Powering the World With Alternative Energy

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by TruthSeeker, Jun 12, 2007.

1. spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

Messages:
53,966
Civilization as we know it depends on cheap oil. It won't come to an end, but nothing will work on the same scale as now for some time to come. I'm not suggesting giving up on alternatives, but they won't let us avoid a major reduction of scale in our way of life. The production of things like oil shale and tar sands cannot equal light sweet crude. At some point, it takes more energy to extract and refine than you get in return. Combine that with ever increasing demand, and it points to collapse.

Is it really so bad to imagine an agricultural instead of an industrial based economy?

3. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
True the price the energy return is dropping, pump-less sweet crude was at 1 barrel used for every 50 produced, now tar sand is at 1:2-5. The crunch of peak oil is not that bad though, take the crunch from the 1970 peak of the USA oil supply: USA oil consumption dipped repeatedly and for several years and the USA economy survived (although the experiential growth experiences in the 50's-60's was and is a thing of the past).

I rather imagine a technocratic society, preferably a post-singularity one were we don't need to worry about food, water, mortality, etc anymore.

5. RomanBannedBanned

Messages:
11,560
Nah, I fucking hate witches.

7. weiguxpWikichem.net - WikiChemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
35
3% of the world covered in solar panels can power the whole planet

8. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
Actually it less then that, but it still a significant amount of surface area, and then how do get power at night?

9. spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

Messages:
53,966
But you cannot at present produce solar panels without infrastructure based on fossil fuels.

Batteries, or some other form of storage.

10. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
First of all if we really needed to we could gasify coal into oil, to power all the mining machinery and economy needed to make solar panels, in the long run electrification of everything will remove any fossil fuel input.

I agree on the batteries but it going to require a titanic amount of them.

11. Echo3RomeoOne man wolfpackRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,196
This also applies to present-day nostrums like E85.

Electrochemical storage and its associated charging/inverting circuitry is all pretty inefficient anyway.

12. spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

Messages:
53,966
Exactly, production of fuel isn't the problem, there are ways. The problem is we have unnecessarily built a society that requires constant, ever increasing, affordable, and unsustainable sources of energy. The problem isn't what kind of car to make, the problem is an unrealistic expectation of how energy will be used in the future.

13. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
Lithium Ion has 95% charge-discharge efficiency, Sodium Sulfar batteries have 86%, those aren't bad numbers, add in 90% inverter efficiency and it still is not bad.

Ethanol is energy positive depending on feedstock and location: Corn in Iowa, no, swtichgrass in Minnesota, yes.

14. weiguxpWikichem.net - WikiChemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
35
Thats true there must be a form of energy storage.

Rechargeable batteries

15. oiramRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
334
Got a serious question here, let’s just assume in the USA (as it is one of the leading energy users), what if each home located in residential suburbs were required to have or be given solar panels (with government incentives and financing the home owners who would pay for them) and those panels provided enough electricity to power that one house and one street lamp out front, then say the older office buildings and high rises with little roof space were kept on the regular power grid wouldn’t the single homes in their numbers using solar power reduce enough energy needs to effectively cut the power consumption in half and then the regular grid could then be placed on alternative energy like solar panels erected in other sites and also connected to wind power and other sources? I guess my question goes back to if all the single homes having solar panels would this be a way to reduce the energy consumption by half?

16. Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Can you support that claim for switchgrass in Minnesota? It may be true, but it seems to me much too much is still unknown to make that claim.

Lets start the focus on the energy expended to make the enzymines needed to get close to the stating point of sugar cane juice. ("close"as there will be many different sugars, not just sucrose, as the product of the enzymztic cleaving of cellulose.)

It has been estimated that it takes a 1/4 pound of enzymes for each gallon of alcohol. - Co-founder of Mascoma, Charles Wyman, a environmental engineering professor of University of California at Riverside.

Will you try to separate these sugars with a centrifuge? Or try to find some set of yiests that will not interfer with each other? or sequentially process with different yiests? If the yiests make different alcohols like ethanol and butenol etc, how will you separate them? Do you need to separate them?

Point is there are a lot of unknowns even about the processes still and very little about their "post-solar" input energy requirements.

17. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
First of all many of us are moving away form enzyme adding and more toward the holy grail of single pot reactors. Third they don't use "yeast" rather engineer prokaryotes, Such as the use of cellulosic bacteria with there metabolism crippled to only produce ethanol (or another singular product) instead of ABE fermentation. There are a plethora of research avenues, some at commercial pilot pant phase. Here a good place to overview:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/cellulosic_ethanol/index.html

18. CheskiChipsBannedBanned

Messages:
3,538
I'm betting on Bacteria

I don't know how, because I know nothing about biology. But they're going to program some kind of bacteria to do something really strange, and it's going to make us efficient and clean fuel. The downside will be that if it touches you it's potentially deadly.

Messages:
10,296
Sorry, but that's very naive thinking. Even a house completely covered with PV panels cannot produce but a fraction of it's own needs - much less a surplus.

Messages:
10,296
Sure, they're working on genetically modifying bacteria to produce the enzymes to do the conversion - but where did you come up with this "potentially deadly" crap????

21. ElectricFetusSanity going, going, goneValued Senior Member

Messages:
18,523
doubt it. many of these organism are completely anaerobic and die from exposure to air.

22. Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
Yes there are many near that stage. I hold shares in one of the most advanced (stock symbol VRNM) which is one of four to receive major DoE grant and last month became partner with BP with BP paying $90million ($24.5e6 now and 20.5 in 3 transfer in next 12 months) for rights to production technology and BP paying much more later if all goes well, including cost of the commercial plant etc. (They now operating pilot plant, 1.4million gallons/year. Plant cost \$60 million).*

I.e. BP will also fund the commercial scale plant when it its design is finalized and make both expertise in global distribution and management available to this relatively tiny company. I bought them as Diversa (before they merged with Celunol) because I liked their approach to the problem (dissecting the guts of termites to take advantage of nature cleverness) and because if even cellulosic’s alcohol never can compete economically with tropical sugar cane alcohol, at least they would still exist because they sell many enzyme products to industry, including major food processors, and to farmers (something mixed in to cattle food mainly)

I have lost about 2/3 of my initial investment on paper. It has always been a back up "plan B" for me as I have financial interest more than order of magnitude greater in Brazil's second largest sugar/alcohol producer, San Martinho. I.e. I continue to think in the end, nature's system, tropical sugar cane, will beat economically anything man can make up. She usually does. (The best cloth is still cotton, best shoes are leather, best houses are baked clay, best water is from spring, etc.)

I thank you for the recent link to yet another idea. The one which seems most promising to me is the "no light algae" approach which feeds the algae sugar now as its energy input and can be grown in compact tanks, not large 2D solar energy collectors. I.e. a "divide and conquer" approach. No cost for field of pipes, pumps and plastic bags for birds to punch holes in etc. and no structures in the field - let sugar cane capture the solar energy cheaply and then crush it but feed the sugar water, not to yeast, but to "GMed algae" for production of oils. (Diesel fuel)

I will go study your link now. Thanks again, but you have not yet supported your claim (I think) that switch grass is energy efficient; however, energy efficiency is not the important consideration for ANY solar system. Economics is, as there is more than enough land (like deserts or even oceans) where the solar photons are now just becoming heat. (They will, in the final analysis, always just turn to heat, but we can get useful work from them in the process if we are smart enough.)
------------------
*One think I also like about them is they are paying attention to the supply problem - working with framers in several souther states etc. A commercial scale plant cannot just assume their input will come from some saw mill. An assured supply, under contract, with lots of land collecting the sunlight is required. We are talking about 100s of years in a steady state system, not one-time rape of some near-by forest.

Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2008
23. Spud Emperorsolanaceous common taterRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
3,899
R.O, you're in the dark ages here.
In Australia homeowners are regularly supplying power back to the grid with "grid-connect" systems and we have a love affair with big homes and big consumption here.
Solar and wind power will save the planet at the eleventh hour. It's happening. China is a MAJOR player, don't believe all the hype, sure China is polluting like crazy but mercifully they are extremely active in the areas of solar and wind energy.
The world is only a couple of breakthroughs away from solving its energy problems. The concerted effort which is finally being put in will pay big dividends.
Five to ten years will show a massive swing in technology and lifestyle.
If we can just hang in there long enough.