Acid rain

Rainwater is critical to the earth's ecosystem. All living creatures rely on a consistent, clean supply of water. In the process of combusting fossil fuels, toxins are released into the atmosphere which react with water molecules to form acidic compounds. When these compounds come down in the form of rain, environmental havoc ensues. It's called acid rain. In the natural state, rainwater reacts with carbon dioxide, but when human released levels of carbon dioxide increase, the process is...

Coming Full Circle and Back to Electric

Over the last century, internal-combustion engines are supported by a massive infrastructure and intellectual property in the technologies. Companies have spent untold millions developing new ideas and machines, and when an industry changes, all those investment dollars are wasted and new investment dollars need to be spent on the new technologies. Companies don't like to waste their money, so they tend to resist new technologies, not because they're inferior but because it's uneconomical. In...

Understanding light

Light is all around us most of us it we can't even see. Light is composed of individual photons, each with a wavelength and an energy, and all travelling at the same velocity. The photon's wavelength determines the color, in the portion of the spectrum that we can actually see (much of the light spectrum is invisible to the human eye). The photon's frequency determines the energy of a photon. The higher the frequency, the higher the energy. You can visualize this by picturing two snakes, one...

Incentives for smallscale wind power systems

Small-scale wind power has proliferated due to net metering laws, as well as tax rebates and credits. Without net metering, also called intertie, wind power economics would be hopeless under most circumstances. Net metering, selling excess energy back to the utility, is great for wind power economics because every wind system has a certain maximum capacity determined by the total amount of wind that blows past a turbine in a given day. While maximum capacity depends on a number of things on a...

Growing Markets for Wind Energy

Historically, wind power has only been able to fill very small market niches. The windmills that pumped water on western ranches fulfilled a vital function, one that could not be filled any other way, but there has never been large-scale water pumping using wind energy. And windmills are very localized in that the power they produce is generally available only at the powered shaft. Windmills used for grinding grain only worked on site. There was no way to store the energy, and there was no way...

Global energy consumption and use

In 2002, the world used 409 Quads of energy. Where did all that energy come from Table 4-1 lists the power sources and percentage of the total usage each represents, both globally and in the United States. Power Sources, in Percentages, in 2002 As Table 4-1 shows, the combustion of hydrocarbons (fossil fuels, like petroleum, natural gas, and coal) comprised 86 percent of the world's energy consumption a number that has grown in the last decades as China and India come on line, it will continue...

Nuclear power The early years

During World War II, the United States launched the Manhattan project, which produced the first atomic bombs. With technological advancements based on this fundamental research, in December 1942 the first nuclear reactor was tested in an abandoned handball court at the University of Chicago. This test proved the viability of large scale nuclear power reactors for utility scale use, and the race was on. In 1946, Congress created the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and chartered it to regulate the...

The rise of the gasolinepowered cars

Despite the problems associated with batteries, early drivers preferred the electric cars because ICE-powered cars had an even bigger problem Getting started. Starting these early gasoline-powered cars required cranking a handle in the front of the car in order to start it. This was a fussy, often dangerous task because the engine could kick the crank handle backwards and break an arm. (This is similar to the motorcycles that require the driver to jump down on a starter lever in order to get...

Efficiency Consumption and the Energy Market

Efficiency is not the main factor in reducing energy consumption. While it seems only logical that rising efficiencies will result in reduction in demand, the truth seems to be that increasing efficiency actually increases demand. So if efficiency isn't the main factor, what is Price. The only way that consumption will ever be reduced is by raising the price of energy. Because efficiency gains result in increased energy consumption, it's up to the government to tax consumption to the point...

Energy consumption in the US

The United States is the world's largest consumer of energy, and the disparity in energy use per capita is growing. In 1950 the U.S. was energy independent, consuming only 35 Quads of energy. Fifty years later, the U.S. population had increased 189 percent while energy consumption grew 280 percent. While U.S. energy consumption overall has grown, the energy sources the U.S. relies on have changed, as Table 4-3 shows. As Table 4-3 shows, electrical production, regardless of the fuel type,...

