Story by Noah Botwinick, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com
What is horizontal tight fraking?
Hydraulic fracturing, other known as fracking, fraccing or fracing, is the process by which fractures in rocks underneath the surface of the earth are opened and widened by pressurized fluid; in other words, chemicals and liquids are injected at high pressure to the rocks. It is generally used to extract oil or natural gas found beneath rocks under the earth’s surface, but it has other functions as well. Holes are usually drilled two miles down and four miles sideways.
Fracking has the potential to change the face of the American energy industry because it is a way of accessing natural gas that can then be used for energy. Relying on fracking could detach American dependency on other sources of energy. The US has over 200 years of supply of natural gas buried underneath the ground, and this supply would not be able to be accessed without the process of fracking. Fracking is currently the only way possible to unlock the millions and millions of barrels of oil and hundreds of years’ worth of natural gas to be used by Americans as an alternate source of energy.
Substances that can be extracted through fracking include petroleum, shale gas, tight gas and coal seam gas. These substances are found thousands of feet under the earth’s surface, and hydraulic fracturing greatly increases the rate at which these valuable substances can be extracted and used.
Why is Fracking Necessary?
Natural gas and oil that can be used to produce energy is usually found in subterranean natural reservoirs, which are generally located in rock formations of porous sandstone, limestone, dolomite rocks, shale rocks or coal beds. The issue is that when gas is found so far beneath the surface of the earth, there is generally not enough accessibility into these reservoirs to make extraction possible or cost efficient. Additionally, there is usually not enough reservoir pressure to allow natural gas and oil to flow up from the reservoir up to the surface at a fast enough rate to make it worth it. By making conductive fractures in the rocks, it creates a path that connects a larger volume of the reservoir to the drilled well, thus allowing the substance to flow to the surface.
How Fracking Works
Fracking is the last step in the drilling process for natural gas and oil. Here’s how it works:
A hole is drilled, 4 miles total. Then, the drillers go back into the hole with about 5 million gallons of drinking water or freshwater, a million pounds of proppant sand (sand that will keep an induced hydraulic fracture open during the extraction process), and a little bit of a chemical which acts as a lubricant to get the sand into the rock formation. When these materials hit the brittle rock formation that holds within it the natural gas or oil these materials crack the formation, creating lots of little fissures. These fissures then provide a passageway for the trapped oil and natural gas to travel into the drilled hole (the well) and up to the surface, where it can then be manufactured into a usable form of energy.
Brief History of Fracking in the US
Hydraulic fracturing was first used in 1947, in Kansas. In 1998, the first modern fracturing technology, known as horizontal slickwater fracturing was used, in Texas. However, even in the 1860s, fracturing was already used by oil producers in the US to create shallow, rock oil, water or gas wells. Originally, either liquid or solidified nitroglycerin was used to fracture the rocks, and in the 1930s acid was employed as a non-explosive fluid to create wells in the rocks. By 1949, the modern horizontal tight fracking techniques had been introduced into widespread usage in America, and since then it has been used for extraction in over a million oil and natural gas wells in the US.
In the 1970s, after much technological research and development funded by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, hydraulic fracturing was able to be applied to shale gas deposits in order to extract natural gas from shale, or tight sandstone formations. This is where slickwater fracturing came about. Slickwater fracturing is the process by which chemicals are added to the water to increase its flow into the shale. The invention and subsequent widespread application of slickwater fracturing allowed for the economically sound extraction of shale gas to be used as an alternate source of energy in the US.
Other Uses of Fracking
Hydraulic fracturing was developed to increase the flow of oil and gas from wells deep beneath the surface of earth for use as energy, but it has other uses as well. For instance, it can also be used to stimulate groundwater wells. It is also sometimes used in mining, as a method of causing rocks to cave, as well as a means of enhancing waste remediation processes, such as hydrocarbon waste or spills. Additionally, it is applied in waste disposal, as a means of injecting waste into rock formations far beneath the surface of the earth. It can also be used to measure the stress in the earth, which can cause earthquakes. Another use for fracking is in producing geothermal energy; in other words, the process of fracking can be used to extract heat from the earth that can be used in energy production. Lastly, it is used in geologic sequestration of CO2 to increase injection rates.
One of the main environmental concerns with fracking is that when fracking is done through aquifers, it contaminates the drinking water. However, the fracking industry maintains that these concerns are not a problem, for two main reasons:
1) The fracking is done at a depth of roughly 10,000 feet beneath the surface, whereas the drinking water is only about 500 feet below the earth’s surface. Therefore, the fracking itself is actually occurring thousands of feet away from the drinking water itself, and therefore not connected to the water.
