Fossil Fuels

Power and Entropy

An ideal pendulum, which is not subject to air friction e.g., pendulum in a vacuum , and which also possesses frictionless hinges perfect bearings , would oscillate in perpetuity, if allowed to do so, with perfect transference of energy between the potential and kinetic forms. The total energy the sum of the instantaneous potential and kinetic energies for the ideal isolated pendulum is, however, fixed. No matter how long it is in motion there is no change in the total energy for this closed...

Technofix Junkies

The obvious, but uninformed, response to the 'warming' dilemma, which is being strongly pushed by the financial community and by our political leaders, is a switch away from our reliance on fossil fuels through the agency of a market led expansion of power generation from so called renewables, such as wind power, wave power, tidal power, hydro-electric power, solar power and geo-thermal power. Nuclear power is usually included in the mix but it is not really renewable unless scientists can...

The Transport Crunch

As our freedom to burn fossil fuels becomes increasingly constrained by critical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, travel by road and air, in vehicles and aircraft that are wholly dependent on these fuels, represents an activity, which eventually and unavoidably, will be possible no longer, in its present form. It is taken for granted, in saying this, that with a global population in excess of 10 billion the use of land area for bio-fuels is unlikely to be tolerated by hard pressed humanity....

Power from the

The source of all renewable energy on planet Earth is predominantly the solar system. In pondering this bountiful energy provider, it is humbling to contemplate the elegance of the physical insights that have evolved by dint of human effort over the past 200 years, allowing us now, to fully comprehend it all. Quantum theory enables us to understand the nuclear processes in the sun electromagnetic theory tells us everything we need to know about radiation from the sun, while the general theory...

How the Power Is Extracted

Power can be extracted from the tide by two means 24, 25 . First, by building what civil engineers would term impoundment ponds, or basins, so that as the tide rises water is channelled into the artificial reservoir through a turbine and released as the tide falls through the same turbine or second, by inserting a water turbine into a tidal stream wherever such natural phenomena exist. Impoundment dams across an estuary or firth are expensive to construct, the natural water cycles are...

Towards a Wired World

There is probably a multitude of possible routes that governments could follow in attempting to hasten the transition to renewable energy. From a rational standpoint, if maintaining modern standards of living is the goal, it seems inescapable that their obligation is to do everything possible to achieve sustainability. In the event that politicians and governments are brave and wise enough to make the huge commitment that is called for, their deliberations about how they may intervene to...

Nuclear Backup

The expending of serious and meaningful research and development time and money is clearly needed to bring MES systems up to a level which matches the progress that has been made in establishing the technology for renewable power generation. From a strictly engineering standpoint, it is difficult not to accept that the lag between storage and generation can be ameliorated by employing nuclear power generated electricity, to furnish base load when MES systems are found wanting. However, as is...

Energy Storage

Products that use tiny amounts of electrical power, supplied from energy stored in batteries, such as radios, hand-held phones, laptop computers, watches, toys, etc., are commonplace, but as consumers and users will know well, this is a very expensive way to energise electrical gadgets. In fact cost effectively harnessing and storing electrical power remains a major challenge to science, particularly when very large quantities of electrical energy are involved 1 . Current generation and...

Technology Required

Natural gas, which is essentially methane (CH4), is easily the most abundant source of hydrogen 29 . A process called steam methane reforming is used to generate the hydrogen. It is a multi-step process in which the methane is made to react with water (H2O) at high pressure (15-25 times atmospheric pressure) and at high temperature (750-1000 C). This is done in high pressure tubes containing a catalyst (usually nickel), and the result is the formation of hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO) 31 ....

Hydrogen Storage Principle

A glance at the internet (try 'Googling' hydrogen) or a standard textbook of chemistry physics will provide you with copious data on hydrogen. Suffice to say that while it makes up 75 of the known matter in the universe, hydrogen is actually quite rare here on Earth. Estimates suggest that in the surface layers of the planet, including the seas and oceans, the average concentration of elemental hydrogen is 0.14 . This makes it the tenth most abundant element coming behind titanium and ahead of...

Eye of the Beholder

Scotland, a small ancient nation to the north of England, and a part of the United Kingdom, generates a relatively high proportion (13 ) of its electricity from renewable sources, predominantly taking the form of hydro-electric generation. However, most Scots, and many of the visitors to Scotland, and to the remote places where the hydro-schemes have been sited, would hardly complain that the scenery is tarnished by their presence. Some might think that a few of the Scottish dams actually add...

Chapter

1 Weinburg, S., Dreams of a Final Theory. Vintage, 1993. 2 For the mathematically inclined Intercept area A -4 nD 2 1.28 x1014 m2 Solar flux pA 1367 x1.28 x1014 170 x1015 W 3 Alfe, D., Gillan, M.J. and Price, G.D., Thermodynamics from first principles temperature and composition of the Earth's core. MineralogicalMagazine 67(1) 113-123, 2003. 4 Steinle-Neumann, G., Stixrude, L. and Cohen, R., New Understanding of Earth's Inner Core. Carnegie Institution of Washington, 2001. 5 World Energy...

