessing the power of the moon’s gravitational pull, tides and waves.

Wave power generation is not science fiction.  Scotland’s Islay Wave Power Generator has been working continuously for years. New technology holds even more promise, in the form of anchored systems which would ride just below the surface.  One such system, called the Anaconda, is boasting major production by harnessing wave motion, and can be placed well offshore. There are other sea-snake-type methods as well.

As early as 1970, methods of harnessing the ocean’s energy were already being put into motion. These were massive, ingenious and ambitious projects which relies upon the temperature differential between warm surface waters and the cold depths to drive the turbines. Unfortunately, the technologies of the time were not sufficient to the scale that the projects were built for, and they were not deemed cost-effective.Today’s techologies allow us to make far more responsive units, and to employ arrays of them rather than developing mammoth pipe systems such as OTEC-1. Some have even suggested using hydro-turbines very similar to surface wind turbines. New concepts in water wheels can generate electricity without damming up river waters. With so many methods and possibilities, hydro-electric solutions seem well worth investigating. The tremendous power of the ocean can easily move power generating turbines, and our technological abilities are now up to the task. Let us not forget these passive power harnesses as we move forward into non-combustion energy resources for our future.

Going Green – UPDATE: Disasterous TVA Plant Has History of Spills

Many of you are probably already aware of the recent massive and devastating coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant in eastern Tennessee. That spill, which poured some five million cubic yards of toxic coal ash out, flooding the nearby area and spreading into the nearby river, is considered the largest ecological disaster of its kind. The flood of toxic sludge destroyed three homes and damaged several dozen properties. There were no immediate injuries or deaths, but at least one nearby resident is complaining of headaches and chronic sore throat.

Last week Tom Kilgore, CEO of the TVA, admitted to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that the plant had suffered two less severe leaks over the past five years, but that the breaches had not been properly or adequately repaired. The confession was made to the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee, and was referred to as “noticeable seepage”. Those events occurred in 2003 and 2005, making the problem appear to be regular and cyclic.

Mr. Kilgore begged off that heavy rains and freezing temperatures had probably contributed to the breach. The explanation offered does nothing to explain or justify why such conditions weren’t anticipated and provided for. The TVA plant’s holding ponds are not lined either. While this is not illegal (yet,) it is unwise, takes an unhealthy risk. Concerns remain as to what affect the ash will have once the water dries out, leaving the toxic substances to become airborne where it will be breathed and settle in people’s homes.

Committee chairwoman, Senator Barbara Boxer (D, CA,) was outspokenly critical of the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to declare coal ash a hazardous waste and for refusing to set national standards for its storage and disposal. She cites this disaster as proof of a need for closer oversight and better precautions regarding such toxic wastes. Senator Boxer also claimed to a portion of responsibility for the spill, admiting that she had been chairwoman of the environment panel since 2007 but had paid no attention to the T.V.A.’s hazardous byproducts.

Senator Boxer and other members of the Environment and Public Works Committee said they would press for new coal ash regulations, including a requirement that it be stored in lined pits and dried, rather than just being dropped into the waste pond, to prevent the toxic substances from pouring into towns and rivers as it did in December of 2008.

There are over thirteen-hundred waste ponds in the U.S., amounting to billions of gallons of fly ash. This byproduct of coal-generated electricity contains heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury. which are known to cause cancer, respiratory disease, crippling nervous system disorders and reproductive problems.

All of this serves as further proof that we MUST put aside fossil-fuel based energy technologies and embrace alternative energy sources — the sooner, the better.

U.N Renovation may HINT of Green, but it’s really all Red.

When we read the news, “Renovating the U.N., with Hints of Green,” we were prepared to be excited about the idea of the U.N. doing some sort of Green retrofit that would reduce energy use, lower carbon footprint…. SOME hint of positive direction. The truth was disappointingly different. While the U.N. building IS undergoing a renovation (which will mean five years of that mammoth structure standing unused while alternative offices are occupied,) the only hint of Green is both color and money. How much? Two BILLION dollars.

Let’s make sure we’re getting this right. The United Nations, which is funded by taxpayers, us going to redecorate and spend 2 BILLION dollars and five years to do so? What could the engineers of this plot possibly be thinking of? The world’s economy is on a runaway downhill slide, and you want to displace 5000 U.N. workers, spend money to rent some OTHER place for them, while you leave that structure unused during a 5-year 2 BILLION dollar renovation of the existing structure — because you don’t like the wall colors and paintings?