2) As per governmental regulations, the fracking industry has to set surface casing over the fracking so that it doesn’t contaminate the drinking water. This is done by putting a steel pipe over the fracking that is locked into place with cement. This prevents anything from leaking out into the drinking water.
Story by Erin Parfet contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com
It’s sad that even with a biochemistry degree and (unofficial) chemistry minor with various electives in pharmaceutical chemistry/pharmacy that the ingredients on a garden variety bottle of commercial shampoo sometimes confound even me. These ingredients are not only utilized in shampoo, but other personal care products such as conditioners, facial cleansers, and toothpastes. While one could explore the health effects of such chemical concoctions, there are also environmental implications of washing these down the drain during their respective cleansing processes. Let’s explore some ingredients I found on a random (undisclosed) bottle of shampoo:
Water, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium chloride, citric acid, sodium citrate, fragrance, various extracts, polyethylene (PEG)-60, sodium benzoate, tetrasodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), methylparaben, propylparaben, yellow 5, orange 4, violet 2
Water and sodium chloride (similar to table salt basically) seem harmless enough.
Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate have detergent-like properties, and detergents can affect the composition of interactions between water-soluble and water-insoluble components of a molecule. Think of water-water as soluble, and water-oil as insoluble. Molecules have specific arrangements and interactions between water-soluble and water-insoluble components to sustain proper molecule functioning, and thus ultimately life. This is true whether human life, aquatic life, or plant life. Now after your shower, sodium laureth sulfate in your shampoo is washed down the drain. Who is to say some of this water does not end up affecting marine life, whether it be fish or aquatic plants whose cells are not designed to be disrupted by a detergent agent?
The parabens in general (methylparaben and propylparaben) are antifungal agents. While we don’t want our shampoo bottle to grow fungus, consider the implications of an antifungal agent finding its way into nature and interrupting the normal growth of fungus needed in natural ecosystems.
Yellow 5: derived from coal tar. Do we want coal tar derivatives in our waterways and ecosystems?
Fragrance: how nonspecific. This could be a lot of compounds, so this one is hard to assess without more information.
This isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but enough hopefully to get one thinking.
Just think, if these chemicals have effects on human health, what about the wildlife that is exposed to such chemicals when runoff drains into our lakes, rivers, or other waterways? What about the untold effects of these chemicals not only on aquatic life, but perhaps in terms of altering the pH of soil or water such that growth of native species is inhibited due to un-ideal conditions? What happens when runoff containing personal product A mixes with runoff with personal product B? The ingredients may be slightly different between products A and B leading to who knows what potential chemical reactions. Multiply this by the number of products available on the market and consider the number of people utilizing such an array of products. The end result is literally a chemical brew with who knows what byproducts from untold numbers of side reactions, and the effects on both health and the environment are hard to quantify, or sometimes, even qualify.
Food for thought.
Story by Noah Botwinick, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com.
Brief History of Supply Side Energy in America:
During the early 20th century in the US, the market of energy suppliers was dominated by a few large companies. This system essentially had the characteristics of a monopoly; the energy companies could charge whatever prices they wanted and if you wanted energy, you had to comply with their demands. In this system, energy companies had no pressing incentive to develop more efficient energy transmission technologies. In the middle of the 20th century, this system became largely federal and state-government regulated, so again, you didn’t really have much of a choice as to who was supplying you with your energy needs. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the energy market was largely deregulated, paving the way for independent companies to begin supplying energy to Americans.
The opening up of the supply-side of energy to independent businesses re-introduced competition into the market, as energy companies fought with one another for customers. Since customers could now choose who supplied them with electricity and natural gas, these supply companies began looking for ways to lower their prices so as to attract customers, as in any business. The way these companies sought and are seeking to supply and transmit their energy to their customers at a cheaper rate is by looking to become more energy efficient in their energy generation and transmission.
Energy Efficiency in Producing Energy
Becoming energy efficient is important for any company or business, but it is particularly critical if your business involves the production and transmission of energy. Energy production is the process of making the electricity itself, and energy transmission refers to bringing that electricity to the user in a form that the user can use. Thus, becoming more energy efficient in the supply-side of electricity means to waste less energy in the production of energy and to waste less energy in bringing that energy to the consumer. Competition within this market has led to the utilization of certain technologies that can cut down on the amount of energy lost, specifically through the uses of renewable energy and green products.
Additionally, in the early systems of the electric power industry, electricity had a relatively low voltage and thus couldn’t be transmitted very far away from the electrical power plant. Thus, even if someone developed a more efficient way of producing power and was offering customers electricity at a cheaper rate, only the people living within a close vicinity of that power plant could reap the benefits of this cheaper power. Now, however, due to newer technologies such as steam turbines, power can be transmitted to customers that are much farther away. Therefore, independent energy companies can develop ways of producing electricity more efficiently and can offer this product to customers across the country.