Early electric cars circa

Thomas Edison built an electric car in 1889. His car used nickel-alkaline batteries. Other manufacturers of the time used lead-acid batteries (the type under the hoods of modern cars). Both types of batteries simply fed the battery's electricity directly to an electric motor which powered one or more of the wheels of the car. The next sections discuss the design and disadvantages of the early electric cars as well as the breakthrough in gasoline-powered cars that dealt such a blow to the sales...

From simple to complex The evolution of energy

Energy may be categorized as simple or complex, low-grade and high-grade. The simplest energy process that humans exploit are wood fires. Stack some dry logs, light them on fire, sit back and enjoy the heat. Wood burning fires are an example of low-grade energy, because the benefits are very coarse, and the amount of useable work performed is limited to very unfocussed heating. Most of the heat generated in a wood fire is lost to the environment, as opposed to directed onto a human's skin. Back...

Leadacid cell battery

The most common type of battery in use today is the lead-acid cell. Lead-acid batteries are used in almost every conventional vehicle to start the internal-combustion engine. Once the engine is started, the battery is recharged. These same types of batteries are suitable for driving an electric car, and until much better technologies became available (see the next section on nickel-based batteries), were commonly used. A plate of lead constitutes the negative electrode and a plate of...

Alternatives Transportation

The majority of fossil fuel consumption occurs in the transport sector. Cars and trucks spew billions of pounds of emissions into the atmosphere every year. I describe some alternative fuels that are increasingly being used, such as corn ethanol and biodiesel. I describe how these fuels are best used, and when and where. I describe how hybrid autos work, and how all-electric vehicles and fuel cell-powered vehicles work. I give you some guidelines to use if you're interested in investing in...

Other things to know about wind farms

Wind energy has a lot to recommend it It's renewable, and the supply is virtually infinite. And wind farms offer several advantages as well Turbines are maintenance free for long lifetimes. Very little labor is required to maintain a large-scale wind farm. Wind energy is distributed, in that it can be created all over instead of in a centralized location. The economics don't suffer when turbines are built far apart (aside from the wiring runs). It also increases the diversity of a nation's...

Issues Impacting the Move toward Nuclear Energy

With safety concerns front and center, the true question as to whether nuclear power should be pursued is one of economics and politics. Nuclear power technology has been well proven over the last 40 years, and there have been only two major nuclear power reactor problems (Three Mile Island and Chernobyl). The overwhelming vast majority of nuclear power reactors operating in the world have been extremely reliable and safe. The nuclear record is, in fact, much better than the fossil fuel record....

Two Key Hybrid Features

Two features mark all hybrids regenerative braking and the use of more than one power source, the most common being a combination of a battery and internal-combustion engine (ICE). The next sections explore the facts surrounding these two key features of all hybrids. Any vehicle that uses more than one power source is classified as a hybrid, but the most common version of the technology is for a vehicle that combines electrical drive with a heat engine (ICE, or fossil fuel combustion engine,...

Energy consumption in growing economies

There is direct correlation between the per capita usage of energy in a nation and its corresponding GNP (Gross National Product). As less developed countries, interested in catching up economically with the world leaders, industrialize, their energy consumption increases. As the Chinese and Indian economies, for example, require more energy to power their development, global energy usage will increase. Today this growing demand is being met primarily through fossil fuels. Efficiency may alter...

Basic Operation of an Electric Vehicle

The basic operation of an electric car is very simple. An electrical motor is powered by a battery, or bank of batteries. The batteries are generally rechargeable and are very heavy (weight-wise) in comparison to the amount of energy that can be contained within a standard gas tank. The electric motor can be connected directly to the wheels of an electric car. There is no need for a transmission. In fact, a separate electric motor can be connected to each of the four wheels, and this allows for...

Performance limitations

Now the not-so-good news Natural gas-powered vehicles, while more efficient than conventional fossil fuel vehicles, are limited in terms of the power they can produce. Natural gas-powered cars are slow off the mark, and can have problems accelerating up hills. Natural gas is also more difficult to deal with than liquids It must be compressed to a pressure of around 3,000 pounds per square inch, so tanks and containers must have a lot of integrity and meet special safety requirements and undergo...

