Tuesday, February 26, 2008

99.9% of the earth's volume is hot enough to boil water

Free Power from the Earth 24/7

by Thomas R. Blakeslee. February 19, 2008
(renewableenergyworld.com) From our home on the earth's thin crust, it's hard to believe that 99.9% of the earth's volume is hot enough to boil water. Atomic decay inside of the earth heats its molten core to a temperature that is hotter than the surface of the sun! To harness this geothermal power, we need only drill through the crust and use that heat to boil water to drive turbine generators. This water can be reinjected into the earth in a closed loop.

The world's first geothermal power plant was built in Larderello, Italy in 1911. It is still producing enough power for a million homes today. Geothermal power already supplies 26% of electrical power in Iceland and the Philippines and 5% of California's at prices that are competitive with coal power. Geothermal power plants run 24 hours a day with an uptime of over 90%. They require no fuel and produce no pollution. Coal and atomic power plants need much more maintenance downtime, so they only operate an average of 75% and 65% of the time. Wind and solar power are even worse, producing an average of only 30% and 24% of their rated power.

Why then, do we use coal to produce most of our power? We dig thousands of miles of tunnels or blast the tops off of mountains and ship the coal thousands of miles just to burn it to make steam. Every step of this process is an environmental nightmare so bad that we have ruined the earth and upset the entire climate balance of our planet. Acid rain has killed our forests and coral reefs and mercury emissions have made it dangerous to eat most fish.

We started burning coal because it was easy at first. The environmental problems didn't become apparent until the scale of coal burning became massive. Coal became big business with lots of political clout that squeezed out all competitors including geothermal. Energy policy today spends billions to subsidize coal and develop "clean coal" technology but nothing at all on geothermal development. The fossil fuel Juggernaut tramples all alternatives that threaten the status quo.

Geothermal power today is mostly done in natural geyser or hot spring areas where underground water in contact with hot rocks below produces steam near the surface. However, deep drilling methods developed by the oil industry make is theoretically possible to build geothermal plants in places where the earth's crust is deeper, like the eastern United States. Old oil wells are often rehabilitated by drilling another hole nearby and injecting water to push the oil out. The mixture of oil and water that comes out is very hot. This hot water is now considered a nuisance but if it's heat were used to generate power, tens of thousands of megawatts (MW) could be generated in Texas alone with a cost payoff of only three years.

A recent MIT report studies the potential of similarly injecting water into hot rocks purely for the purpose of generating power in non-thermal areas like the Eastern U.S. The report concludes that hot rocks are a rich resource that should be developed now. The research cost of such a development would be much less than the billions already being spent on "clean coal" and nuclear power. Since the water used is recirculated back into the ground, geothermal power consumes a tiny fraction of the massive water consumption of a coal or atomic power plant.

Atlantic Geothermal has a very ambitious plan using tunneling technology similar to that used to construct the tunnel under Mont Blanc to build a 50 foot wide tunnel 80 miles long and three deep. Using 1500 ft. boreholes laterally to expand the heat extraction field, the system could generate 1600 MW of power, nearly matching the output of Hoover dam. Since the entire system except for input and output facilities is underground and maintained by hydrostatic pressure, the visual impact above ground would be insignificant. While this project sounds grandiose, it is no more so than Hoover Dam itself. It is a much better use for government money, which is now being wasted on hydrogen and "clean coal" projects.

Early in this century energy technology took a wrong turn when geothermal power was overshadowed by cheap coal and oil. Now the oil is running out and the unintended consequences of coal are killing people and ruining the planet. The problem now is a political one. Energy policy is determined by experts and lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry. We must derail the fossil energy juggernaut before it is too late.

Thomas R. Blakeslee is president of The Clearlight Foundation, a non-profit organization that invests in renewable energy and other socially useful companies and issues cash grants to individuals who are working effectively for change.

For Further Information

Monday, February 18, 2008

Off-grid home powered by solar PV, solar thermal, wood pellet boiler, etc.

February 14, 2008

Going Off Grid with Chris Anderson and Borrego Solar

Peterborough, New Hampshire [RenewableEnergyAccess.com]

When Chris Anderson, COO of Borrego Solar, moved across the country in 2007 to open Borrego Solar East, he needed a place to live and he chose Peterborough, NH. Anderson decided to build his own, entirely off-grid, home. The house is powered completely by solar photovoltaics, a solar thermal system, a wood pellet boiler and a few other unique features. Anderson says the home blends the traditional colonial style of New England with the modern style of the San Francisco Bay area. The 3,000 square foot home took more than two years and approximately $510,000 to complete from start to finish and involved everything from getting a conservation easement put on the land to powering a construction site without grid electricity.

The Home Features

Solar PV: A 6.75 kilowatt roof mounted Borrego Solar system with an estimated monthly production of 550 kilowatt hours. The system uses 27 Sharp 160W modules, 15 Sharp 162W modules, mounted east of south on a 45 degree pitched standing seam metal roof and one SMA SB7000 Inverter. The system also uses two SMA 4248 Sunny Islands that charge a bank of 24 Rolls Surrette S460 batteries to run the house on cloudy days.

Heating Systems: Seven Heliodyne flat-plate collectors using glycol. One 800 gallon and one 1200 gallon storage tank from STSS Co., Inc. One Harman PB105 113k BTUh wood pellet boiler using wood pellets from New England Wood Pellet. Heat systems were designed by Henry Spindler from Optimal Energy Solutions LLC.