These power companies that produce and transmit electricity more efficiently are also able to so easily provide power to customers at a cheaper rate because of existing delivery methods. Such delivery methods generally consist of medium-voltage power lines, substations, pole-mounted transformers and low voltage distribution wiring. Using the same power lines that currently provide electricity to homes and businesses, energy companies can provide power from their more energy efficient plants to any home or business without having to build new delivery methods. It’s like if you added a more efficient central heating system into your home to replace the existing heat source, the heat would still flow through your house through the same heating system; the only difference would be that the heat itself now costs less. This is the concept behind changing energy providers; it is simply reducing the cost of the energy you pay for without changing anything else.
Changes in Energy Production Methods: Renewable Energy
Traditional energy supplies come from non-renewable energy sources. Non-renewable energy is energy that is taken from sources that are of finite quality and will, at some point in the near future, run out. Energy that comes from non-renewable energy sources has detrimental environmental effects and contributes to global warming, according to most scientists. This form of energy, which comes from fossil fuels, natural gas, oil and coal, cannot be regenerated within a short period of time. Also, because fossil fuels are limited and are becoming rapidly depleted, prices for fossil fuels are always on the rise. Unfortunately, fossil fuels also have benefits as an energy source, and that’s why they are used so prevalently as energy sources around the globe. Non-renewable energy sources can produce energy cheaply, and fossil fuels can also generate large amounts of electricity. Additionally, they are readily available for use and can be converted to energy relatively simply. Nonetheless, if we continue to rely solely on non-renewable energy sources for our energy, there will be significant negative effects on the global environment, not to mention that if we continue to do so we will run out of these finite sources in less than 100 years, according to many scientists.
Luckily, many are now looking to another source of energy. Today, roughly 16% of the earth’s energy comes from renewable energy sources.
Roughly 16% of the earth’s energy comes from renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy is energy that comes from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat. The reason it’s called renewable is because energy that comes from these sources can be produced over and over. There are many benefits of using renewable energy. First of all, they are plentiful; in other words, they come from sources that don’t run out. They are also the cleanest form of energy, in that, unlike energy derived from coal or oil, energy derived from these sources has low carbon emissions and doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. Another benefit of using renewable energy sources to provide energy is that they are available in every country; thus, the US wouldn’t have to rely on third-party countries for oil and could avoid price hikes, oil embargoes and being coerced by other countries that we rely on for oil. Renewable energy sources will be cheaper in the long run as traditional sources of energy begin to run out and prices skyrocket. Forms of renewable energy include wind power, hydro-electric power, solar energy, biomass, geothermal energy, tidal energy and nuclear energy.
What are the Economic Benefits of Supply Side Energy?
Asides from the environmental, health and political benefits of using renewable energy sources, there are significant economic benefits in switching energy suppliers. By switching energy suppliers, all you’re doing is switching who pumps the electricity into the wires that are already connected to your house. The only cost you’re paying is simply for the electricity itself. Therefore, if energy suppliers can produce the energy at cheaper cost than companies that rely on non-renewable sources of energy, the consumer can benefit from this lower cost simply by switching energy companies. When picking what energy supplier to use, it’s important to understand how they produce their energy. This is because renewable energy has many benefits, both for the individual, the state and for the earth. Here are some reasons highlighting the importance of where we get our energy from.
- Generally, switching your home to an energy company that relies on renewable sources of energy can result in savings of just over one cent per kilowatt per hour. Doesn’t sound like a lot; however, considering that according to the department of energy the average household in the US uses approximately 10,656 kilowatt-hours per year according to the Department of Energy, these savings can amount to significant amounts, especially for a business, especially because they require no changes in quality of the product and only require enough effort to make a phone-call.
- Also, while energy companies that get their energy from non-renewable sources will have to raise their prices as energy sources become depleted in the future, customers who receive their energy from non-renewable energy-source generators can enjoy fewer fluctuations in price. Additionally, because energy from renewable energy sources isn’t based on a finite resource, the pricing is much less susceptible to increased demand, decreased supply or other standard market fluctuations. Not only that, but because renewable energy sources are everywhere, the pricing of this energy is also not affected by control or supply disruptions in external locations.
- Another economic benefit of renewable energy is that because some of these technologies, such as solar power units, can be placed in or near the building that is using the energy itself, it can cut down on transmission costs. It can also cut down on the amount of power lines required in a neighborhood, and allows existing power lines to last longer because their load can be reduced. It also cuts down on the amount of power lost through transmission.
