Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Alternative Energy
Old 12-13-2014, 07:26 AM   #1
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
imoldernu's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Peru
Posts: 4,616
Alternative Energy

A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy - IEEE Spectrum

Not presented as an argument for or against alternative energy sources, even though the conclusion is that alternate energy is not viable or cost effective today.

The breadth of the article makes it a worthwhile read for those who are technically inclined. My first thought was to skim the surface and pick out anything that seemed new. More than I bargained for! Just a few of the "in process" concepts that were new to me, or misunderstood. The links on the right side of the homepage lead to plain language explanations that could eventually become a part of the future.

Wind power energy storage... Kinetic, gravitational, elastic material, compressed gas, chemical
Hydrostor- Underwater compressed air bags
Ocean Thermal Power
Organic coating for electro-voltaic
Rainwater microturbines
Balloon airborne power turbine
Shrinking a power inverter.
Wave and gravity power

Nothing here that will affect me, but some of the possibilities that could be common when my granddaughter turns 21 in 2030.
__________________

__________________
imoldernu is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 12-13-2014, 09:23 AM   #2
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
mpeirce's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Columbus area
Posts: 1,589
Good article.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens to the Germany economy as their experiment in reducing their reliance on coal continues. I still can't figure out how they can do it without ramping up nuclear to replace coal though. There simply isn't a real alternative for baseline electric power with current technology.
__________________

__________________
mpeirce is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 10:13 AM   #3
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Northern IL
Posts: 18,255
Quote:
but some of the possibilities that could be common when my granddaughter turns 21 in 2030.
I think you are being optimistic. That's just 15 years away - as the article says, with big infrastructure like energy, change comes slowly.

While I like the idea of renewables, and lower impact energy sources, I just don't see much change happening fast. Here's some thoughts I've had recently:

Take solar & wind - these are intermittent sources, so before they can provide a high % of our power, they will need storage and/or back-up power.

There just isn't any practical/safe storage available. Batteries are $$$, compressed air, pumped hydro depends on local caverns, etc. Just two days storage of the energy that just one typical coal plant can provide(we have about 18 in Illinois alone) would be an energy level equivalent to each of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. And that's just two days - we could have overcast conditions for a week or more.

So to be usable, you will need something like a gas powered 'peaker plant', with the same output as the intermittent renewable source you want to use. Peaker plants are used now to take care of the variations in power throughout the day, while the nuclear and coal run at a steady level. And since the sun only provides a peak around mid-day, you will probably need a few hours of storage to be able to spread that peak across the late afternoon, or that peak will be wasted. And storage systems waste some of the energy. So when the fans say solar/wind are getting cheaper, they are not adding in the cost of the backup/peak power and losses that needs to be accounted for before these systems can really be a big player. They are already expensive, that makes them crazy expensive.

Maybe this will be like 1900 when people could not envision that the auto would replace horses (a huge source of pollution for crowded cities at the time). Maybe the next big thing is yet to come? I suspect smaller, next gen nuclear to be the prime mover in the next 20-30 years, but we will see.

-ERD50
__________________
ERD50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 10:22 AM   #4
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Car-Guy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Citizen of Texas
Posts: 2,465
If the price of oil keeps falling and stays down for a long period of time (doubt it) I suspect that will slow down any alternative energy investments.
__________________
Car-Guy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 11:52 AM   #5
Moderator Emeritus
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 4,929
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpeirce View Post
Good article.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens to the Germany economy as their experiment in reducing their reliance on coal continues. I still can't figure out how they can do it without ramping up nuclear to replace coal though. There simply isn't a real alternative for baseline electric power with current technology.
Well, the Germans are relying on their good friends at Gazprom, while they finish decommisioning their nuclear power plants.

A good summary article is here: German Nuclear Decommissioning and Renewables Build-Out | The Energy Collective
Quote:
Germany’s preliminary 2011 generation mix was: 17.7% nuclear, 24.6 lignite, 18.7% hard coal, 13.6 natural gas, 19.9% renewables, 4.2% heating oil, pumped hydro, others. The renewables were: 7.6% wind, 5.2% biomass, 3.1% hydro, 3.2% solar, 0.8% waste. The 2011 generation was added to this article on December 27, 2011. The 2010 values were used for analysis in this study.
BDEW: Renewable Energies Second Most Important Energy Source in 2011 « German Energy Blog