Other Features:
A hot water recirculation loop, radiant floors, thermal glazed windows, thermostat controls for each zone of the home and energy efficient appliances.

To see an interview with Chris Anderson and to get a look at his one-of-a-kind off-grid home, watch the video below.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com talks with Chris Anderson, COO of Borrego Solar about his off grid home in Peterborough, New Hampshire. http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1416570629http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=1214147015

For more on Borrego Solar and Chris Anderson's home check out this week's Inside Renewable Energy Podcast with Stephen Lacey.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Greenpeace ''EfficienCity'' a model for campsite communities?

EfficienCity: a climate-friendly town

Greenpeace Unveils Its Eco City Concept

14th February 2008

Greenpeace has launched an interactive virtual city showcasing how towns and cities across the UK are fighting climate change and enjoying a cleaner and more secure energy future - without relying on new coal or nuclear power stations.

The new online town, called EfficienCity, uses interactive case studies and animation to demonstrate how the UK could slash its greenhouse gas emissions, cut electricity bills and beef up the security of its energy supply. The town is powered by "decentralised energy", a clean and efficient energy system that provides heating, cooling and electricity to the community.

Greenpeace is asking visitors to the virtual town to "reclaim the power" from central government and instead engage with their local councils, encouraging them to implement their own local energy schemes based on efficiency, renewables and combined heat and power.

Through interacting with virtual football stadiums, supermarkets, hospitals and breweries based on real world examples, visitors can see how their own communities can join the fight against climate change by generating their own energy.

Greenpeace has developed the project in response to the official energy policy of the UK government, which currently favours large, centralised power generation and nuclear reactors as the solution to keeping the lights on and tackling climate change.

Developed in collaboration with Biro Creative - founded by former staffers of the Adbusters Media Foundation - the project shows how the solutions to climate change can be applied to every British town.

Videos, animations, slideshows and sounds guide the user through a brilliantly realised low carbon system, explaining how renewable technologies - from wave and tidal power to micro-hydro and anaerobic digestion - work. The town also shows how electricity, heat and cooling can all be part of a local energy network.

Greenpeace energy advisor Darren Shirley said: "With EfficienCity we're trying to demonstrate virtually how the real solutions to climate change can work in practise. We're hoping that visitors to the city will see that these technologies aren't science fiction - they're already available today.

"There's absolutely no reason why this kind of integrated, low carbon system couldn't work in every town in Britain. That's why we want people to get active, contact their local politicians and demand real change."

Nicholas Klassen of Biro Creative said: "To combine real world feel with technical precision, we started with a visual style based on "information graphics" and filled it out with colour, dynamism and the ordinary touches of everyday life.

"The site is designed to allow users to dig in on their own terms. Some will graze through the site and be happy with a surface-level engagement. Others will drill down to every layer to absorb every detail."

Cavity wall and loft insulation to save immense costs in home heating

Lofty Plans For Energy Conservation TheRenewableEnergyCentre - saving money, saving energy and saving the planet.

14th February 2008

Following the release last week of the "Heat Call for Evidence" document issued by the Office of Climate Change (OCC), The Renewable Energy Centre.co.uk issued a statement calling for the government to take a proactive stance to reduce heating demands throughout the UK.

Issued by the Right Honourable John Hutton MP, Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the report said that currently 49% of the UK�s total energy demands are for heating. Domestic heating in particular was cited as one of the main areas where demand was high with 69% of heat produced in homes being for space and the remainder for cooking and hot water. As a result household demand for heat is now approaching 500 Terawatts per year.

The Renewable Energy Centre stated that these figures could easily be reduced by introducing simple energy saving measures in the home. Loft and cavity wall insulation were referenced as solutions which could not only save the house owner over �100 per year in bills but serve to reduce the energy consumption needed. The Energy Saving Trust has estimated that from 26 million homes in the UK 9 million do not have adequate cavity wall insulation and a staggering 11 million homes do not have sufficient loft insulation.

The Renewable Energy Centre commented that these solutions are two of the easiest and most cost effective to install in domestic homes and that the government should either legislate or create a task force to ensure every home in the UK is catered for. This could result in a reduction of �380million to the national energy bill every year, reduce the carbon footprint and help meet the fuel poverty targets of 2016.

There are currently grants available and local government schemes to encourage people to take steps to install loft or cavity wall insulation however The Renewable Energy Centre stated this does not go far enough.

Richard Simmons Managing Director at The Renewable Energy Centre said "It is clear that changing people's hearts and minds is not going to work as the issue of loft insulation has been going on for over 20 years despite changes in building regulations. The government needs to take decisive action either through legislation or tax incentives to make a difference. Cavity wall and loft insulation can be fitted and installed quickly and easily and make a tangible difference in reducing the heating requirements of a house. There is no reason why every home in the UK could have adequate loft or cavity wall insulation within 2 or 3 years. Our website has a section for both of these solutions with suppliers across the country, ready to do this work today and Local Authorities should be made responsible for delivering these solutions within a fixed timescale."

The Renewable Energy Centre reiterated its position that although the large scale and costly measures being undertaken to produce renewable energy are commendable, action also must be taken in the domestic arena if the UK are to meet its targets and have a successful impact on climate change.

TheRenewableEnergyCentre - saving money, saving energy and saving the planet.