- Building local renewable energy plants and new clean energy-based facilities also creates new jobs in the US and sparks economic development in areas where these plants are being built. They employ local construction crews, deal with local banks and hire local workers. It also helps farmers and other landowners, because energy producers often pay to utilize their land for wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy production. Renewable energy production plants also contribute significant amounts of taxes to their regional governments.
Other Benefits of Supply Side Energy:
- Increased fuel diversity by relying on alternate sources of energy
- Transmission reliability from distributed generation, which allows collection of energy from many sources and has less negative environmental impacts as well as improved security of the energy supply.
- Avoided future investment in fossil-fuel generating capacity
- Reduced price of wholesale electricity
- Reduced price volatility by relying on alternative sources of fuel, so that a disruption in one energy resource does not significantly raise the price of electricity
- Reduced fossil-fuel prices from more competition in the energy market
- Reduced transmission congestion and losses, which is when there is a shortage of transmission capacity to supply the waiting energy-users, because the supply side energy industry is building new energy generation plants
How Clean Distributed Generation can Save Money:
Distributed generation refers to power generation at the area where the energy is being used, as opposed to at the area of generation. By generating power at the location itself that is using the energy, it saves on transmission costs, complexity, interdependencies, and inefficiencies that come with electricity distribution. Generally, distributed generation utilizes combustion generators, which is an unclean method of generating energy. There are systems of distributed energy distribution, such as harnessing energy from solid oxide fuel cells, which can produce clean energy around the clock at a low cost, and save money over the long run.
What are Supply Side Clean Energy Policies?
Supply-side clean energy policies and programs affect the nature of the usable energy that is generated from the energy generators. In other words, they alter the composition of energy resources or change the operational characteristics of the energy supply system. Supply-side policy measures generally support the development of utility-scale renewable energy and combined heat and power applications, as well as clean distributed generation.
What are the Economic Benefits of Supply Side Energy Policies?
The direct effects of supply-side initiatives are the costs of manufacturing, installing and operating the renewable energy or combined heat and power equipment supported by the initiative, as well as the energy savings and possible reduced energy supply costs from fuel substitution among entities participating in the supply-side program and their customers. (Combined heat and power generation, other known as cogeneration, is the use of a heat engine or a power station to generate both electricity and useful heat at the same time.) The direct costs and savings of renewable energy, combined heat and power and distributed generated initiatives include displacement savings and waste heat saving. Displacement savings refers to money saved by utilities from the displacement of traditional generation, such as reduced purchases of fossil fuels as well as decreased operation and maintenance costs from energy generation resources, while waste heat savings is the money saved by utilities or other businesses using waste heat in combined heat and power applications for both heating and cooling purposes.
Story by Karmen Cheung, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com. Wind energy survives another year with the extension of the PTC (production tax credit) in the recent fiscal cliff deal. The 2.2 cent per kWh tax credit will be applied for ten years of any project that qualifies within the one year extension window (through the end of 2013). This seems to bode well for wind developers for now, especially since we saw a record 44 percent of newly installed electric generation capacity last year came from wind. However, looking forward, the future of wind is not so certain. First, the recent explosion of natural gas production is a very real and significant threat to continued cost competitiveness of wind. The most recent EIA (Energy Information Association) estimates the cost of onshore wind to be 9.6 cents per kWh and the cost of natural gas plant at 6.3 cents per kWh.
Beyond cost competitiveness wind developers also face some public resistance due allegations of the negative environmental impacts of wind farms. Despite being a renewable resource, massive wind farm developments do have impacts on their surrounding communities. Locals have most strongly protested the visual and noise pollution caused by these large turbines. (Cape Wind, the first onshore wind farm was under debate for 11 years before finally being approved by Massachusetts last year). Furthermore, some protest the fact that roads and transmission lines are sometimes built in wilderness or remote areas that would otherwise have been left pristine. Environmental groups also protest the bird and bat mortality that result from these wind facilities (but to put things in perspective, for every bird killed by a turbine, 5,820, on average, are killed striking buildings). Most of these issues (besides complaints of visual pollution) can be addressed simply through better siting on the part of developers. Currently, large turbines are sited away from known migratory paths of birds to significantly reduce the risk of bird mortality. Most wind farms conduct Environmental Impact Assessments prior to construction to ensure net impacts are reduce to an acceptable level.
Opponents of wind also argue that wind energy too unreliable and negatively affects electricity grids. This is simply a technological issue that can be solved through improved weather and wind forecasting and coupling of wind energy with other generators in the electric power system. The variability of wind resources can be managed through proper integration and transmission planning. Furthermore, wind energy outputs are not instantaneous. According to the American Wind Energy Association, it typically takes over an hour for a rapid change in wind speeds to shut down a large amount of wind generation.