Germany Without Nuclear: Renewable energy would need to scale up from 16.8% (101.7 TWh of 603 TWh in 2010) to 57% (327 TWh of 574 TWh in 2020) to achieve the CO2 emissions reduction targets (see next section) AND replace nuclear energy, according to a study by The Breakthrough Institute.
Note: Despite GDP growth, energy consumption, TWh/yr, is assumed to be steadily decreasing due to energy efficiency measures.
The Breakthrough Institute - Home

Germany’s 2020 generation mix would become: 43% lignite, hard coal and gas, 57% renewables. The renewables would become: 34% wind (27% offshore, 7% onshore), 11% solar, 7% biomass, 3.9% hydro, 1.1 % other.
Yes, they plan to replace that baseline nuclear capacity with energy efficiency improvements so the lignite, coal, and gas cover baseline needs, and a big increase in wind generation, primarily offshore, with 450' wind turbines on the Baltic.


It will be interesting to see how this actually works out.
__________________
M Paquette is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 12:08 PM   #6
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Midpack's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 11,959
Fascinating topic, one that I've read/studied for years, and I can (and have) provide convincing arguments as to why alternative energy isn't viable.

However, we were once dependent on non-renewable whale oil for (lamp) light, heating, lubrication, soap, candle wax, and the processing of textiles and rope. Whaling was a huge industry at one time. People were wringing their hands leading up to (whale) peak oil in 1846 too.

And since 99.99% of us can't see progress beforehand, I try to balance "conventional wisdom" with the following:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer, born 1788

Some things never change. Many technologies have been completely replaced, to the (mostly quiet) surprise of 99.99% of us (self included).
__________________
No one agrees with other people's opinions; they merely agree with their own opinions -- expressed by somebody else. Sydney Tremayne
Retired Jun 2011 at age 57

Target AA: 60% equity funds / 35% bond funds / 5% cash
Target WR: Approx 2.5% Approx 20% SI (secure income, SS only)
Midpack is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 12:48 PM   #7
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
Mulligan's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 7,369
I remember back in the early 1980s I won a trip to Washington DC over an essay writing contest in high school dealing with energy as back then the oil patches were supposed to be running dry by 2020. The usual suspects of wind, water, and solar were rounded up even then as future alternatives. Of course nuclear and coal were being advocated as oil replacements. I remember advocating coal with it's cheap cost and 200 year domestic supply back then. The "Green Movement" would have ripped that paper up and threw me in a tar pit if it was used again today!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
__________________
Mulligan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 04:12 PM   #8
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
clifp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,450
I took engineering course on alternative energy back in 1980. The professor had a cool job, traveling around the world chasing windmills (and not just Holland, Indonesia, Africa, and other places in Asia.)

The class was a lot like the Hot Air book which was discussed on here a few years ago. The book is still a terrific read for anybody interested in the subject.

The professors conclusion was that wind energy was 5 to 10 years away from being competitive and solar 10-20. As a 20 years old I believed him as 55 year old I believe the author of this paper this stuff takes decades to switch over.

I also firmly belief in the Hawaii rule. If an alternative energy source doesn't make economic sense in Hawaii than it makes even less sense anywhere in the planet.
__________________
clifp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 04:39 PM   #9
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
clifp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,450
I took engineering course on alternative energy back in 1980. The professor had a cool job, traveling around the world chasing windmills (and not just Holland, Indonesia, Africa, and other places in Asia.)

The class was a lot like the Hot Air book which was discussed on here a few years ago. The book is still a terrific read for anybody interested in the subject.

The professors conclusion was that wind energy was 5 to 10 years away from being competitive and solar 10-20. As a 20 years old I believed him as 55 year old I believe the author of this paper this stuff takes decades to switch over.

I also firmly belief in the Hawaii rule. If an alternative energy source doesn't make economic sense in Hawaii than it makes even less sense anywhere in the planet.
__________________
clifp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 05:02 PM   #10
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 246
What's interesting to me right now is the economics of scale. I'm getting ready to build a small camping trailer, and one of the things I'll include is a solar-charged battery. One panel, one battery, and I will be able to run lights and charge the gadgets. A very viable economic situation.

More daunting is the motorhome solar scenario. A couple of batteries and a couple of panels, in order to add small appliances (no resistive heat or compressive cooling, too much draw).

And then there's the single home installation, a basement battery bank and a roof full of panels. Now, you can start to consider the larger appliances, but you really need to manage their use.

Commercial systems introduce even more challenges.

