Renewable Fuels For Alternative Energy
The Germans have really taken off when it comes to renewable fuel sources, and have become one of the major players in the alternative energy game. Under the aegis of the nation's electricity feed laws, the German people set a world record in 2006 by investing over $10 billion (US) in research, development, and implementation of wind turbines, biogas power plants, and solar collection cells. Germany's "feed laws" permit the German homeowners to connect to an electrical grid through some source of renewable energy and then sell back to the power company any excess energy produced at retail prices. This economic incentive has catapulted Germany into the number-one position among all nations with regards to the number of operational solar arrays, biogas plants, and wind turbines. The 50-terawatt hours of electricity produced by these renewable energy sources account for 10% of all of Germany's energy production per year. In 2006 alone, Germany installed 100,000 solar energy collection systems.
Over in the US, the BP corporation has established an Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to spearhead extensive new research and development efforts into clean burning renewable energy sources, most prominently biofuels for ground vehicles. BP's investment comes to $50 million (US) per year over the course of the next decade. This EBI will be physically located at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The University is in partnership with BP, and it will be responsible for research and development of new biofuel crops, biofuel-delivering agricultural systems, and machines to produce renewable fuels in liquid form for automobile consumption. The University will especially spearhead efforts in the field of genetic engineering with regard to creating the more advanced biofuel crops. The EBI will additionally have as a major focal point technological innovations for converting heavy hydrocarbons into pollution-free and highly efficient fuels.
Also in the US, the battle rages on between Congress and the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA). The GEA's Executive Director Karl Gawell has recently written to the Congress and the Department of Energy, the only way to ensure that DOE and OMB do not simply revert to their irrational insistence on terminating the geothermal research program is to schedule a congressional hearing specifically on geothermal energy, its potential, and the role of federal research. Furthermore, Gawell goes on to say that recent studies by the National Research Council, the Western Governors' Association Clean Energy Task Force and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all support expanding geothermal research funding to develop the technology necessary to utilize this vast, untapped domestic renewable energy resource. Supporters of geothermal energy, such as this writer, are amazed at the minuscule amount of awareness that the public has about the huge benefits that research and development of the renewable alternative energy source would provide the US, both practically and economically. Geothermal energy is already less expensive to produce in terms of kilowatt-hours than the coal that the US keeps mining. Geothermal energy is readily available, sitting just a few miles below our feet and easily accessible through drilling. One company, Ormat, which is the third largest geothermal energy producer in the US and has plants in several different nations, is already a billion-dollar-per-year business
The Ways That The Military Is Using Alternative Energy
The US military knows that its branches must revamp their thinking about how to engage in "the theater of war" in the new, post-Cold War world of the 21st century. One thing that the military leaders stress is the desire for the forces deployed in the theater to be able to be more energy-independent. Currently the US military has policies and procedures in place to interact with allies or sympathetic local populaces to help its forces in the field get their needed energy and clean water when engaged in a foreign military campaign. However, this is not wholly reliable, as the US might well find itself facing unilateral military activities, or have itself in a situation where its allies cannot help it with the resources it needs to conduct its military actions successfully.
The US military is very interested in certain alternative energies that, with the right research and development technologically, can make it energy independent, or at least a great deal more so, on the battlefield. One of the things that greatly interests the military along these lines is the development of small nuclear reactors, which could be portable, for producing theater-local electricity. The military is impressed with how clean-burning nuclear reactors are and how energy efficient they are. Making them portable for the typical warfare of today's highly mobile, small-scaled military operations is something they are researching. The most prominent thing that the US military thinks these small nuclear reactors would be useful for involves the removal of hydrogen (for fuel cell) from seawater. It also thinks that converting seawater to hydrogen fuel in this way would have less negative impact on the environment than its current practices of remaining supplied out in the field.
Seawater is, in fact, the military's highest interest when it comes to the matter of alternative energy supply. Seawater can be endlessly "mined" for hydrogen, which in turn powers advanced fuel cells. Using OTEC, seawater can also be endlessly converted into desalinated, potable water. Potable water and hydrogen for power are two of the things that a near-future deployed military force will need most of all.
In the cores of nuclear reactors
What Is Alternative Energy
There is a lot of energy that we can harness if we only seek to research and develop the technologies needed to do so. We can get away from the fossil fuels and the old electrical grids by turning to alternatives to these energy sources.
One of these alternative energy resources is wind power. Wind turbines continue to be developed that are progressively more energy efficient and less costly. "Wind farms" have been springing up in many nations, and they have even become more strategically placed over time so that they are not jeopardizing birds as former wind turbines did.
Another alternative energy resource is the one that is most well known: solar energy. This involves the manufacturing of solar cells which gather and focus the energy given off directly by the sun, and translate it into electricity or, in some cases, hot water. As with wind energy, solar energy creates absolutely zero pollution.
Ocean wave energy is seen by governments and investors as having enormous energy generating potential. A generator in France has been in operation for many years now and is considered to be a great success, and the Irish and Scots are running experimental facilities.