Turning the Pages of Alternative Vehicle History

At the turn of the last century, steam power, fueled by coal or wood, was all the rage. It powered factories and locomotives, all the while belching thick, black smoke clouds (borne of a basically inefficient technology). Because steam engines were a mature technology at the time, it only made sense that they be used for cars. Internal-combustion engines, still in their infancy, required a lot more complexity and support equipment than a simple steam engine. But steam had its own disadvantages,...

Carnots law

At the turn of the century, steam engines were the predominant form of energy generation in our economy. The fact that steam engines required a lot of wood and water necessitated an efficiency analysis to find ways to lower costs while producing the same power levels. As a consequence, a French engineer named Henri Carnot came up with a very important law which governs all combustion machines. In a nutshell, Carnot's law states that the maximum efficiency of any thermal energy process is...

Nickelbased batteries

Nickel-based battery cells include the nickel-cadmium (NICAD, or NiCd) and the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) versions. Nickel-based batteries hold much more charge per unit volume of weight than lead-acid batteries, plus they are capable of more recharging cycles over the course of a lifetime (they're good for literally hundreds of charge recharge cycles). In some of the newer embodiments, the charge time is decreased, and all of these factors make the nickel-based batteries superior, performance...

Modern electric vehicles s to today

In the 1960s electric cars saw renewed investment interest due to the heavy amounts of smog and pollutants that were visible in the skies over cities. Global warming wasn't an issue then, but it was clearly obvious what gasoline engines were doing to air quality. People could see smog, they knew they were breathing it, and they weren't happy about it. They came to the conclusion that there has to be a better way, and electric cars were the obvious option. But range was still a problem, even...

Hybrids enter the scene

In an attempt to solve the battery problems associated with all-electric cars, hybrid vehicles were developed. The first hybrids used gasoline engines only to generate electricity, which was then fed into an electrical motor which directly powered the wheels. A number of versions of this basic design were developed, none of them gaining widespread acceptance. But with advancements in battery technologies, and with increased concern about environmental harm from fossil fuel combustion, hybrids...

Driving and Owning a Hybrid

People like their cars, and they like the way they drive and handle. A big question is how the performance of an HEV measures up to conventional autos. In this section I describe the important aspects of HEV day to day operating characteristics. In some respects HEVs are actually better and more fun to drive. There are, however, some drawbacks worth noting. People expect that hybrids will perform much differently than conventional autos, but this is not the case. In fact, under most driving...

Declining costs of largescale wind power production

The economics of large-scale wind power production are competitive with fossil fuel energy production, with costs per kWh as low as 4 or 5 cents. As technologies mature, the price of large-scale wind power has declined and wind now competes, without subsidies, with fossil fuel power production. In the last two decades alone, the cost of wind power has dropped around 90 percent. The average cost of utility wind power capital expenditures in 2000 was 790 per kilowatt (compare this to over 10,000...

Faet cettpoWered Vehicles

A fuel cell-powered vehicle (FCV) is basically an electric car that uses fuel cells as the primary power source. In such a car, hydrogen and oxygen are fed into the fuel cell, which produces electricity which is directed into the battery bank (conventional batteries are used) and the power controller. The battery bank is used to allow for varying amounts of power to be directed to the electric motor (fuel cells are poor at decreasing and increasing their power outputs at a fast enough rate to...

Decreasing demand for mechanical controls

Internal-combustion logic is still the same as it was back in the days of the steam engine Valves click and snap against each other. Friction consumes a large portion of an engine's overhead (that is, it takes a lot of power simply to run an engine, which is inefficient), and the peripheral control mechanisms surrounding an engine consume around the same weight as the engine itself. Radiators full of coolant, for example, are required to maintain an engine at very specific operating...

Political posturing over energy policy

There is considerable political interest in energy these days, and rightly so. Here's how the sides break down On one side are those who oppose a lot of new energy plants and dictate which type of plants can be built and where. Their concern is primarily with the effects that energy consumption imposes on the environment, not the least of which is global warming. And the existence of global warming is a political question. On the other side are those who believe that Mother Nature can absorb...

