Power Plants of the Future

Planet Earth is experiencing rapid change in its atmospheric composition. Carbon dioxide concentration has spiked above 400 parts per million and is inexorably headed higher as humans burn increasing amounts of fossil fuels. A vast majority of scientists attribute a rapid spike in global temperature to a greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are produced from burning fossil fuels. The inevitable result of continuing and increasing use of fossil fuels is that the planet will become much less livable for human beings and countless other species of life:

  • Island nations are disappearing under rising oceans.
  • Species are becoming extinct at a rate never before seen during human history.
  • Wild fires are becoming larger, and catastrophic storms are becoming more frequent and more energetic.
  • Crops are failing because of drought and extremely high temperatures.
  • Almost every aspect of human culture is being affected or will be affected.

See here information about developments in power production that are important because they have promise to help stop global warming. Too often, we focus of developments that are incremental and are constrained by scientific or academic discipline. Needed are breakthrough attempts to find solutions to global warming that are large and ambitious enough to actually give hope that global warming can be stopped. Incremental advances are important, but they are now coming too slowly to meet the challenge of rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions. We need to think bigger.

Below is an artist’s conceptual illustration of “Energy Island,” an example of the kind of innovative approach to energy development that is highlighted at this site. Energy Island is an invention that integrates both well-known and new technologies to supply abundant electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources that are safe, clean, and renewable.

Illustration of Energy Island shows multiple devices for tapping renewable energyfrom water, wind, and sun

Scroll down to see synopses of reports about innovative developments in green energy and related topics. Click links to access detailed reports and to find references to more information.

        • Energy Island – generates abundant and reliable electricity from an ocean-based platform. Multiple well-known and new technologies are co-located and integrated to tap energy from wind, water, and sun. A unique storage capacity allows Energy Island to deliver electricity when it is most needed.
        • New Hoover Dam – Energy Island, West of Los Angeles. Electricity generation capacity from a drought-stricken Hoover Dam can be replaced by tapping ocean energy.
        • Proposed Effort to Slow Melting of Glacier in Antarctica – Energy Island in Antarctic waters can use simple, known technologies to slow melting of glaciers by cooling water that is melting them on the bottom and by fostering new snow fall to protect glacier surfaces on top. Melting of top surfaces is quicker when snow and ice become dirty and less able to reflect sunlight.
        • Funding for Research and Development of Energy Island and other Large Projects to Combat Global Warming – Funding to combat global warming will grow with public awareness. The present level of funding in the USA of research and development on solutions to global warming is compared to funding for military preparations prior to the the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Funding for R & D on global warming solutions is expected to increase many fold as public awareness grows that global warming is an existential threat.

Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Could Drive Japan’s Renewable Energy Future

Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Could Drive Japan’s Renewable Energy Future.

Reported by Chris Rose at RenewableEnergyWorld.com:

The experimental project is funded by the government and led by Marubeni Corp. It requires approval from local fishermen before becoming a commercial operation. The 2-megawatt turbine from Hitachi Ltd. was nicknamed “Fukushima Mirai,” the Bloomberg report said, adding a floating substation has also been set up and bears the name “Fukushima Kizuna.” Mirai means future, while kizuna translates as ties.

Two more turbines by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., with 7 MW of capacity each, are expected to also be installed. Bloomberg noted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said the floating offshore capacity may be expanded to 1,000 MW.

Given location has been secured and transmission lines are in place, it seems quite feasible to place an Energy Island in the vicinity of a floating wind turbine(s) to add energy storage (CAES) plus means to tap tidal, wave, and solar sources of energy. That addition would offer means to provide a much more abundant and reliable supply.

Grant for Studying Use of Buoy to Capture Energy from Ocean Currents

  • Capturing energy from ocean currents project wins EPA grant. (Nanowerk News) A University of California, Riverside student recently learned he will receive a $15,000 grant from an EPA national sustainable design competition for his idea to capture energy from ocean currents. Raul Delga Delgadillo, who will be a senior this fall at the Bourns College of Engineering, plans to spend the upcoming school year building a small-scale turbine and buoy system and testing it in a flow tank to determine the best way to maximize energy extraction. He expects the system will provide as much energy as an average wind turbine.