Undoubtedly, wind energy will take a part of the future U.S. energy portfolio but continued investment in wind farms for now will still depend on government subsidies and technological innovations to reduce the cost of wind. The possible expiration of the PTC already caused significant slowing of domestic wind energy deployment this year (since wind farm projects typically take a year of planning before breaking ground). For now, wind energy has yet to achieve cost competitiveness without policies which take into account environmental externalities (i.e. a carbon tax).
Story by Noah Botwinick, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com.
What are RECS?
Renewable Energy Certificates, which also go by the name Green Tags, Renewable Energy Credits, Renewable Electricity Certificates, or Tradable Renewable Certificates, are the tradable property rights to the energy generated from renewable energy resources. In other words, RECs are non-tangible energy commodities in the United States that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity was generated from a certified renewable energy source. One REC is created when one megawatt of renewable energy has been generated and delivered to a local power pool. Ownership of an REC denotes that the owner purchased renewable energy; however, the actual electricity itself that is represented by the certificate is actually sold separately and is used by someone else.
How Did RECs Come About?
The necessity for RECs, which came about in the 1990s, came about because the electricity from renewable generators that is fed into the electricity grid gets mixed together with the electricity that comes from other, traditional energy sources. As a result, it is impossible to tell where each specific electron came from, so they can’t be sold individually. RECs are a way of making it possible to essentially purchase these electrons in the energy pool that came from renewable energy sources.
What Types of Energy Sources Qualify for REC Certificates?
- Solar Electricity
- Low-impact hydropower
- Wind Power
- Fuel Cells that use renewable fuels
- Geothermal energy
Why Buy RECs?
- Meeting Government Standards: There are policies in place that require electricity service providers to incorporate a minimum level of renewable energy into their electricity supply. Such energy regulations, such as state Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) (http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=4850 ), outline which energy technologies or resources can be used, as well as explain how electricity service providers must act in accordance with these regulations. Electricity service providers must either generate enough renewable energy to meet this obligation, or they can simply purchase enough RECs to fulfill their renewable energy requirements. Thus, RECs can be used to meet compliance with government renewable energy policies and regulations. Rather than a company completely revamping the way it receives its electricity, it has the option of purchasing RECs, either from another company or from the energy generator themselves. By purchasing RECs, the company is giving business to the renewable energy sources without having to actually change anything.
- Environmental Benefits: Buying RECs enables the clean energy generators to keep on producing their clean energy and selling it. This is crucial because approximately 38 percent of the greenhouse gases produced in the United States come from traditional sources of electricity generation ( EPAs 2009 Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks), and the buying of RECs adds more clean energy to the power grid and helps decrease the amount of electricity generated from greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels.
- Energy User Preference for Green Electricity: Energy user preference for green electricity has led to the buying and selling of RECs as retail, commercial and industrial energy users seek to meet their own self-imposed renewable energy goals. By purchasing RECs, a company can do its share in helping the environment without actually taking tangible steps towards going green or using renewable energy themselves. RECs are also beneficial because they allow such buyers to support electrical generators that use renewable energy resources from all over, not just those that are close enough to supply them with clean energy. This allows green energy plants to increase their business because it enables more energy users to buy their products.
- Supporting Renewable Energy: The buying and selling of RECs are crucial for the continuing production and usage of renewable energy in industrialized countries. Producing electricity from clean energy sources is often more expensive than energy derived from traditional energy sources. So, when someone purchases an REC, they are helping pay the additional costs associated with producing renewable energy. The more renewable energy generators are able to be set up and supported, the more benefit there is for the environment. Without RECs, renewable energy generators would not be able to remain functional due to the costs associated with producing energy from renewable resources.
- Supporting Clean Energy Projects: Money generated from the sale of an REC can help fund clean energy projects.
- Balancing the Market Flow: Purchasing RECs can help balance the supply and demand for clean energy. By separating the eco-friendly benefits of clean energy generation from the actual electricity itself, the clean energy generator can get a fair market price for its electricity and help energy consumers elsewhere offset the emissions associated with their fossil fuel generated electricity use.
How are RECs Sold and Bought?
There are two ways that RECs are sold by clean energy generators. Either the generator can sell the electricity and the REC to an energy utility, which then resells both the electricity and the REC to an energy consumer, or the REC can be sold to an a REC Marketer, who can then resell just the REC to a consumer who is interested in supporting a clean energy generator.
