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December 02, 2006

Comments

ddashner

It is so easy to reduce consumption like the subject of this article did. If everyone would do it, the collective energy savings would be enormous.

Stewart Peterson

And why would we want to reduce the need for new plants? That would lock us into the status quo. If we want innovation, we should encourage turnover, not stasis.

Engineer-Poet

At the very least, we want to eliminate the construction of more old-tech coal-fired plants, such as TXU wants to do.  Bringing demand down would destroy TXU's rationale.

Clint LeRoy

There is something on the horizon to answer S. Peterson's comment that would allow decentralization of the local power generated. Instead of having one large power plant spotted across America, there is a new way to look at waste being recycled to energy in each community with a population of larger then 20,000. This equates to the potential of installing many small power plants instead and no new coal or nuclear plants would be necessary. All energy laden substrate would come from BioMass.

david foster

One thing missing from the article is air conditioning, which I believe is actually the driver of peak system load for electric utilities.

Johnny V.

More smaller plants makes alot of sense and will keep the owners honest. No question about the fact that new coal plants should not be considered, although, new technologies insofar as burning coal may change the way we think about coal. Most people think of the old steam locomotives belching out a thick, black steady stream of smoke and that really is not the way it is now. Gasified coal is one possibility as well as other ways that I/we may not be aware of at this moment. Developing a way to cleanly use that abundant resource that we have here in the US makes sense too so we shouldn't be so hard on coal plants. New technology stack scrubbers in the way of catalysts that chemically change or attach CO2 to some other element may be on the horizon.
Furthermore, we DO need more power plants, windmills, and solar arrays in order to support the new revolution of electric plug in cars that's coming in the not-to-distant future. The next 10-15 years should be very interesting as far as how we all use energy and I think it will be exciting to watch and be a part of the transformation away from oil.

Engineer-Poet

Air conditioning demand can be addressed in many ways, but one that I like a lot is solar-thermal.  There's a team at MIT led by a guy named Orosz which has developed a cheap solar power system based on common plumbing and automotive parts; IIRC, one of their dual-trough systems has an electrical output of 1 kW and a thermal output of 10 kW.  These are easy and cheap enough to make that they're building them in Lesotho.

A lot of folks in the US South cool and heat with electric heat pumps and have electric DHW.  10 kW of heat is a huge amount for a household (enough to take 58 gallons of water from 50°F to 120°F every hour); if the heat could run an absorption-cycle cooler (or maybe just a dessicant system for dehumidification) it could replace a lot of the electricity used for A/C too.

This doesn't deal with winter nights, but hot water tanks aren't all that difficult or expensive to make.  Reducing power needs to fans and pumps would cut consumption drastically.  And once demand and the prospect for demand growth collapsed, TXU's business case would vanish.

amazingdrx

No new coal plants are needed and this proves it. Conservation can more than free up enough capacity to power plugin cars.

Adsorption cooling works well in really hot climates with a lot of solar energy, but in most places only geothermal cooling using circulating pumps is needed. In cloudy hot humid climates where ground cooling or adsorption cooling won't do the job, heat pumps that dump heat to the ground are the best way to reduce cooling load.

That solar cogeneration of electricity and heat is the key. Add in solar collector algae biofuel and fuel cell/turbine replacement for coal and natural gas power plants and burning coal and gas as backup for wind and solar becomes unecessary.

Biogas from manure, farm, human, and landfill waste used to power fuel cell/turbines at 75%, that's the first step. That prevents the release of methane from manure and chemical fertilizer runnoff (organic fertilizer that builds the soil is a byproduct of biogas digestors), and methane is 20 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. That huge reduction of methane release from lake and river sediment and landfills makes up for 20 times greater cO2 releases.

That cO2 is then sent into algae solar collectors which produce biodiesl for vehicles and powdered dry algae to send through the fuel cell. The biodiesl CO2 release has already been offset many times over by cutting methane release.

And the biogas adds enough CO2 into the algae system to make up for cO2 lost from the cycle from the biodiesl used in cars.

Lastly the fuel cell/turbine runs on natural gas, coal, or algae filtered from fertilizer polluted lakes and rivers. Helping to clean the present fertilier runnoff out of the ecosystem.

That provides for a transition to all renewable energy as solar collector area and biogas digestor capacity is expanded. Until then cO2 from present coal and natural gas plants can be captured by solar collector algae biofuel cogeneration, that also produces electricity and heat.

The problem of fertlizer and manure runnoff into lakes and rivers is huge, largely unrecognized, but easily mitigated. I wonder if any estimates of the percentage of GHG production caused by this nitrogen pollution is available?

New parameters may be needed to estimate the effect of biogas digestion on climate change.

Nucbuddy

Why would it be important to slow down the need for new power plants?

Harvey D.

There are 1001 ways to reduce energy consumption, by up to 50% and even more.

