Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Need For New

In the past, meaning only a month ago, I can say that I was not a big believer that human actions were contributing to the global warming issue. Aside from not believing that it is our fault, I failed to see the magnitude of the problem. I did not realize how catastrophic global warming can be to life here on Earth until I watched a video, titles Sea Change, that was posted on the blog. The video defined the importance of us immediately changing our way of life. If we continue living the way we are, the ice caps will eventually run out, and the temperature will shoot up. It follows the basic laws of thermodynamics. The ice is melting and absorbing all the heat we are putting out, keeping the planet at a relatively steady temperature. When all the ice is gone, there will be nothing to buffer the heat flux.
This realization has greatly increased my interest in renewable energy sources, so I began looking around at what options are available. I came upon a news webpage that talks about different renewable energy issues. It discusses new ideas that are in early development stages and show much potential for the future.
One such idea is to use solar power to produce electricity. This sounds like it is probably something that we have heard about many times, but it is not based on the traditional solar energy harnessing technique of using photovoltaic silicon panels. It is based on the simple idea of reflecting the sun’s light at a tank, heating up the water inside the tank. Using a field of mirrors, which orient themselves based on the sun’s position, to reflect the light at the tank (or boiler), it acts as a magnifying glass. The water inside the boiler is heated and cycled through a turbine, producing electricity. Based on the need for rapidly change, this technique is ideal because the manufacturing is much simpler and environmentally friendly than creating silicon panels.
Another creative renewable energy technique that I found on the webpage dealt with hydro power. One issue that exists with hydro power is the need for a strong current. This technique overcomes that by using the vortexes created by fluid flow over a cylinder to oscillate the cylinder up and down. The technique works in current flow as little as one knot. This is a difficult concept to understand without seeing, so take a look at the video .
Both of these techniques are very simple in design, yet have been overlooked. I am sure there are many more answers to replacing fossil fuels. We just need to find them. Until recently, renewable energy sources have simply been cool ways of getting energy that makes minimal impact. Now I realize the importance of research for renewable energy, and I hope that major discoveries are made in the near future.

1 comment:

Rafi said...

These renewable energy techniques sound intriguing. From the solar power video, it sounds like some of these plants have already been put in place, and they can produce between about 100 and 400 MW. Are there plans to build many of these plants? The idea sounds good, but the plants also look land intensive, much like the wind turbine farms in west Texas. Will the power produced outweigh both the cost of construction and the land taken up?

Using vortices from currents in the seas to turn mechanical movement into electricity is also an interesting idea. On what order of magnitude are we getting power from this technique? And again, is this a cost intensive technology? I think it is neat that researchers are imitating the way fish move to find new energy sources.