Pump Storage Storage Principle

Pump storage is in essence a system for enhancing the operation of hydro-electric power plants, by assisting nature in refilling the reservoir. In particular, it is applicable to those schemes that operate with more than one reservoir. In these circumstances, it becomes possible, at periods when demand for power from the grid is low, to use excess generation capacity to move water from a lower reservoir to a higher one, for future use when demand is high. Water is then released back into the...

Potential for Providing Intermittency Correction

Like conventional hydro-electric schemes, pumped storage plants are characterised by long construction times and high capital expenditure. Nevertheless, pumped storage is the most widespread, large scale, energy storage system currently in use on power networks. Its main applications are for energy management, smoothing variable demand and provision of reserve. But in addition, these systems help to control electrical network frequency. Thermal and nuclear plants are poor at responding to...

The End of an Illusion

One does not have to delve too deeply into the seemingly vast output of the green-wash industry, to find overly optimistic statements, bordering on 'flights of fancy', about the potential of renewables to satisfy all of mankind's energy needs. On the basis of the claims of advertising copy alone, the switch from our fossil fuel past, to a renewable power future, could happen painlessly, and now, apparently In both its written and electronic form, and in the guise of consultancy reports,...

Unstoppable Growth

In addition to their ignorance of science, the imperviousness of most populations to the many global warming signals that have occurred recently is perhaps not surprising since, at this point in history, the political and business classes in Western society and increasingly in China and India, continue to be irrationally fixated on the 'market' and 'globalisation', although events in 2008 may be changing this. Our 'leaders' give no indication that they see global warming as a 'red light' to...

Dearth of Engineers

A paradigm shift in the energy supply infrastructure for the planet is being hesitantly postulated. It will entail, if implemented properly, the abandonment by mankind of fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources to generate electricity for all our energy needs. This is a potentially massive undertaking that cannot possibly be implemented without huge engineering effort. We are, in effect, going to have to create an industrial goliath, of similar proportions to the current automobile...

Potential as a Source of Green Energy

With a conversion rate for solar power to the consumer of 4.5 W m2, it is theoretically possible, using an area of 11.5 million square kilometres representing the area of identified suitable deserts, to extract from solar power 52 TW three times current global power consumption. Of course, it is pure fantasy to consider the deserts of the world being covered completely by solar farms. Even deserts support rich and diverse forms of life and have environmental and ecological importance 39, 40 ....

Electricity

The electrical systems (generators, transformers and power lines) which we will encounter in this book are constructed from two types of material, namely metals (conductors) and dielectrics (insulators). To understand what follows it is sufficient to know that in metals, the bound atoms (e.g., copper atoms which have a tiny but 'heavy' nucleus comprising 29 positively charged protons, embedded in a 'cloud' of 29 electrons I am ignoring neutrons, which seldom make themselves known to electrical...

The Ecogrid

This gentle trawl through the highways and byways of massive energy storage has, if nothing else, clearly underlined one stark fact. Namely this - because of the piecemeal approach to renewable energy, there has been a negligent lack of commitment to MES from governments around the world, and a serious absence of investment from business. Consequently, a significant range of technologically challenging solutions to the renewable energy storage dilemma still exists, despite the best efforts of...

The Unknowable

From the miniscule scale of nano-engineering, where molecules are massaged to form novel materials, to electrical engineering on the macroscopic scale where massive components are manipulated to build power stations and other large electrical systems, in general the technical problems that are encountered by scientists engineers, have known or knowable solutions. Because of this most technologists would probably aver that engineering in the physical world is largely 'child's play', by...

Diverging Supply and Demand

If one could imagine, and this is probably quite easy for many people, that 'business-as-usual' were possible to the end of the century, and that population numbers were to plateau at 10.5 billion, as is generally predicted, then consumption trends 1 suggest that we will require to find 25-30 TW of power in 2050 to feed the seemingly 'unquenchable thirst for energy' of industrialised, and modernising, societies. The trend is shown in Fig. 5.1, where the uppermost curve (solid line + diamond...

Where the Power Comes From

A modern wind generator converts air movement into electricity. It employs a turbine linked to a generator and is, in principle, not too dissimilar to the hydroelectric arrangement described in the previous section. The turbine usually takes the form of a three bladed propeller on large wind machines in which the turbine and generator are mounted on a common horizontal axis. Three blades provide optimum stability with the fewest number of elements. However, in small wind turbines, multi-element...

The Power Leakage Dilemma

Losses in the grid are estimated to be of the order of 7 in USA and Europe. Consequently, at the point where electricity is distributed to end users, only between 30 and 50 of the original power supplied to the system, in the form of heat from steam in a conventional generating station, is available. The two figures depend on whether an estimate of 36 or 60 is adopted for turbine efficiency. This implies that at best only half of the energy in the coal or oil burned in a modern fossil fuel...

Thermal Storage Storage Principles

Energy may be stored in one of six primary mechanisms namely potential energy (gravity, elastic), kinetic energy (dynamic), thermal energy, chemical energy (batteries), magnetic and electric fields. However, since in so much of our present day economy, energy is produced and transferred as heat, the potential for thermal energy storage (THES) merits serious examination as a facilitator for a future economy based on renewables. Thermal energy storage generally involves storing energy by heating,...