Conservation programs generally cost a lot less than building more power plants.

Conservation programms reduce GHG and air pollution by reducing the number of coal-fired power plants required.

Too bad that energy conservation is un-American and un-Canadian.

The per capital oil consumption is:

26 barrel/year in USA and Canada
12 barrel/year in Europe
2 barrel/year in China
1 barrel/year in India

About the same relationship applies to electrical energy consumption.

Even after a 50% reduction, we would still be in first place.


Engineer-Poet

Nucbuddy:  If we finish anything in the next 10 years, it's not going to be a nuke.

chris g

"The EPA estimates that changing only 25 percent of your home's bulbs can cut a lighting bill in half. Incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of their energy as heat, and compact fluorescents, which can be up to five times more efficient, last years longer as well."

Can someone explain this logic? I can't get any sort of math to explain how even if you go so far as to Remove 25% of your homes bulbs you can halve the lighting bill. It seems that by removing (never mind swapping out for CFL) 25% will result in 25% less capital, replacements (new bulbs), and operating (electricity) costs.

Bill Hewitt

Regarding the bulbs - you identify which bulb are on for the most hours, and replace them first. So change the bulbs in your living room before those in the broom closet.

I think this is a great topic for the Engergy Blog. There is massive ammounts of 'Low Hanging Fruit'.

I've been able to trim about 40% off my electricity use by doing things like... Low energy bulbs. Remote contol for swithching off TV, Video, etc when not in use (eliminate standby power), intelligent socket which swichess off computer and periperals automatically when it detaects they have cgone into standby, cleaning out fridge radiators and fitting relective panel behind them....
When I lived in Texas I found it astonishing how mauch AC was used. Changing to CFLs and planting a few shrubs outside the windows wnet a long way there too - no lifstyle changes required.

And in terms of Spaceheating, I've been able to reduce natural gas consumption by 50% by stopping up airleaks, better insulating the attic, and turning the thermostat down to 68 degrees. Not hard at all.

Thomas Pedersen

Steward Peterson wrote: And why would we want to reduce the need for new plants? That would lock us into the status quo. If we want innovation, we should encourage turnover, not stasis.

Wrong. No matter how many innovative new powerplants are put online, the ones currently in service will keep running until the end of their service life. Unless additional requirements are imposed, of course.

Besides, the number of new, clean innovative concepts being planned for construction is dwarfed by number of pulverized coal plants without carbon capture in the pipeline.

Not that I don't get your point about stiffling innovation, but there must be a better solution than leaving all the lights on and running heater and AC at the same time ;-)

Charles S

I think it's easy to link higher demand to increase in funding for innovation, but as we see in the case of TXU, they are not interested in building new plants with better technology, but old designs for the lowest costs.

If the focus is only on new technologies that increase efficiency, then it's the higher cost of the raw material that probably would motivate the power companies to invest into higher efficiency. Of course, regulations can also force providers to do the same…

Chin Hsien

I support solar + biomass(including animal waste) to achieve carbon neutral energy system.
Energy saving from every individual is the important key to save the world. No matter how much new technology to generate green energy, there is always a limit.
Unluckily I feel that many ppl around are not aware about this.
Just now I attended a seminar about climate change and CO2 emmision. I just realized that the global temperature will keep on increasing even after the CO2(and other GHG) emmision rate reaches the peak and starts reducing. The global temperature will only start to reduce when there is a net "negative emmsion" of green house gas. That is, when CO2 consumption rate is faster than CO2 generation(or emmision) rate. In my opinion, the only way to achieve that is gradual moving back to agricultural society, which allows overall rate of photosynthesis to be higher than natural emmision of CO2.

amazingdrx

"the only way to achieve that is gradual moving back to agricultural society, which allows overall rate of photosynthesis to be higher than natural emmision of CO2."

There is another way.

How can the greenhouse effect be reversed back to pre-industrial levels?

Right now conservation reserve land in the US absorbs 1/3 of our CO2 emmisions. Expand that effect with new conservation land, like a Prairie National Park encompassing 1000s of square miles of northern prairie that doubles as a site for 1000s of very large scale 1000 foot wind generators.

That could absorb 2/3rds of present cO2 production. Then cut CO2 with plugin hybrids that use 1/10nth of the fuel we now use. Use distributewd renewable energy generation and storage to replace fossil and nuclear power plants.

Global climate disaster is reversible in a 20 year time span if thease steps are taken to actually reduce the amont of greenhouse gases.

Turning fertilizer and manure and other waste runnoff into biogas that is used in fuel cell/turbine power plants would eliminate a huge amount of methane, 20 times worse as a GHG, from the ecosystem. This extra nitrogen runnoff acting on lake and river sediment is releasing this methane now, with a huge greenhouse gas effect.

