Monday, September 01, 2008

The Economist Debate - Some Closing Comments.

There are some interesting thoughts here, beginning with "Power Towers". This sounds like a descendent of one of Tesla's inventions? I'll do a final round-up of what was exactly concluded by both sides of this debate, and their moderation, but it seems that consensus is (as I and others commented at the outset) there is no question of either/or about using what we have or developing new technologies. We are going to need all that can be "sensibly" provided on a realistic timetable. Energy efficiency over what we use now and in new technologies is key. The major problem of providing liquid fuel for transportation might be solved by making diesel from algae, which seems like the most direct way of using "solar-energy" to make fuels. Other biofuel strategies, based on land-grown crops, fail the "scale-up test". All sources of electric power should be utilised where practical, since the final product "electricity" can be used in manifold applications, inclduing running light-trains and trams, particularly to underpin local economies.

Whatever we decide will require an unparalleled degree of cooperation at the personal and governmental level. Plans will have to be laid-down clearly and followed. No U-turns... there simply won't be the resources to mess about, half-heartedly picking up one thing and then another, only to drop them at the will of political and commercial short-termism.

Frank G wrote:

August 31, 2008 05:00

"The Power Towers is an ideal power plant for the electrical power needs of the future. It is a clean tech patent pending airfoil design that utilizes proven, off- the-shelf technologies to convert wind power to electrical energy. The Patent is Titled: Innovative Method of Power Extraction Using Static Airfoils.

The design of the airfoils is two airfoil shaped towers that naturally form two stacks that act as conduits for both wind and the wasted heat energy given off by the gas turbines. This makes the towers consistently predictable energy generators and economically feasible. The towers are wildlife friendly, safe and produce on average 50% less green house gases and uses much less land than a conventional wind farm.

The critical feature is the design of the airfoil that creates an accelerating constriction allowing for substantial wind power acceleration. This creates a pressure drop. The differential pressure acts through a turbine-connected generator. Combining this unique design with a gas-turbine, Power Towers can produce electric power even when wind doesn’t blow. This hybrid solution allows for consistent, low-cost energy production and a quicker return on capital investment.

With cities, states, and nations around the globe planning to generate at least 20% or more of their total energy from clean-energy sources within the next decade or two, and with billions of people still in need of potable water and reliable electricity in the developing world, clean tech will be a dominant force well into the 21st century.

This century will be shaped by how effectively and smoothly the world introduces hydrogen as a transportation fuel, but first hydrogen or electric power to recharge Plug-in Hybrid cars must be produced. The solution is a hybrid wind/gas-turbine power tower.

We must introduce a renewable energy source in order for world economies to grow, for the growing middle class in emerging markets to have increased wealth, and for people who have dreamed all their lives of owning a vehicle to finally realize that dream. This is why clean tech represents the biggest opportunity of an era and why long-term thinking will be a critical tool for those participating in this massive industrial transformation. The Power Towers will be the one major key in this transformation.

Wind is Sun's heat transformed into kinetic energy through the greatest solar collector currently available, Earth's atmosphere. Wind total power is estimated between 1,700 and 3,500 TeraWatt; by comparison, the whole mankind primary energy needs are estimated at approx. 14 TW.

The Solution: Power Towers is prototype power plant of the future. Power Towers is a patent pending scalable design that uses wind to produce electrical energy. The towers are scalable to immense sizes.

Clean-tech markets from renewable are finally, after years of pioneering efforts building momentum, and going main stream. With oil at $140/Barrel and predicted to go higher, renewable are hot on Wall Street. Energy from wind offers the greatest opportunity for wealth creation in a generation and Power Towers are going to be a big part of it.

The energy industry is a great example of the need for long-term thinking. It took coal nearly 100 years to bypass the burning of wood as the world’s primary energy source. It then took oil nearly 100 years to surpass coal usage. Natural gas has been more than 100 years in development and now represents about 20% of global primary energy use. Similarly, it will take renewables, such as wind and solar 10 to 20 years to match the technological momentum of coal, oil, and natural gas.
In the 21st century, population pressures, global economic forces, environmental needs, shortages of natural resources and climatic changes will force changes in energy production. The solution has always been with us renewable such as wind and ultimately the sun.