It’s possible one of us isn’t thinking clearly, or has lost the plot altogether. The Powers That Be don’t seem to mind spending that money to “green” things up in terms of ambiance. Here’s a novel thought: How about a much more worthy and justifiable pursuit?

What else might that same two BILLION dollars do? How about purchasing wind turbines that would provide Green electricity for something like 250-500 THOUSAND homes? Seems that would be a lot more Green than a couple coats of paint in the U.N. house.

To be fair, some of the renovation may be in order. Increasing security features for the structure, for example. After all, we’re in a war on Terrorists, right? Then again, if we were paying more attention to Going Green, maybe the terrorists would be busy leaving us alone, and we wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked for our politics and philosophical persuasions. Just a thought — a truly Green thought.

Going Green – UK’s First Carbon Budget, Energy & Green Jobs

UK’s first ‘Carbon Budget’ – Investment in renewables, energy efficiency & green jobs

UK Chancellor Alistair Darling unveiled a series of ‘green’ initiatives in the UK’s first ever ‘carbon budget’ this week, with around £1 billion pounds set aside to encourage alternative and efficient energy use and deliver ‘green jobs’. The budget promised carbon emission cuts of 34 per cent by 2020. Darling called the move a “landmark step”. The increased target is well ahead of the 20 per cent promised at EU level and sets UK targets well above those in the US. Greenpeace dismissed the energy saving initiatives, expected to save around 380,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, as “woeful”. “The emissions saved per year represent about two weeks’ emissions from Radcliffe-on-Soar coal-powered station” said the environment group’s spokesperson. Lord Turner, chairman of the Climate Change Committee and one of the central figures behind the budget, commented “The carbon budgets provide the UK with the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world. We need to start reducing our emissions now, and we need tough policies and strong leadership from government.”

Offshore Wind Development – Offshore wind is one of the big winners from latest budget, Darling adding that Britain needed cleaner energy investment, talking of a new “North Sea energy hub”, built around offshore wind and including gas storage and carbon capture. “The credit squeeze is holding back major offshore wind projects. I want to lift the barriers — through £525 million pounds of new financial support over the next two years for offshore wind, funded through the renewables obligation. The potential is enormous,” he said. “I am confident that this will lead to major projects getting the go-ahead quickly, providing enough electricity to meet the needs of up to 3 million households.” This is still someway short however, of the £2 billion pounds asked for by the wind industry but should be enough to benefit a number proposed projects that are under threat including the London Array, the world’s largest. Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon UK, which holds a 30 per cent stake in the London Array, said he was “certain” the move “would help transform wind power in the UK”.

Green Buildings – An additional £435 million pounds of extra support will be provided “to deliver energy efficiency measures — for homes, businesses and public buildings” such as weatherproofing. The government also announced that from a £500 million pounds package designed to kick-start the building industry it would spend £100 million pounds helping local authorities to build low-carbon homes.

Car Scrappage & Green Cars – In an attempt to boost sales within the struggling automotive industry and encourage people to switch to greener, more efficient vehicles, Darling confirmed that the government will launch a scrappage scheme worth £2,000 per car. The scheme covers the 10 million cars in the UK currently older than 10 years. The scheme kicks in next month and is likely to run until next March or until the money runs out, whichever is soonest. The Chancellor also announced a major reform to vehicle excise duty next year “to encourage manufacturers to produce cleaner cars” new bands will be introduced offering an “incentive to encourage drivers to choose the least polluting car”.

Green-collar Jobs – The Governments green jobs strategy was key to this carbon budget. Darling claimed government spending on environmental initiatives in the fight against climate change would create large numbers of “green-collar jobs”. He claimed that there “could be over a million jobs in our environmental industries within the next two decades” providing “huge opportunities” for business. “These budgets give industry the certainty needed to develop and use low-carbon technology – cutting emissions, creating new businesses and jobs.” Funding for skills development and training also increased, with £260 million pounds focused on “sectors with strong future demand” which should benefit those in green industry sectors.

Other Energy Investment – The Chancellor confirmed plans for a further two CCS demonstration plants maintaining an option to build a further two in the future, how these projects will be funded was not confirmed. Darling also announced that highly efficient CHP plants are to be exempted from the climate change levy from 2013 which he predicts will bring forward £2.5 billion pounds of investment from the private sector.