Then the cO2 from the fuel cell power plant is used to grow algae in solar collectors to produce biodiesel that runs in fuel cell backup generators in electric cars and powdered cellulose that runs in the fuel cell power plant.

And here's another huge effect that has so far gone unrecognized. Each vehicle containing a fuel cell/microturbine backup generator of around 20 kw can supply power for 30 homes when it is plugged into the grid and into a natural gas or biogas source.

100s of millions of these cars would solve the problem of storage AND backup generation for variable renewable energy sources like wind, wave, and solar power. A gas line could plug into your car at home or work, then another line could take the cO2 emmited back to a solasr collector algae system for sequestration.

100 million cars x 20 kw generating capacity per car= 2 million mw of generating capacity. Present generating capacity in the uS is around 600,000 mw. So even 100 million of these cars could generate over three times the present electric power we now use. At 3 to 5 time present efficiency levels.

At the same time this plan would eliminate over 80% of present cO2 emmisions plus a yet to be calculated huge amount of methane emmissuons due to nitrogen runnoff from waste.

This along with the increase in conservation land could reverse global climate disaster within 20 years. The other alternative, the status quo, will stop the Gulf Stream conveyor and plunge the uS and europe into an ice age. If WW3 over oil with terrorists using nuclear weapons doesn't get us first.

A distinct possibility given nuclear proliferation combined with petrodollars that support terrorism.

pbean

Steward Peterson wrote: "And why would we want to reduce the need for new plants? That would lock us into the status quo. If we want innovation, we should encourage turnover, not stasis."

T. Pedersen answered: "Wrong. No matter how many innovative new powerplants are put online, the ones currently in service will keep running until the end of their service life."

Actually, no. Power plants are dispatched in economic order, cheapest first. The inefficient old dogs only run on extreme peak days, if at all. Some are kept around for reliability (keeping the lights on on peak days.) If new efficient plants come online, it worsens the economics of the old dogs so they run less often, even it they're not retired. And it makes the mid-merit stuff (like older but still cheap coal plants) less economic, too. So bring on the shiny new plants; efficiency works on the supply side as well as on the demand side.

Chin Hsien

First of all, I am an Asian, not from US, Canada nor Europe. I am strongly disagree to this statement:

Steward Peterson wrote: "And why would we want to reduce the need for new plants? That would lock us into the status quo. If we want innovation, we should encourage turnover, not stasis."

In economics, yes, increase in turnover/demand will increase the innovation/supply. However, the situation now is much much over. There is already too much GHG for scientists/engineers to scratch their head. At the same time, the only possible way to prevent the global warming (someone called it global-heating) disaster requires all individuals to save energy.

To amazingdrx, I also cannot agree with some of your statements, and some statistics number you provided.

1. Right now conservation reserve land in the US absorbs 1/3 of our CO2 emmisions.

Is that true? Where is the source of information? If I am not mistaken, US is the country emit largest amount of CO2. Even if it is true, is there sufficient land for expanding the conservation land? How is the willingness from all US citizens?

2. Turning fertilizer and manure and other waste runnoff into biogas that is used in fuel cell/turbine power plants would eliminate a huge amount of methane, 20 times worse as a GHG, from the ecosystem.

I agree that methane is toxic to the environment. However, I am not so sure how much percentage of these biomass are converted into methane. I think most are still converted into CO2. Do you have the number of CH4 emmision? Anyway, I agree that through advanced waste treatment we can turn those waste into energy, but CO2 and even NO/NO2 will also be released since the reaction is oxidation of organic compound.

3. Each vehicle containing a fuel cell/microturbine backup generator of around 20 kw can supply power for 30 homes when it is plugged into the grid and into a natural gas or biogas source.

I don't really get your point. How can fuel generated from vehicles? What is the energy source? Keep in mind that the only green energy source to give sufficient power for long-term is the solar energy.

My overall view (as a chem. engineer) about the energy/environment problem:
If we think the world as a reactor, and we write the energy and mass balance for it. Obviously we are in a transient state, moving towards reactor runaway. We do not just need innovation to improve the technology, we also need energy conservation from all of us, in order to bring the world back to steady state. Otherwise, the consequence of reaction runaway is.... the end.

amazingdrx

It's an estimate Chin. I read it but have not verified that 1/3rd figure with another source.

On conservation land the cellulose from the plants goes into the soil, that stores cO2. The soil of the american great plains was 20 feet deep when settlers first arrived. Chemical farming has destroyed it, releasing that cO2 stored over centuries.

The biogas used in the fuel cell produces CO2 which is then fed into algae growing solar collectors. That stops the cO2 and NOx emissions.

By processing manure and other waste in biogas digestors and using it to power fuel cell grid backup generation, that extra nitrogen is prevented from entering wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

With the excess of cellulosic organic matter and lack of nitrogen in natural wetlands the carbon/nitrogen ratio is too high to support methane digestion. As the manure runnoff seeps into that submerged plant matter, the extra nitrogen facilitates the bacterial growth that releases the methane.