Progress at the Department of Energy for Funding R & D

On 8/16/2013 I attended a teleconference re opportunities for funding of R & D sponsored by the U. S. Department of Energy. This teleconference was similar to one I attended last year on the same topic. I was happy to see one difference — topics judged to be suitable for funding included a subtopic, “other.” That change means that applicants for funding might get support even if their projects would not necessarily fit within a subtopic that had been narrowly defined by staff at the DOE. Last year, I submitted a pre-application document that specified I would seek a grant to help investigate the feasibility of employing an Energy Island as a source of generated electricity. I got back what was basically a form letter that said my project would not fall within guidelines for funding. I sent a letter complaining that the guidelines were too narrow and would screen out projects with good prospects for important advancements in the area of hydropower applications. I got back another form letter to the effect that the department was too busy to respond to letters in response to notifications like the one I got. That is all in the past now, so I plan to re-submit last year’s pre-application. You can see that pre-application at Pre-Application for R & D Funding from the DOE.

Futurist Predicts Significant Role for Capacitors in Electrical Storage and Efficiency

  • Super-capacitors are already changing the future of energy. According to futurist Daniel Burrus, “When we look at renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and waves, great strides have been taken, but until we find a way to store electricity for use at a later time, these will help but not be game changing. The good news here is that there is a technology that is already changing the game.” Super-capacitors can store energy to meet peak electricity demands and to smooth delivery of output from renewable sources. They are also being developed to improve energy efficiency in electricity applications — from autos to laptops.

Fuel Fix » Google Becoming Big Energy Player

Fuel Fix » Google becoming big energy player.

Google is a leader in determining how the U.S. will satisfy its energy needs in the future. Google has invested in a wind farm in Texas and a solar plant in California. Other investments have shown support for highly innovative developments: flying wind turbines and a network of transmission lines to service wind farms to be built in waters off the Atlantic coast. Google Energy has independently developed assets for generating electricity that exceed the supply that is delivered by Hoover Dam.

As a customer of utility companies, Google has shown an ability to influence utilities to develop generation of electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Recently, Grand River Dam Authority, a utility in Oklahoma, moved to invest in a 48-megawatt wind farm. The utility thus succeeded in keeping Google as a customer instead of seeing Google develop its own wind farm. Generally, Google has been effective in stimulating development of electricity from renewable resources because of its willingness to write large, long-term contracts for the purchase of green power from utilities.

Breaking News from Grist: Vermont’s Yankee Nuclear Power Plant to Close

“… the news came at a surprising time: Just two weeks ago, Entergy won a hard-fought U.S. Court of Appeals case. The court ruled that Vermont lawmakers, who’ve been worried by the plant’s poor safety history, lacked the authority to shutter it.”

… more

We have known green energy technologies that can be used to replace generating plants that are unsafe or use fossil fuels. Political leaders need to pass a reasonable carbon tax to facilitate change to green energy before the planet fries. Can green energy supply what is needed? See report from Reality Drop

America has far more than enough renewable energy resources to meet its entire electric demand.

World-class renewable resources from wind in the Great Plains to solar in the Southwest could power the whole country more than a dozen times over. The fuel for these power plants, wind and sunlight, are unlimited and will always be free. State renewable energy standards once considered ambitious at 10 to 40 percent now look modest in light of recent growth. Given our current understanding of renewable energy resources, technology, cost, and integration, it’s now realistic to envision a future where renewable resources provide far higher shares of America’s electric generation needs — 80 to 90 percent or more. The only remaining barriers to achieving such massive increases in renewable energy use are a lack of understanding and a lack of political will. We are overcoming the former as we discover the truth about renewable energy. It’s inexpensive, reliable, abundant, all-American — and yes, it’s still clean.