Submitted by Sam Newell at Renewable Energy Jobs

Top Five Solar Power Disadvantages

Going Green News is decidedly in favor of renewable, sustainable energy sources, no matter what their origin. The basic groups are Solar, Wind, and Hydro generated. Biodiesel, ethanol and other combustion engine fuels don’t qualify, as they still have significant carbon footprings, and are often destructive in their production. But what about the big three? Are they as good as they seem? Let’s take a look at some of the DIS-advantages of solar power. Here’s a list:

  1. Relatively low output, which equates to a much longer return on the financial investment.
  2. Needs to be stored in batteries. The power simply isn’t strong enough to be stored any other way.*
  3. Relatively expensive to produce, and its components still have a carbon footprint.
  4. Whether lead, lithium ion, or some other technology, batteries aren’t exactly kind on the environment either.
  5. While they can produce in overcast conditions, most agree that solar panels require strong sun to be efficient.

Improved battery technologies may alleviate some of the concern, but it remains that solar farms are going to have to be located in very sunny places. They will sprawl. Then the energy will have to be transported via wire (loss of power) to the places it is needed.

One mitigating concept we’ve been employing thusfar is to produce and use the solar-generated power locally. Solar can charge up smaller batteries easily enough, which works great for small patio lamps, gadget recharging, etc.  Depending on locale, the sun’s rays can also be used to suppliment hot water for washing within the home.  Just don’t expect to power your car off of a rooftop solar panel any time soon.

* A M.I.T. professor has developed a hydrogen generator that can theoretically run on a solar panel, but this is not an available technology.

Solar Power-Advantages and Disadvantages

Top Five Solar Power Advantages

We’ve pretty well established that Going Green News is all for environmentally safe, sustainable and renewable resources. In other writings, we’ve defined that as (primarily) solar, wind and water generated. Hydrogen technologies are not yet commercially viable, so we don’t include them at this time. In this article we’ll be looking at the advantages that Solar power offers over other Green technologies.

  1. Low/no maintenance. Once a solar farm is set up, the panels go on collecting energy for a long time with minimal care.
  2. Low space requirements means that they can be mounted most anywhere, including rooftops (which are often wasted space.)
  3. Solar isn’t just photo-electric. It can also be used to heat homes, heat water for cleaning and bathing, etc.
  4. Small solar chargers can deliver portable energy to gadgets and light-duty devices, freeing us from plug-ins.
  5. As we become more energy conscientious, more devices will be engineered to operate on minimal energy (and solar cells will become more effective at harnessing the sun,) making solar devices as common as the solar calculators we’ve been using for decades.

These five points go far to demonstrate how solar power is feasible and useful now. People have been using solar energy as their primary source for a long time, and the advancements in solar technology just keep on coming. When we consider the nearly incalculable power of the sun’s rays, it’s clear that solar technologies must be a major part of our Green energy solutions.

Solar Power-Advantages and Disadvantages

Going Green – To Make An Omelette (Part 2 of 2)

VIDEO: Full of Hot Air?

(Continued from Dec. 4, 2008′s “Bustin’ Some Eggs” in the Energy News section)

Fuel prices have fallen sharply. Earlier this year, we saw $150 a barrel for crude, and over $4 a gallon at the pumps. In the past quarter, that has dropped to just over $41 a barrel (yesterday) and gasoline is well below $2 a gallon all across the nation. A part of this is supply and demand, but we would be foolish not to recognize that it’s the only smart strategy left for oil producing nations. When gasoline was crushing our budgets, causing everything we buy to increase dramatically, it seems we finally found wisdom, realized that we cannot afford this petroleum addiction. By keeping gas prices low, the oil producers hope out of sight will be out of mind, and we’ll forget the lessons of the first half of this year. We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. Of course OPEC would rather have $40 a barrel than nothing for their oil. Once we are independent of their petrol, it will be nearly worthless, so they’ll do whatever it takes to keep us strung along. It is on us not to forget, to continue to develop alternative energy solutions as though our lives depended upon it. They do.

No transition happens without growing pains. You’ve gotta break some eggs to make an omelette, as they say. Let’s begin to see these pains as a badge of honor, a first-hand proof that we’re growing past the juvenile fossil fuel existence that brought us out of the Dark Ages. The time has come for us to leave that in our past as we head into maturity. Let us not look upon solar panels and wind turbines as eyesores, but as a symbol of our freedom from dependence upon foreign oil, our liberation from the filthy toxic pollution that threatens our very existence. Indeed, we’re going through some growing pains but, if you’ll pardon the mixing of metaphors, we’re on our way to making one beautiful and delicious omelette.