Hydroelectric power has been with us for a while and where it is set up, it is a powerful generator of electricity and cleaner than a grid. However, there are certain limitations to the availability of the right places to set up a large dam. Many run-of-the-river, or small and localized, hydroelectric generators have been set up in recent times due to this limitation.
Geothermal energy is extremely abundant, since it lies directly beneath our feet, just a few miles below the earth's surface. This energy is produced by the heating of water through the actions of earth's fantastically hot molten core. The water turns to steam, which can be harnessed and used to drive turbine engines which in turn generate electricity. Great amounts of research and development should be put into geothermal energy tapping.
Waste gas energies, which are essentially methane, reverse the usual energy-pollution relationship by creating energy from waste that lies in the dumps and from some air pollutants. This gas is used in fuel cells and can be used in standard gasoline generators.
Ethanol is a gasoline substitute and is created from such things as wheat, sugarcane, grapes, strawberries, corn, and even wood chips and wood cellulose. There is controversy over this fuel with regards to its ever becoming truly economical or practical except in very localized areas, but technologies for its extraction and admixturing are continuously being refined.
Biodiesel energy is created out of the oils contained in plants. So far, the commercial stores of biodiesel have been created using soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower oils. At the time of this writing, biodiesel is typically produced by entrepreneurial minded individuals or those who want to experiment with alternative energy, but commercial interest from companies is on the rise. It burns much cleaner than oil-based diesel.
Atomic energy is created in atomic energy plants using the process of nuclear fission. This energy is extremely efficient and can generate huge amounts of power. There is concern from some people about what to do with the relatively small amount of waste product atomic energy gives off, since it is radioactive and takes hundreds of years to decay into harmlessness.
Investing In Alternative Energy Stocks
Alternative energy stock portfolios are a great part of a modern investor's financial plan, due to the fac that there is so much upward potential. These make excellent long term growth investment vehicles, and the money put into them by you, the investor, serves to further the cause of implementing the alternative energy power sources that we need as we sail into the 21st century and beyond.
Analysts predict that by 2013, the alternative energy industry will be a $13 billion dollar industry in today's dollars. This figure bespeaks an enormous return on investment. Indeed, if you were to invest in a start-up alternative energy company, you might find yourself having invested in the next Microsoft in terms of return on investment. People are fed up with the rising costs of gasoline
Developing Nuclear Power As Alternative Energy
Many researchers believe that harnessing the power of the atom in fission reactions is the most significant alternative energy resource that we have, for the fact of the immense power that it can generate.
Nuclear power plants are very "clean-burning" and their efficiency is rather staggering. Nuclear power is generated at 80% efficiency, meaning that the energy produced by the fission reactions is almost equal to the energy put into producing the fission reactions in the first place. There is not a lot of waste material generated by nuclear fission
Investments In Alternative Energy
It is possible to have a portfolio which profitably (that's the key word, is it not?) invests in alternative energy funds. "Green" energy production is expected to be a multi-billion (in today's dollars) industry by 2013.
The most recently developed wind-turbine technologies have brought us wind-produced energy which is more cost efficient as well as more widespread. More state-of-the-art wind energy technologies are typically more market competitive with conventional energy technologies. The newer wind-power technologies don't even kill birds like in days of old! Wind energy production is a growing technology, and companies engaged in it would make up an excellent part of a growth or aggressive growth portfolio.
Next to consider are solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, technologies. These are to be found implemented in pocket calculators, private property lights, US Coast Guard buoys, and other areas. More and more they find their way onto the roofs of housing and commercial buildings and building complexes. Cost is falling. Their energy efficiency (the ratio of the amount of work needed to cause their energy production versus the actual energy production) is steadily on the rise. As an example, the conversion efficiency of silicon cells has increased from a mere four percent in 1982 to over 20% for the latest technologies. Photovoltaic cells create absolute zero pollution as they are generating electrical power. However, photovoltaic cellls are not presently as cost effective as "utility produced" electricity. "PV" cells are not [capable at present for producing industrial-production amounts of electricity due to their present constraints on space. However, areas where photovoltaic cell arrays could be implemented are increasingly available. In sum, costs are going down while efficiency is rising for this alternative fuel technology.
Many alternative energy investment portfolio advisors are confident that alternative energies derived from currents, tidal movement, and temperature differentials are poised to become a new and predominant form of clean energy. The French are actually fairly advanced at hydro power generation, and numerous studies are being made in Scotland and the US along these sames lines. Some concerns center around the problems with the deterioration of metals in salt water, marine growth such as barnacles, and violent storms which have all been disruptions to energy production in the past. However, these problems for the most part seem to be cured through the use of different, better materials. Ocean-produced energy has a huge advantage because the timing of ocean currents and waves are well understood and reliable.
Investments in hydro-electric technology have grown in the last two decades. Hydro-electric power is clean; however, it's also limited by geography. While already prominent as power generation, the large, older dams have had problems with disturbing marine life. Improvements have been made on those dams in order to protect marine life, but these improvements have been expensive. Consequently, more attention is now being paid to low-impact "run-of-the-river" hydro-power plants, which do not have these ecological problems.