In a way, there's a LBYM dynamic at work in alternate energy; we've become very used to the production capacity of traditional energy, and it reflects in our lifestyles. Alternate energy efficiency and availability needs to improve, but we can select to meet it earlier if we pay more attention to how we use it.
__________________
ggbutcher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 05:29 PM   #11
Moderator
Walt34's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Eastern WV Panhandle
Posts: 16,494
Oh, that kind of alternative energy.

I was looking for alternative energy to lift the weights at the gym for me.
__________________
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
Walt34 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 06:56 PM   #12
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: Yuma AZ
Posts: 270
Absent an energy miracle breakthrough, it really appears to me that humans in "first world" nations are going to have to make significant changes in lifestyle, engineering, home building, etc. Something with systems engineered like earthships for homes.

http://earthship.com/
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/passivesolar.html
__________________
unno2002 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 07:13 PM   #13
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
pb4uski's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Vermont & Sarasota, FL
Posts: 16,387
Over half of the power our local cooperative electric company needs comes from using methane gas produced by a landfill to power large internal combustion engines that generate electricity. I have often wondered why every significant sized landfill in the country that is near to transmission lines isn't used to generate electricity. Talk about a free lunch! I've seen other landfills where they just burn off the methane in an open flame. Such a waste.

I've also often wondered why rather than blight our ridges and beautiful views with wind turbines, why we couldn't just bury water turbines in our rivers deep enough that they would not interfere with navigation since these rivers flow 24/7/365 and the wind is much more variable.

Solar is ok, but around here we have large fields of solar panels that are also a bit of a blight on the landscape.
__________________
If something cannot endure laughter.... it cannot endure.
Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
Slow and steady wins the race.
pb4uski is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 08:08 PM   #14
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Northern IL
Posts: 18,255
Quote:
Originally Posted by unno2002 View Post
Absent an energy miracle breakthrough, it really appears to me that humans in "first world" nations are going to have to make significant changes in lifestyle, engineering, home building, etc. Something with systems engineered like earthships for homes. ...
Have to? Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
Over half of the power our local cooperative electric company needs comes from using methane gas produced by a landfill to power large internal combustion engines that generate electricity. I have often wondered why every significant sized landfill in the country that is near to transmission lines isn't used to generate electricity. Talk about a free lunch! I've seen other landfills where they just burn off the methane in an open flame. Such a waste.

I've also often wondered why rather than blight our ridges and beautiful views with wind turbines, why we couldn't just bury water turbines in our rivers deep enough that they would not interfere with navigation since these rivers flow 24/7/365 and the wind is much more variable.

Solar is ok, but around here we have large fields of solar panels that are also a bit of a blight on the landscape.
I'm guessing that many landfills just don't produce enough gas to make it economical. But it is a shame to see it go to waste.

Those are called 'run of the river' turbines.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-of...droelectricity

Without the pressure difference of a large dam, there isn't so much power and not much reserve. And there just aren't that many places that can produce significant power.

-ERD50
__________________
ERD50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 08:10 PM   #15
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Kerrville,Tx
Posts: 2,707
Quote:
Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
Over half of the power our local cooperative electric company needs comes from using methane gas produced by a landfill to power large internal combustion engines that generate electricity. I have often wondered why every significant sized landfill in the country that is near to transmission lines isn't used to generate electricity. Talk about a free lunch! I've seen other landfills where they just burn off the methane in an open flame. Such a waste.

I've also often wondered why rather than blight our ridges and beautiful views with wind turbines, why we couldn't just bury water turbines in our rivers deep enough that they would not interfere with navigation since these rivers flow 24/7/365 and the wind is much more variable.

Solar is ok, but around here we have large fields of solar panels that are also a bit of a blight on the landscape.
On the rivers in a back to the future movement turbines are being installed and/or reinstalled on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. One of the first installations was at the old river control structure in La. (there is a 30+ foot drop from the Mississippi to the Afalachaya river here. Turbines are being installed at dams upstream also. Of course until recently the fact that the rivers were near the Il coal field made this uneconomic.

On the battery front Eldon Musk and Tesla intend to fix part of it by installing electric car batteries in homes.
__________________
meierlde is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 08:14 PM   #16
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Northern IL
Posts: 18,255
Quote:
Originally Posted by meierlde View Post
...

On the battery front Eldon Musk and Tesla intend to fix part of it by installing electric car batteries in homes.
I'd like to see the $$$ penciled out on that one.