RECs can be bought easily from an REC marketer, either as a one-time purchase or in monthly installments. There are several business that sell RECs online, and each marketer can offer different product options, such as which type of clean energy you are supporting. The cost of RECs varies, because it depends on the type of renewable resource that was used to generate the energy, as well as where it is purchased from. Generally, people purchase enough RECs to cover either a portion of or all their electricity use, thereby offsetting their own carbon emissions footprint. However, buying any amount of RECs is beneficial for the environment
Who are the Largest purchasers of RECs in the US?
The Air Force: The largest purchaser of RECs in the US government
- 899,142 MWh worth of RECs
University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia: The largest purchaser of RECs among colleges and universities
- 192,727 MWh of RECs (from wind power)
Intel: The largest purchaser of RECs among large corporations
- 1,302,040 MWh purchased (in 2007)
Whole Foods: The largest purchaser among retailers
- 509,040 MWh worth of RECs (enough to counteract 100% of its energy needs)
What is on an REC?
Each REC states the location of where the energy came from, the source of where it came from and when it was generated. Additionally, each REC tells the purchaser about the renewable fuel sources, the emissions that are emitted from the renewable generation as well as avoided emissions, the vintage of the generator and the eligibility of the source for certification. Each REC tells the owner that its purchase has prevented more than 18,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. A certifying agency gives a specific serial number to each REC, which is a unique identification number to make sure it doesn’t get double-counted. Each REC is also given an independent tracking system, in order to ensure that each REC is legitimate and used only once.
Picture taken from: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20110426_windwakes.html
Story by Karmen Cheung, contributing author for the PeoplePlanetProfitBlog.com. Starting from small windmills in Europe during the middle ages to the large electricity-generating wind turbines of today, humans have been harnessing the power of wind for hundreds of years. As energy security and environmental problems are receiving greater attention, more and more proponents of wind energy as an alternative to dirty, nonrenewable energy sources have emerged. However, how feasible is it really to rely on wind energy to power our homes, our hospitals, and our manufacturing plants?
When evaluating the potential of wind power, the most basic condition of consideration the amount of wind resource available. While wind is everywhere, in order to develop large scale wind farms there needs to be enough wind to make the investment worthwhile.
Wind Power Density
The quantitative measure of wind energy available at any location is called the Wind Power Density (WPD). The WPD is a calculation of the mean annual power available per square meter of swept area of a turbine. The most important determinants of WPD are the average wind speed and the air density. As a result the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed an index referred to as “NREL Class” and the larger the WPD calculation, the higher “class” rating a site receives. Classes range from Class 1 (200 watts per square meter or less) to Class 7 (800 to 2000 watts per square meter). Commercial wind farms generaly are sited in Class 3 or higher areas.
So where is it?
As you can see, from the figure below, areas with the higher wind speeds are generally concentrated in the Mid-West. This is largely due to the abundance of flat land; mountains and forests in the East and West coast prevent winds from picking up speed. In general, areas with annual average winds greater than 6.5 m/s at 80 meters above ground are considered to have good wind resource (80 meters is a useful height because many wind turbines operate at this height).
Dilemmas of Extracting Wind
When trying to locate areas appropriate for wind farms, developers find themselves facing two major dilemmas of extracting wind.
1) Most wind energy is over smooth oceans, far from land and associated with turbulent weather patterns. As sites for wind power on land is starting to diminish, those searching for wind have started exploring the possibilities of moving offshore. But offshore wind power also brings with it significant obstacles such as the anchoring and mooring the turbine, the obstruction it presents to navigation, the high rate of corrosion due to salty seawater, high difficulty of repair, and the lack of ability to connect it to the power grid.
2) The fastest smoothest winds are in the upper atmosphere. While wind manufacturers are now able to build taller turbines, the low air density at high altitudes make it difficult to capture significant wind energy (air density decreases exponentially with increases in altitude). Furthermore, tall turbines are an obstruction to aviation because they would be in altitudes where commercial airlines fly.
As wind energy technology improves, we will hopefully find ways to extract energy more efficiently from our available wind resources.
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While it’s unlikely the we’ll find ourselves using the last drop of the world’s oil anytime soon, we are nearly guaranteed to face a shortage of cheap and accessible oil in the coming century. Known oil reserves are only prepared to meet today’s global demand for another 40 years. And two indicators suggest that we have even less time than that. One, anyone charting the rising middle classes in China and India can tell you, global oil demand is growing. Without new sources of energy, today’s oil supplies will not meet tomorrow’s oil demand. And second, figures for proven oil reserves aren’t so proven. Reserve figures are reported by global oil suppliers that have heavy incentives to exaggerate their reserves. Healthy global reserve estimates help to reassure investors and stabilize volatile prices. The world’s largest oil supplier since the 1980s, Saudi Arabian ARAMCO, has reported no major oil field discoveries in thirty years. Even so, the company’s reported reserves have barely changed in decades.