Timely, Large-Scale Efforts to Guarantee Reliable Power from Renewable Sources Planned in EU

From: Climate News Network
Dec 8, 2013

Giant ‘battery’ ensures renewable supply

By Paul Brown

Energy from surplus wind power can be used to pump water uphill and will provide
“battery” power to even out energy supply and demand, researchers say.

LONDON, 8 December – Norwegian hydropower schemes linked to Europe’s large wind
farm projects could successfully act as a backup when wind power fails to
deliver enough energy, according to SINTEF, the largest independent Scandinavian
research organization.

With both on- and off-shore wind power being seen as key to reducing the EU’s
carbon emissions by 80-95% by 2050, a big hurdle for the technology is solving
the problem of intermittent power production. Sometimes there will be too much
power on offer, and at others too little.

A northern European offshore power grid is being developed to link wind farms
and carry the electricity to population centres where it is needed in Sweden,
Denmark and Germany. But the key problem remains how to maintain a regular
supply of energy.

If the existing Norwegian hydropower schemes were refurbished and updated and
connected to the same grid they could act as a giant “blue-green battery” for
the system and provide all the necessary backup power, according to SINTEF.

Goodbye coal!

The potential for wind power in northern Europe is huge. There are already 3.8
gigawatts of installed wind power, replacing four coal-fired power plants.
According to the European Union this is expected to rise to 150 gigawatts
between 2030 and 2050, the equivalent of 150 medium-sized coal-fired power
stations.

Although there are always variations in wind speed, clever use of the grid
system, linking to other renewables like biogas and other back-up gas stations,
evens up supply. One way of dealing with electricity surpluses, for example from
nuclear power stations that have to run 24 hours a day and produce power at
night that no-one needs, is to use the electricity to pump water uphill into
reservoirs. This water can be released and used for hydropower during daytime
peaks. This system is called pumped storage.

Green battery

This is exactly SINTEF’s idea, but on a larger scale. Norwegian reservoirs could
be constantly recharged with water delivered by electricity generated by surplus
wind power, with the water power used as a “green” battery in times of shortage.

“If this large wind project is to succeed, we must secure stable electricity
supplies”, says Daniel Huertas-Hernando at SINTEF. “Today, forecasts of wind
velocities provide the only information which gives us any indication of power
generation levels from wind farms for the next 24 hours.

“If these prognoses turn out to be wrong, or if bad weather makes generation
from the turbines impossible, we will need an effective stand-by source which
can fill the energy supply gap at short notice.

“This is exactly what Norwegian hydropower can do, because it makes it possible
to store energy which can then be released on tap as and when it is needed”, he
said.

By refurbishing existing plants and installing pump storage, the research shows,
the potential of Norwegian hydropower plants could be increased by between 11
and 18 gigawatts, enough to provide adequate backup.

The next question the researchers are looking at is how to integrate all this
into the European grid so that the system is cost-effective. An EU project
called Twenties is looking at large-scale stable renewable energy for the EU.

Peaks and troughs

Some renewables like solar, which are also intermittent, pose less of a problem
because peak production is around mid-day when energy use is at its highest.
This has already led to peak wholesale prices being reduced in countries like
Germany and Italy where there are large-scale solar installations.

Wind is less predictable. The problem is to work out how best to use the output
to even out production peaks and troughs before final decisions on a
distribution network are taken.

There are already grid connections between countries, for example to export
surplus nuclear power from France to Germany, Italy and the UK. Surplus wind
power from Denmark is exported, and Norway can sometimes offer spare hydropower.

“So far the only power cables we have extending directly between different
countries are the so-called ‘cross-border trading cables'”, says
Huertas-Hernando. He says what is needed is a grid development strategy across
Europe to even out supply and demand.

“Since grid construction takes such a long time, it’s important to find the
answer to this question now, so that we can plan in time”, he said. – Climate
News Network