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Checking out hybrid history Finding out more about hybrid features Taking a look at parallel and series hybrid technologies Driving a hybrid ll-electric vehicles are severely limited by the fact that batteries can only contain a certain amount of energy, and when that is used up the batteries need to be recharged, which takes time (hours) and special facilities (you need to either plug them in, or change batteries). Internal-combustion vehicles are limited in that the efficiencies of...

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Vehicles

Exploring the promise and challenges of hydrogen as a fuel source Checking out vehicles that use pure hydrogen and those that use fuel cells hen a majority of experts look into the crystal balls, they see two WW viable options for solving the world's fossil fuel problems Use the same fuels that are used now gasoline and diesel from petroleum products but supplanted by ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable energy sources, particularly those derived from biomass. Hybrids of all stripes fit...

Ten or So Myths about Energy

Looking at energy in a new way Reviewing conspiracies Peeking into the future lot of stubborn myths abound when it comes to energy. By reading this book, you can gain an appreciation for the subtleties inherent to the subject of energy and the knowledge to separate the wheat from the chaff. The fact is, while energy itself is an easy concept to understand (it's simply useable power), how energy works the physics of it can be pretty slippery. Here's an example of how the principles governing...

Practical Concerns of Electric Cars

What most people really want to know is how electric cars perform in comparison to conventional cars. Most people don't really care what's under the hood they simply want to know what happens when you press the accelerator pedal. One of the biggest changes you'll notice as a driver of an electric car is that you can't just say to yourself, I'll charge in the morning. You need to plan ahead because, unlike internal-combustion vehicles, electric cars cannot simply be filled up at the corner gas...

Wind Farms Utility Scale Electrical Production

The potential for wind power has grown considerably in the last few decades due to advances in technology. Utilities are now building large-scale wind farms that produce hundreds of megawatts of power. In 2005, the worldwide wind industry output roughly 17 billion kilowatt hours of electrical energy. This displaced around 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 58,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. To put wind potential into perspective, if the U.S. were to exploit only...

Rising to the Challenge Balancing Fossil Fuel Use with Appropriate Alternatives

You solve energy problems by expending even more energy, not less. You need to devise alternatives that offset fossil fuel addictions, and invention and development take a lot of energy. Infrastructure takes energy. All human advancement requires energy in increasing amounts. Because the only consensus seems to be that fossil fuels are not the answer, you have to wonder what form this energy will take in the future. The following sections provide an overview of the alternatives as well as...

Quick Look at Fuels from the Fossil Fuel Era and Beyond

Under huge pressures and amidst the Earth's core heat, decayed and decaying organic materials formed complex compounds primarily composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. These complex, carbon-based compounds are more commonly referred to as fossil fuels. The three most commonly available fossil fuels are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The following sections outline basic information about each type of energy both fossil and nonfossil fuels as well as an overview of the world's use of these...

The US and fossil fuels

In the United States, domestic supplies of fossil fuels are dwindling and demand cannot be met at the rate of consumption growth that it's experiencing. Even if new reserves exceed expectations and next-generation oil and gas recovery technologies significantly improve, supply and demand are going to be imbalanced. Coal is the only energy source that the U.S. doesn't import. In terms of dollars, energy imports accounted for around 24 percent of the U.S.'s 483 billion trade deficit in 2002, and...

Comparing cost Solar Versus fossil fuels

As with any alternative energy source, the question is how does the cost of solar power compare to conventional fossil fuels Current electrical rates around North America range from a low of around six cents per kWh to over 50 cents, particularly in tiered rate structures where a progressive price is applied to the quantity of energy consumption used in a building. The more consumption, the higher the kWh price goes. A rule of thumb in the industry is that solar PV costs around 15 cents per...

Energy and Volume density measurements

The amount of energy that is contained in a unit of fuel (either weight or volume) is called the energy density. This is the amount of potential energy available in a given weight or volume of that fuel. Energy density determines how large a storage device is needed or how heavy a fuel will be in that storage device. Table 3-1 lists the energy densities for common raw fuels. Just how much energy does that take Here's a list that gives an idea of the relative amounts of energy that are involved...