So, what alternatives are available to us? As of now, there seem to be only two options. Both will require serious changes to most global lifestyles. First, we can stay the course we’re on now and pay more for oil. We’ll continue to develop expensive and destructive oil extraction methods. Prices will rise until today’s high consumption lifestyle will be accessible only to the very rich.
The second and brighter alternative requires a global collaboration to wean the global economy off of oil. Nations and industries worldwide will need to prioritize sustainable energy development. We’ll use industry taxes and international regulations to make alternative energies competitive. Whatever global consumers decide to do, one fact is unavoidable: the price of oil, and energy in general, will be higher.
Source Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/terrywaghorn/2011/12/12/jeremy-rifkins-third-industrial-revolution/
Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the best selling author of nineteen books spoke about his new book “The Third Industrial Revolution” – the possibility that a distributed energy revolution is possible because at some point “we all can create our own energy, store it, and then distribute it to each other because the third Industrial Revolution “is an economic game plan. We have the science and technology to do it, but it will mean nothing unless there is a change in will.” The first Industrial Revolution, Rifkin argues, “brought together print and literacy with coal steam and rail. The second combined the telegraph and telephone with the internal combustion engine and oil.”
The Third Industrial Revolutionwith Jeremy:
How did you come up with this idea?
My read on history is that the great economic revolutions occur when two phenomena come together. When we change energy regimes, it makes possible much more complex economic relations. When energy revolutions occur, however, they require communication revolutions that are agile enough to manage them. If you look at the 19th century, print technology became very cheap when we introduced steam power into printing. That decreased the cost and increased the speed, efficiency and availability of print material. At the same time we established public schools in Europe and America. We created a print literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam power.
Then we did it again in the 20th century with the convergence of communication and energy: Centralized electricity—especially the telephone and then later radio and television—became the communication vehicles to manage a more dispersed Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the oil-powered internal combustion engine, suburban construction and the creation of a mass consumer society.
Energy historians only deal with energy, and communication historians only deal with communications, but in history you can’t really do one without the other. That’s the framework that led me to this kind of search, and the Third Industrial Revolution really came out of that narrative on how history evolves.
So, what exactly is the Third Industrial Revolution?
First of all, it’s based on a new convergence of communication and energy. The Internet has been a very powerful communication tool in the last 20 years. What’s so interesting about it is the way it scales. I grew up in the 20th century on centralized electricity communication that scales vertically. The Internet, by contrast, is a distributed and collaborative communication medium and scales laterally.
We are in the early stages of a convergence of Internet communication technology with a new form of energy that is by nature distributed and has to be managed collaboratively and scales laterally. We’re making a great transition to distributed renewable energy sources. And we distinguish those from the elite energies—coal, oil, gas, tar sands—that are only found in a few places and require significant military and geopolitical investments and massive finance capital, and that have to scale top down because they are so expensive. Those energies are clearly sunsetting as we enter the long endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Distributed energies, by contrast, are found in some frequency or proportion in every inch of the world: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass—garbage, agricultural and forest waste—small hydro, ocean tides and waves.
by Raina Russo
I just returned from the Solar Power International (SPI) show, an annual event for the solar industry, and there were a few things I kept hearing over and over.
One was: “It’s simple: People can live better with solar.” The second was: “The price of electricity will rise over the next decade.”
Over the last 40 years, Americans have been fortunate to have largely consistent electric rates. But as utility providers need to replace aging systems and fuel costs rise, experts predict that homeowners will soon need to pay more for electricity.
In this economy, where jobs are uncertain and the cost of everything keeps going up, everyone wants to save money. But most of us don’t want to sacrifice to do it. With a solar installation, the panels are virtually maintenance-free. You don’t have to think about it any more than you think about the electricity used right now to power your home. You’re connected to the same grid. You flip the same light switches. You even pay the same company – except you’ll pay a lot less! And, those low prices will be locked in forever, regardless of how high electric prices rise.
Let’s Get Real: Facts and Figures on Solar Savings
In March, I purchased a 10.4kW system, which means it produces 10kW of electricity per hour in full sun conditions, or about 55kWh (kiloWatt hours) per day. I’ve consistently saved 60 percent or more on my home’s electric bills. My system is on the large side, though, and may not be a typical example.
A 4,000-watt DC system is an average size, and can reduce your utility bills by about 40 percent. The cost would average about $25,000, but don’t go into sticker shock; after rebates, tax credits and incentives, your out-of-pocket cost will actually be about $7,500 for your solar array.
