Comparative Review of Alternative Energies

Why the need for Alternative Energies?

Based on known oil reserves and the worldwide consumption rate, most estimates suggest this reserve has only 50 more years of production left in it its important that this is believed!

  • In the US, 89% of our total Energy Budget is Fossil Fuel Based

  • Fossil Fuel combustion represents a global environmental problem

  • Most alternative energy sources have little polluting side effects

    Clearly, environmental pollution is unavoidable so informed decisions must be made.

    Forms of Pollution:

    Global Impact of Sources of Energy Generation:

    Air Pollution:

    Normally the carbon content of fuels (which is high) oxidizes during the combustion process to form CO2 (carbon dioxide)

    Incomplete combustion leads to the formation of CO:

    2C + O2 --> 2CO

    Sources of CO pollution: (million tons per year)

    Automobiles dominate because the combustion of gasoline under conditions of high pressure is quite incomplete

    Some Internet Resources on Pollution:

  • Pollution Prevention Home Page
  • Major listing

    For the future our choices are:

    Every form of energy generation has environmental fall-out. Can we pick the best one globally and or locally? As long as the decisions are driven by "voodoo" economics (i.e. heavy subsidy), intelligent decisions are not likely to occur.

    Most forms of alternative energy generation require much less of an organizational infrastructure. This means that a shift to alternative energies means a loss of jobs. This is undesirable to most politicians.

    What happens if we try to be objective and evaluate our choices via some standard considerations, such as:

    Evaluation Criteria for Alternative Energies:

    Comparative Table

    Evaluation

    Solar Thermal

    PV

    Hydro

    Wind

    OTEC

    Tidal

    GEO

    Biomass

    Capital Costs

    Large

    Large

    Enormous

    Moderate

    Enormous+

    Enormous

    Small

    Small

    Operating Costs

    Moderate

    Moderate

    Neglegible

    Small

    Unknown

    Neglegible

    Small

    Moderate

    Efficiency

    15%

    5--10%

    80%

    42%

    7% +

    25%

    100%

    25%

    Renewable

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Erratic

    Yes

    Yes

    NO

    Maybe

    Storage

    Not Needed

    Unclear

    Built-IN

    Essential

    Not Needed

    Unclear

    Not Needed

    Not Needed

    Pollution

    None Really

    Waste Heat

    None

    Visual

    None

    None

    Steam Plumes

    Particulates; CO

    Levelized Costs

    25 cents KWH

    16 cents KWH

    4 cents KWH

    4.5 cents KWH

    Unknown

    Unknown

    Low

    Unknown

    Environmental Impact

    Moderate

    Large

    Enormous

    Small

    Unknown

    Outrageous

    Small

    Moderate

    Large Scale

    Too Expensive

    Possible but Expensive

    Proven already

    Very Possible

    The Solution

    Discrete Locations

    Discrete Locations

    Net Energy Gain?

    Small Scale

    NO

    Difficult

    Low Head --> Legal

    Definitely

    NO

    NO

    NO

    Absolutely

    Unit Capacity

    1000 MW

    Depends on Acreage

    2000-6000 MW

    Highly Variable

    As large as you need

    250 MW

    1000 MW

    50-100 MW

    Employment Opportunties

    Few

    Few

    Few

    Few

    Lots to build it

    Some

    Few

    Many

    What about Energy Storage?

    Options:

    Bottom line(s):

    Wind energy coupled with advanced battery design has real promise and that promise is now being turned into real implementation. Wind power does exist.

    With the development of the Advanced Gas Turbine energy co-generation at biowaste facilities becomes possible. Moreover, the AGT provides a viable alternative to coal fire steam plants, using natural gas imported via pipeline from Canada.

    OTEC provides a truly large scale solution but may be too expensive to ever implement what does this tell us about our priorities?

    Solar PV does not look economically viable on the large scale. On the small scale, improvement in solar shingle technology is good for the consumer.

    As of 1999 there remains little incentive to not look for new oil reserves. Just look at the price of gas at the pump it remains low.

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