Tidal Energy-Alternate Power Source

Tidal Energy or tidal power, is created when the flow of water moves in the incoming and outgoing tide. There are two types of tidal energy that can be created for naturally created power. The first type is referred to as kinetic power. Its the energy generated as water moves in flowing rivers or ocean tides. Harnessing this kinetic tidal energy requires utilizing a turbine to produce the green energy. You can compare this process to the power generated by windmills, except there is water turning the turbine instead of wind.

This is a popular alternate energy because of the minimal impact on the surrounding ecology. In terms of harnessing hydro electricity it has much less impact than the building of dams. Nations around the world are looking toward their coastal areas to generate sustainable power via kinetic tidal power. The advantage is the consistent and predictable flow of water energy, as the tidal movement is a constant.

The efficiency of tidal energy depends on the tides rise and fall during the normal tidal cycle, dictated by the lunar cycle. Certain regions have a greater tidal swing, and all coastal areas experience varied tide heights throughout the monthly cycle. For optimal power generation a tidal energy facility needs to be place at the right location. In addition, the location needs to be located within a reasonable distance to a power collection facility so that the energy can be transferred to the grid for consumption.

Thinking Of Mom On The Holidays

She gave us a womb to develop in, and then birth. She has kept us warm, sheltered, safe, nurtured, and given us a sense of stability and security. She tends to our needs, while giving us the freedom to wander and explore and figure out our place in life. She provided us with siblings to learn from, to know and enjoy. We take romps with her, we frolic in the sun, in the water, in the rain and snow with her. We play in the mud, and grow into men and women with her. We build our homes with her, and when we pass on from this life, she cradles us again. The earth is indeed our mother.

This holiday season, amidst all the festivities, the kids and decorations and food and parties, let’s pause for just a bit, think of all the times shared with our mother, Earth. Let’s be thankful for them, reminisce a bit, and renew our pledge to protect her as she has protected us.

None of us would intentionally do anything to harm either of our mothers, right? Take a minute to think, now, of the ways we may have hurt either of them unintentionally. Perhaps it was a careless word or gesture, some thoughtless unintentional act. Moms absorb a lot, they take a lot without a word of protest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt them, and that doesn’t mean we should add to the already heavy burden that they both carry for us.

So call up your mom, tell her you love her. Remind the both of you of the good you’ve shared, thank her, and remember to be gentle with her. Hold your tongue — and your trash. Pitch in, lend a hand, so she doesn’t have so much to do. Remind the both of you that you do appreciate and love her. Make your new year’s resolution early. Vow to be kinder to your mother from now on — not just on the holidays, but every day. It’s gotta be tough. She does so much for all of us kids. Let’s make her life easier from now on.

Happy Holidays, Mom!

Going Green – The Government’s Green Scammers

Kermit the Frog may know better than most that it’s cool to be Green.  Maybe we should look to him for advice on how to avoid being scammed by those who want to make a buck or three off of calling something Green or Alternative.  The problem isn’t just one of unscrupulous or self-serving entrepreneurs selling snake oil either.   Presumably well-intending government officials are getting in on the act now, too. 

It seems no one is above trying to push a product by calling it Green.In Illinois’  Winnebago County, the Soil and Water Conservation District is pitching a 55 gallon rain barrel for $75, and even claiming that the barrels will pay for themselves.  Jessica Vandeboom, representing the county, brags that the barrels ”are made out of recycled food grade plastic, so they were once used to ship food products.”   One small problem: Barrels like this are found all over the country, used once (as law prohibits their being reused, for some reason,)  for $10-20 retail.  To a hydrogen perioxide company, they’re a waste byproduct.  Dialysis fluids are also shipped in the barrels.  A rinse or two, and they’re perfectly safe to drink out of, and certainly just fine for catching run-off.   But if you ship them to a Recycling company, cut and melt them down and reform them into the same 55 gallon capacity barrel, then ship them back out, you can buy these $10 barrels for $75.  What a deal!

Then there’s the snake oil and pseudo snake oil.  Things are just too easy to scam with.  The little gadgets that you put in your car, a resistor, this or that, to supposedly give your car an extra 30 mpg.Most of the time, such scams are pretty obvious, and yet we feel the need to warn people not to trust every person — or government agency — who wants to sell you something they’re calling Green.  Going Green doesn’t really cost any more.  Don’t be deceived. 

You can do plenty to Green up your home or life without spending a dime.  In fact, going Green usually SAVES you money.  Turn off lights when you’re not using them.  Switch to florescent bulbs — they last longer since there is no filament to break.  Same with heat and air.  This winter, consider wearing a sweatshirt or sweater or even warm pajamas and you’ll be able to turn your house down another 5-10 degrees!

When all’s said and done, it’s still keen to be Green!