If you’re an average homeowner in the New York tri-state area, you’ll save about $1,650 per year in electric. The system will literally pay for itself in about four years. Over the life of the system – about 25 years – you’ll save about $41,000. I personally can’t think of any other cash investment that promises a return of more than five times your initial investment. But you don’t have to wait 25 years. You’ll have extra money in your pocket because of lower utility bills from the first day you turn on your system.
Solar Leasing and No-Money-Down Programs
If you’re wondering how to afford that $7,500 upfront cost, this may surprise you: You don’t have to. No money down, zero percent financing and solar leasing programs are available to help you cover those costs. Your local solar PV installer can help you find the program that’s the best fit for you.
Sold on Solar?
You will save money with solar. As electric costs go up, as inflation drives up the price of everything, the cost of your home’s power will remain the same. As the saying goes, “your mileage may vary.” The price of solar, plus the savings you’ll enjoy depends on state and local municipality incentives available, plus the cost of electricity in your region, along with many other factors.
The solar savings calculator at www.ecooutfitters.net is a tool that will give you a good estimate of exactly how much you’ll save with solar, and a call to a local PV installer will let you know the exact cost of the system.
However, there’s one benefit to solar energy that is consistent regardless of where you live: You’re creating clean, home-grown power, reducing your family’s carbon footprint and showing a commitment to our environment. Solar isn’t just a way to save money. It’s peace of mind. It’s a better lifestyle – now and in the future. And you can take that to the bank!
For Raina Brett Russo, taking care of the environment is a necessity, not an option. Having grown up in Israel, a place where conservation is required and solar hot water heating is the norm, Raina knows the importance of solar energy. She is fortunate that her work as co-founder and president of EcoOutfitters.net, an information-rich online portal that bridges homeowners and businesses with qualified renewable energy installers, allows her to be involved in the solar industry’s growth.
With the rising cost of electricity people are starting to look to alternative ways to power their homes. Think about the increased rent you could charge on your investment properties! The need to provide electricity using more environmentally friendly methods is also becoming more important. Having solar panels for your home (or investment property) is one method of producing alternative power and many people have already taken this on board. If you go to sell your home there are certain real estate agencies that deal specifically with environmentally friendly homes, but it is also worthwhile speaking to conveyancing services who can offer you professional advice.
Solar energy is created by collecting the sun’s energy in the cells of solar panels and transferring it to power. Solar panels can be installed on the roof of your home and power your lights and your appliances. It can be used to heat your hot water system and your swimming pool and solar energy can even power cars. Small appliances like calculators can run on solar power. Solar power is a green alternative and does not create any carbon emissions in its production. Solar power is an extremely effective way of creating electricity.
Harnessing energy created by moving water has been done for thousands of years. People would use flowing water to push a wheel that would then go on to grind grain. Today hydro electricity is created in much the same way. Water is directed to flow through a turbine which causes it to spin which then powers a generator. Much of the United States’ energy is created this way. Hydro electricity is a greener option and it is a recyclable energy source as the water can be directed back up through the turbine.
Australia has the resources to provide a substantial amount of energy created by the wind. The southern states are subject to the Roaring Forties and wind speed is enough to create a large portion of energy. Currently about two percent of Australia’s energy demand is being met by power created by wind turbines. There are fifty-two wind farms in Australia.
While it might only seem appropriate for those living near volcanic activity, geothermal power is actually viable anywhere you have some space to dig deep. Six feet down, the earth holds a constant of around 50° and 60° all year. By laying some pipes underground, running fluid through a “heat exhanger” – or heat transfer from one medium to another – and adding a compressor to the mix, it is possible to produce a consistent air flow that keeps you cool in the summer months and warm during the winter. To boot, a geothermal heating and cooling system provides better air quality than you get by circulating an A/C or heater.
Internet Giant Secures Second Fund for Residential Solar Leases in 3 States-
Google recently put up $75 million in funding for roughly 3,000 residential solar installations in Arizona, California and Colorado. Clean Power Finance will oversee the fund and will work with solar power installers to provide homeowners with financing options. The initiative will give consumers an option to enter into lease agreements or power purchase agreements with the installers, which is especially beneficial for the majority of homeowners who cannot afford cash down on expensive solar installations. This is Google’s second fund, with the first being a landmark residential solar deal between the company and California-based SolarCity to the tune of $280 million in project funding. The latter was established to provide installations, lease agreements and power purchase agreements in 11 states as well as Washington D.C. Currently, federal and state governments are providing long-term extensions of solar tax credits for residential and commercial solar installations which makes it a very good time to look into PPA’s and lease agreements in your state. Lowe’s, for instance, has partnered with Sungevity and are offering $0 down for residential solar installations in most states throughout the U.S.