Our solution takes advantage of the alternative and superior clean energy sources by capitalizing on proven scientific principles and recent technological advances. The features are combined in a unique patent pending protected way. We use understandable technologies that take advantage of an energy source that is non-polluting and unquenchable.

Rest assured that the dire predictions will not come true. I for one, choose to build towers to light the future and keep the darkness away, but as Saint Augustine said “God sends the wind, but we must put up the sails!”

Sirajul Islam wrote:

August 30, 2008 23:51

It’s really hopeless to observe the slow development of energy alternatives. New sources of energy are desperately needed to compensate for the eventual disappearance of existing fuels as well as to slow the build-up of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Wind and solar power have gained some significant footholds in some parts of the world, and a number of other innovative energy solutions have already been developed and even tested out in university and corporate laboratories. But these alternatives, which now contribute only a tiny percentage of the world’s net energy supply, are simply not being developed fast enough to avert the multifaceted global energy catastrophe that lies ahead.

Renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and hydropower along with traditional fuels like firewood and dung, supplied but 7.4% of global energy in 2004; bio fuels added another 0.3% (DoE, USA). Meanwhile, fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas supplied 86% percent of world energy, and nuclear power another 6%. Based on current rates of development and investment, the DoE offers the following dismal projection: In 2030, fossil fuels will still account for exactly the same share of world energy as in 2004. The expected increase in renewables and bio fuels is so slight, a mere 8.1%, as to be virtually meaningless.

In global warming terms, the implications are nothing short of catastrophic. Rising reliance on coal, especially in China, India, and the United States, means that global emissions of carbon dioxide are projected to rise by 59% over the next quarter-century, from 26.9 billion metric tons to 42.9 billion tons. The meaning of this is simple. If these figures hold, there is no hope of averting the worst effects of climate change. When it comes to global energy supplies, the implications are nearly as dire. To meet soaring energy demand, we would need a massive influx of alternative energies, which would mean equally massive investment in the trillions of dollars, to ensure that the newest possibilities move rapidly from laboratory to full-scale commercial production. Whatever the Economist debate outcome is, but that, sad to say, is not in the cards. Instead, the major energy firms backed by lavish US government subsidies and tax breaks, are putting their mega-windfall profits from rising energy prices into vastly expensive and environmentally questionable schemes to extract oil and gas from Alaska and the Arctic, or to drill in the deep and difficult waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. This is what is meant for banking on existing technologies (in the energy industry). The result? A few more barrels of oil or cubic feet of natural gas at exorbitant prices with accompanying ecological damage, while non-petroleum alternatives limp along pitifully.

Robert North wrote:

August 30, 2008 19:18

If one includes the management and political processes required to bring technologies to fruition and effect then we certainly need breakthrough innovations in these areas.

ginghamdog wrote:

August 30, 2008 12:02

The question comes down to what cost an economy can bear to institute new energy sources. The argument for waiting for a breakthrough isn't so much an argument of waiting for a supply breakthrough as it is waiting for a cost breakthrough.

Alternative energy sources will always be more expensive than traditional carbon fuels, unless markets are allowed to completely regulate the transition, which also means that carbon based fuels must become much more expensive before the transition is made, which makes the transition point a greater economic shock. In any rate such an approach is highly unlikely, the demand from the public for action precludes the ability of markets to make the transition without input or support from public policy makers.

So if we must institute a transition from the position of public policy we are doing so for the long term good, not to save economies money. There will always be extra cost involved in the use of alternative fuels. This will also only be exacerbated as the use of alternatives increases, because of simple supply and demand, as the demand for traditional fuels decreases so will their cost. As a matter of fact if the move to alternatives is widespread and rapid we could wind up in a position of having significant supplies of oil which cost very little, making the cost difference for using alternatives even greater.

As far as the U.S. is concerned the best thing that country could do to hasten the implementation of alternatives in vehicles is to create a mandate stating that in a ceratin period of time a high percentage of military and government vehicles must be powered by alternative fuels. An international contest could be put forward to select the type of technology and the suppliers, companies outside the U.S. could compete provided supplier operations were then located in the U.S., technology was shared, and made available to the public. This would create the sort of public backing required to make a transition of the necessary scope. For critics who might argue that such a mandate would put U.S. forces at a strategic disadvantage the security of the U.S. is assured by its nuclear arsenal, and much of current conflict tatics centers around air power.

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