Advantages of impoundment systems

The attractiveness of impoundment systems is understandable Water is a renewable source of energy, and the natural rain cycle constantly replenishes the water supply, at zero cost. No fossil fuels are needed, and the supply of raw fuel is virtually automatic. Hydropower dams also reduce a nation's reliance on foreign energy sources. Following are some other key benefits Hydropower is cost competitive with all other energy sources, and in many cases it provides the cheapest energy obtainable. As...

Early electric car design versus the ICE design

The early electric car designs were simple and very reliable, much more reliable than the ICE-powered cars of the time Electric cars They don't require starting an engine. As soon as electricity is applied to the electric motor, the car goes hopefully . When more electricity is applied, the car goes faster. You don't need a transmission because electric motors can operate over a wide range of speeds with equal effectiveness. Brakes and steering are the same for electrics and conventional, and...

Efficiency increases demand

After the Arab oil embargo of the '70s, the governments of the world acknowledged a need to consume less energy, and a number of policies were instituted to effect fundamental changes. But America's total energy consumption has risen by over 30 percent since the oil embargo of the 1970s and electrical consumption has risen by 50 percent. Per unit of energy, the U.S. produces twice as much economic output as it did in 1950. This is an amazing increase in efficiency, but during the same time...

Hydrogen and carbon content in fossil fuels

All fossil fuels are composed of hydrogen and carbon among other things that don't factor into the combustion energy production phase , hence the term hydrocarbons to refer to these energy sources. The vast proportion of the useable energy comes from hydrogen, whereas the carbon generates the vast majority of the waste. When carbon burns completely in an oxygen atmosphere such as the earth's , the product is a lot of carbon dioxide CO2 , the gas blamed for global warming. Other byproducts of...

First law of thermodynamics

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as using energy. All energy consuming processes follow the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms. We consume energy, but what we're really doing is using energy in one form gasoline, for instance and converting that into other forms. What we seek when we consume energy is to change the form of the energy into useable work. As that work progresses, the energy changes form once...

Largescale solar condenser power generators

Large-scale concentrated solar systems use arrays of individually focusing mirrors, aimed at either a single point or a line. The concentrated heat can be quite intense, depending on the surface area of the mirrors, and the quality of the focus. The high heat is used to vaporize some form of liquid, and the pressure is used to drive a turbine, which in turn creates electricity. Mechanical trackers continuously focus the sunlight onto the solar collector or collectors. Southern California Edison...

Advantages and disadvantages of smallscale wind power

Like any wind power system, power can be generated anytime, day or night as long as the wind is blowing. In some locations, wind is virtually a constant magnitudes may vary, but output power is always available . Wind speeds vary over terrain, so you can find locations on your property that provide maximum potential. Ridge lines, coastlines, and the tops of barren hills are the best candidates. cjABEft Obstructions such as trees, houses, barns, and the like all affect wind speed. And because...

Intertie systems

In intertie systems, there's no need for battery backup. All of the system's potential is being used, because when the system is outputting more power than the household is using, that extra energy goes back into the grid the meter spins backwards and the owner is getting credited by the utility company . And if the wind turbine goes down or breaks, or there is no wind, utility grid power is still available to the household. The economics of grid intertie are much better than for stand alone.

Perla Degunther

Rik DeGunther attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate and Stanford University as a graduate student, studying both applied physics and engineering economics some of this education actually stuck . He holds several United States patents and has designed a wide range of technical equipment including solar energy platforms, military-grade radar jammers, weather-measurement equipment, high-powered radar vacuum tubes, computerized production hardware, golf practice devices, digital...

The Part of Tens

We're hoping to generate enough povrer to run our tanning beds.1' This would not be a For Dummies book without these handy chapters of ten. Because alternative energy is widely misunderstood, I dispel the most common myths and provide a list of the best ways to invest in alternative energy so that you can begin to make a difference, right now, today.

Small Scale Wind Power

Small-scale wind power turbines generate up to 20 kilowatts, under ideal conditions. This is enough to power most households in the U.S. Like their big brothers on the wind farms, they only generate power when the wind is blowing. A small-scale wind turbine looks like an airplane with a huge propeller and that s because that s what it basically is. Wind pushes the vane the opposite of what happens with an airplane propeller , which turns the propeller and forces the alternator generator to...