Posts Tagged ‘renewable’

Combined-Source Energy Farms

March 10, 2010 1 comment

We see more wind and solar farms popping up every day. What we don’t see (or at least I haven’t seen) are the two being built in the same place. Think about it: the only times that solar panels don’t generate electricity are at night, and when it’s cloudy. Generally it gets cloudy as a result of weather systems, which usually cause it to be windy. So why is it that we see wind farms and solar farms as totally separate facilities?

If the goal of building a renewable generation facility is to power a certain area of the energy grid, it only makes sense to utilize every source that we can. The biggest problem with renewable energy plants is their downtime. The sun only shines, and the wind only blows, at certain times. Building solar collectors and wind farms together could greatly reduce downtime of the facility by taking advantage of the weather, and prominent energy source at a given time. A solar farm that generally loses 30% of it’s uptime due to weather could greatly benefit from a wind farm that would make use of most, if not all, of that downtime by taking advantage of the weather systems passing through. With this method the capacity factor of renewable energy generation facilities could be increased to compete with current coal, oil, and nuclear plants.

The amount of generation capacity per energy source could be adjusted to suit a given area. For example, a wind farm located in a natural air stream would not see much necessity for incorporating a large solar collector, however a small one may be added simply to increase the efficiency and capacity factor of the overall facility. Likewise, a solar array in a naturally dry and sunny location may increase it’s capacity factor with a few wind turbines.

The biggest advantage of this setup, however, is that renewable energy generation facilities can be built in areas that do not favor one form over the other. Many towns and cities that do not have major wind currents, nor an exceptional amount of sun, can get reliable renewable energy from a plant that balances wind and solar sources. This now creates the opportunity for many cities and villages to generate their own renewable energy. Benefits could also be seen by building combined-cycle plants, generating both electricity for power and heat for the town or parts of the city.

There is a lot of energy out there just waiting to be harvested, we just have to build the facilities to use it. I think that all energy farms, being built for the sole purpose of powering a certain area, should take advantage of the different sources of energy available. What do you think?

Clean Energy Finally Gaining Steam

March 5, 2010 7 comments

Finally, somebody said what I’ve been waiting to hear, “… no member of the public has ever been injured by a nuclear power plant in the United States, nor has any nuclear worker died of a radiation-related incident…”, a statement made by Patrick Moore today in the LA Times. This is exactly what I’ve been talking about. People got all hyped up with the accident at Chernobyl (which happened under extremely rare circumstances, by the way) and decided never again to trust nuclear power. There is your proof that nuclear power is clean and safe, despite what people want to think about it. How many people have been killed in coal mines, or in natural gas or oil rig explosions?

We do have renewable energy sources right now: wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc. But they are not yet efficient or widespread enough that they can sustain our energy economy. Nuclear power is our next step to clean energy. People need to get over their preconceptions and accept that there is nothing wrong with nuclear power, it has been around for over 50 years now and the technology is well developed and widespread. They want to get rid of greenhouse gases, why not get rid of the big coal powerplants?

The extra money that we would save by getting rid of coal power could be put into research and development of nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies. I think that the big thing that people worry about is spent reactor fuel. Obviously, more reactors would mean more spent fuel. But it would also mean more funding for reprocessing research and storage facilities.

I believe that we are less than 50 years away from seeing reliable fusion power become a reality. When it does, we won’t need traditional nuclear fission reactors anymore, so you can do away with that waste. There is enough nuclear fuel on this planet to last us a long time, much longer than fossil fuels, which are running out fast. Our energy economy needs an overhaul, we’re not in the 1900’s anymore. Maybe coal and oil power was a bright future back then, but now, over 100 years down the road, supplies are running out and we’re seeing the repercussions of living this way. We can’t stay stuck in our ways just because we don’t want to change. The good times with fossil fuels are a thing of the past, now it’s time for us to grow up and move on to bigger and better things.