-ERD50
__________________
ERD50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 08:37 PM   #17
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
NW-Bound's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 19,387
Quote:
Originally Posted by clifp View Post
I also firmly belief in the Hawaii rule. If an alternative energy source doesn't make economic sense in Hawaii than it makes even less sense anywhere in the planet.
+1000

Hawaii is isolated, and has to import most of its fuel sources meaning coal and petroleum products from great distances. It uses some biomass and also has some geothermal plants and renewable sources, but they are still a small percentage. Hawaii has the most incentive (read cost!) to use more alternative energy sources, and if it does not work in Hawaii it is difficult to justify it elsewhere, particularly if we are talking about universal sources like wind or solar energy.

One more thing to keep in mind is that Hawaii has no high consumption for electricity or energy sources like other places that have heating and cooling requirements! It should be a lot easier for them.

PS. What I meant was that if we want to experiment with new technologies such as battery storage for night-time use of solar energy, Hawaii should be the place to prove it. The economic hurdle is lower there.
__________________
"Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man" -- Leon Trotsky
NW-Bound is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 11:06 PM   #18
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 11,614
Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Take solar & wind - these are intermittent sources, so before they can provide a high % of our power, they will need storage and/or back-up power.

There just isn't any practical/safe storage available.
I think we may find that the best way to store solar energy is in chemical form, as a liquid. Use the sun to grow algae, refine the algae into biofuel, burn it when it is needed.
Advantages:
Power availability easily tailorable to power requirements
No serious disruption even with days of clouds
Uses the existing power production infrastructure (turbines, etc)
Zero net greenhouse gas emissions (the CO2 was taken out of the atmosphere by the algae, then it goes back when burned).

Even fairly efficient space-wise when modern methods are used to grow the algae:
Quote:
Most people know algae as "pond scum." And until recently, most energy research and development projects used ponds to grow it.


But instead of ponds, Valcent uses a closed, vertical system, growing the algae in long rows of moving plastic bags. The patented system is called Vertigro, a joint venture with Canadian alternative energy company Global Green Solutions. The companies have invested about $5 million in the Texas facility.


"A pond has a limited amount of surface area for solar absorption," said Kertz.


"By going vertical, you can get a lot more surface area to expose cells to the sunlight. It keeps the algae hanging in the sunlight just long enough to pick up the solar energy they need to produce, to go through photosynthesis," he said.


Kertz said he can produce about 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans.
green fuel.






This may become practical when oil prices go back up. Anyway, it's nice to know that we can have a ready replacement for petroleum fuels when they run low.
__________________
"Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite." - R. Heinlein
samclem is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2014, 11:40 PM   #19
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
clifp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,450
The problem with algae is it is still very expensive compared to fossil fuels, I suppose it maybe cheaper than batteries but still expensive, approximately $250/barrel for biodiesel unsubsidized.

I seriously considered investing in a company Phycal who was/is building a large 30 acre pilot project to make biofuels in Hawaii from algae. The second phase was IRRC about 1,000 acres and it was ideally situation. It used inexpensive fallow agricultural land (old sugar cane plantation) and was co located next to the only coal electric plant in that state, the CO2 from electric plant was pumped in the algae tanks, and tanks got lots of sun. The algae was specific strain of algae genetically engineered to grow fast and put out plenty of oil when processed. They have been trying to build the 30 acre facility for 8+ years despite a DOE grant. The $250 figure I used was at full production and assumed some plausible but not guarantee cost reductions.
__________________
clifp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-2014, 02:27 AM   #20
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 5,324
Quote:
Originally Posted by unno2002 View Post
Absent an energy miracle breakthrough, it really appears to me that humans in "first world" nations are going to have to make significant changes in lifestyle, engineering, home building, etc. Something with systems engineered like earthships for homes.

http://earthship.com/
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/passivesolar.html
I love the earthship houses. They are such a great idea.

We've got our gas and electric bill down to under $100 this month, where we used to spend around $350 to a high of $500 in winter months, and we still have quite a few changes left to do that we have not had time to implement yet. I'd rather spend the money on something more fun than unnecessary kilowatts.
__________________

__________________
daylatedollarshort is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Alternative energy investments dm FIRE and Money 4 07-05-2009 07:28 AM
Alternative Energy, GM, and "fooled again" samclem Stock Picking and Market Strategy 26 10-21-2008 05:03 PM
alternative energy incentives in Houston? Keyboard Ninja Other topics 2 10-04-2008 12:49 PM
Is the next Bubble Alternative Energy chinaco FIRE and Money 3 08-04-2008 06:13 PM
Alternative Energy - Hopeful Signs Emerging Danny Other topics 3 11-29-2005 08:06 PM

 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:30 PM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.