The reality is, the energy future is green, and investors would do well to put their money out wisely, with that advice in their minds.
Government Grants For Alternative Energy
In his State of the Union Address for 2007, President George W. Bush called for a 22% increase in federal grants for research and development of alternative energy. However, in a speech he gave soon after, he said to those assembled, I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding.
Where the mixed signals were coming from concerned the fact that at the same time the President was calling on more government backing for alternative energy research and development, the NREL
An Alternative Energy Education Method
The best method of educating young people about alternative energy production that this writer has ever witnessed is the use of the PicoTurbine Company's kits, books, and projects. The PicoTurbine Company produces these things for the purpose of advancing the cause of renewable (alternative) energy and getting young people to look into the future and see that the environment that's being seeded now is the one they will inherit then. As the late, great Gerry Ford said, "Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before." If we are to change the future world for the better, then it starts right here and now with the advent of "green" energy systems.
One of the core concepts of PicoTurbine can be stated: Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I might remember some of it. Involve me, and I will master it. Based on this old tried and true adage, the kits that the company produces come with activity suggestions to get the young people into hands-on learning situations. One suggestion of the company is to demonstrate how heat can be produced by wind energy (the company's specialty) through using a "picture wire" for the heating element. PicoTurbine has found that people typically think of wind energy as being "cold" energy, and are pleasantly surprised to see how wind can be used for generating heat in the home. Another project suggestion that the company offers is to have different groups split off in the classroom and then compare their respective wind turbines that they have built. They can see which ones produce the most or least electricity; which ones start up with need of the least amount of wind power; and for very young children, which ones have the most aesthetic appeal.
There is a core curriculum that PicoTurbine has in mind for teachers to instill in their pupils. Renewable, alternative sources of energy include solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass in addition to wind-produced energy. When we use more alternative sources of energy, we decrease our nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies, which often come from nations who cannot really be called our "allies". Alternative energy is already becoming cost effective when set against the fossil fuels that we are so reliant on currently.
PicoTurbine points out that wind farms and solar arrays are already letting their makers enjoy commercial success. In the last two decades, the cost of photovoltaic cells expressed in terms of per-watt has gone from nearly $1000 to just $4! It has been predicted by analysts that by the year 2015, the cost per watt should only be about $1 (in today's dollars). Students also need to be taught about the hidden cost of fossil fuels: pollution and environmental degradation. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels has been shown through studies to increase incidences of asthma attacks, heighten the effects of allergies, and even cause cancer. Switching over to clean, green energy found in the alternative forms would prevent air pollution and help bolster the environment.
University Research Into Alternative Energy
Decades of tree and biomass research jointly conducted by Florida Statue University and Shell Energy have resulted in the planting of the largest single "Energy Crop Plantation" in the entire United States. This Plantation spans approximately 130 acres and is home to over 250,000 planted trees including cottonwoods (native to the area) and eucalyptus (which are non-invasive) along with various row crops such as soybeans. This organization of "super trees" was brought into being as a result of the University's joint research with other agencies including Shell, the US Department of Energy, the Common Purpose Institute, and groups of various individuals who are working to develop alternative energy sources (those not dependent on fossil fuels) for the future. This research is focused on the planting and processing of biomass energy supplies from fast-growing crops known as "closed loop biomass" or simply "energy crops". The project seeks to develop "power plants" such as wood-pulp or wood-fiber providing plants; clean biogas to be used by industries; plants such as surgarcane which can be used for ethanol development; and crops such as soybeans for biodiesel fuel production.
University involvement in alternative energy research is also going on at Penn State University. At Penn State, special research is focused on the development of hydrogen power as a practical alternative energy source. The researchers involved are convinced that mankind is moving toward a hydrogen-fueled economy due to the needs for us to reduce air pollution and find other sources of energy besides petroleum to power up the United States. Hydrogen energy burns clean and can be endlessly renewed, as it can be drawn from water and crop plants. Hydrogen power would thus be a sustainable energy resource to be found within the US' own infrastructure while the world's supply of (affordable) oil peaks and begins to decline. The University seeks to help with the commercial development of hydrogen powered fuel cells, which would be usable in place of or in tandem with combustion engines for all of our motor vehicles.
When President Bush recently announced his alternative energy initiative, he determined that the government would develop five "Sun Grant" centers for concentrated research. Oregon State University has the honor of having been selected as one of these centers, and has been allocated government grants of $20 million for each of the next four years in order to carry out its mission. OSU will lead the way in researching alternative energy as it represents the interests of the Pacific Islands, the US' Pacific Territories, and nine western states. OSU President Edward Ray says, the research being conducted through OSU's Sun Grant center will contribute directly to our meeting President Bush's challenge for energy independence. Specific research into alternative energy being conducted at OSU by varios teams of scientists right now include a project to figure out how to efficiently convert such products as straw into a source of renewable biomass fuel, and another one aimed at studying how to efficiently convert wood fibers into liquid fuel.
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