So a few decades of nitrogen pollution can release centuries of stored cellulose as methane, a 20 times worse GHG than cO2.

The vehicle fuel cell would operate on biogas (or natural gas)when it is parked and plugged into the grid. The emissions would be piped back into algae solar collector systems.

The total generating capacity of a nation could be supplied with 100s of millions of these electric plugin fuel cell cars. Backup power for times with low wind, solar, or water generation capacity.

madisonREfan

Location: Madison Wisconsin US

Average Wisconsin single family home electricity usage: 10,000 kWh/year

My single family home usage: under 2000 kWh/year

All power needs met by: 1.25 kW dual axis tracking PV system.

PV Systems cost after incentives: $7,000

Life of PV system: 40 to 50 years

House includes: two people, almost all CFLs, fans instead of central air, laptop computer, energy star appliances, no electric heating (other than toaster), careful energy users, no plasma TV.

Future: hope to switch to a low temperature air sourced heat pump (google Hallowell International) and add more PV panels to have PV powered heating and cool

Home includes: solar water and space heating system

amazingdrx

You could get heat and electricity from your solar system with solar cogeneration.

A geothermal sourced heat pump will be much more efficient (although city lots might not have enough area to install collection pipes, an inexpensive driven well might work if groundwater is close to the surface in your area), but unecessary if you can collect the heat from your concentrating solar system. Oil is a good medium to collect the high temperature heat.

Have you considered a website to feature your project? Every bit of publicity from real homeowners who install these systems helps the cause of saving our one and only spaceship earth.

Check out this NJ homeowner's site.

http://msmith.typepad.com/smithelectricco/

Wisconsin utilities are desperate for renewable generating capacity and they get the clean energy credits to sell here, unlike NJ. the Smith Electric company got 1200 bucks for theirs.

Maybe they will make a deal to share some of that with you? Maybe by paying you more for your kwh than the retail rate they charge. A recent negotiation of this type, that I heard about, went up to 16 cents per kwh.

Chin Hsien

Thanks amazingdrx for your explanation.

The vehicle fuel cell would operate on biogas (or natural gas)when it is parked and plugged into the grid. The emissions would be piped back into algae solar collector systems.

If the vehicles are operate on fuel (biofuel or fossil fuel), the emission is distributed everywhere and are not able to be collected nor piped back. The emission can only be piped back if the fuel is used (burnt or used for electricity generation in fuel cell) in a fixed location. Plug-in cars are have advantages on fuel cell cars at this point, unless the fuel itself is carbon neutral, e.g. H2.

amazingdrx

Yes Chin plugin power in vehicles is cleaner, but since most trips are under the plugin only range, the fuel cell backup running on liquid fuel will only be used for very few total miles on the average.

That reduces fuel use and cO2 emissions to 10% on average of what it is in a regular internal combustion vehicle. An ICE is 14% efficient, the fuel cell/microturbine is 75% efficient.

The really great feature of fuel cell vehicles of this type is the capacity to replace fossil and nuclear power as the baseload grid power source, along with the obvious savings of liquid fuel and gHG emissions for transportation.

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Energy conservation is the practice of decreasing the quantity of energy used. It may be achieved through efficient energy use, in which case energy use is decreased while achieving a similar outcome, or by reduced consumption of energy services. Energy conservation may result in increase of financial capital, environmental value, national security, personal security, and human comfort. Individuals and organizations that are direct consumers of energy may want to conserve energy in order to reduce energy costs and promote economic security. Industrial and commercial users may want to increase efficiency and thus maximize profit.

0px|High energy advertising in Shinjuku, Japan.]] Electrical energy conservation is an important element of energy policy. Energy conservation reduces the energy consumption and energy demand per capita and thus offsets some of the growth in energy supply needed to keep up with population growth. This reduces the rise in energy costs, and can reduce the need for new power plants, and energy imports. The reduced energy demand can provide more flexibility in choosing the most preferred methods of energy production.

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The EPA estimates that changing only 25 percent of your home's bulbs can cut a lighting bill in half.

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In our own little ways, we can cut back from our monthly household expenses - it just takes practicality and resourcefulness to help us learn more about saving money and still continue to use gas and electricity responsibly. Sometimes, we just have to be responsible and ask help from the professionals when needed before problems get worse.

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we thought that maybe we should start looking for ways on how to save energy 'cause it's really taking a lot out of the profit. That accounting tool we're using, Peachtree Quantum 2011, is pretty useful. Anyway, thanks for sharing this, Energy Blog!

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One thing missing from the article is air conditioning, which I believe is actually the driver of peak system load for electric utilities.

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This equates to the potential of installing many small power plants instead and no new coal or nuclear plants would be necessary. All energy laden substrate would come from BioMass.

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