Most of us have seen first hand the effects of burning coal, but when it comes to natural gas what you can’t see is what will kill you. Carbon Monoxide is the bi-product of natural gas, coal and wood. It is colorless, ordorless and very deadly. Nuclear Power has a bad reputation for a few reasons. Accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island gave us an idea of just how bad it could be. Or did they? Although it is one of the more efficient ways to generate electricity it is also dangerous. It has a radioactive bi-product that can stay in the ground (if buried) for over a thousand years.
So what are some of the alternatives? Solar, Wind, and Hydropower. Hybrid Energy using combinations is also a possibility. Areas where there is plenty of sun with available wind. When the sun shines the solar works and when it does not it is usually windy. It is the best of both worlds. Concentrating Solar power plants use mirrors or parabolic lenses to focus sunlight. This can be focused on a storage tank containing fluid that is heated into steam to run a generator. Research is on going and moving forward.
We have been using Hydropower for quite some time. Hoover Dam was built in 1936 and at the time was the biggest in the US. Nine years later came the Grand Coulee Dam. The largest in the world currently is The Three Gorges Dam in China on the Yangtze River. It puts out 22,500 mega-watts. America has about 2,000 operating hydropower plants.Worldwide hydro-electric produces 675,000 MW of power. That is equal to 3.6 billion barrels of oil.
The next frontier is Water Turbines.These are similar to wind turbines and are placed in the water currents. The current spins the turbine to produce electricity. This technology dates back to the Romans. Nova Scotia has a turbine producing 20 MW since 1984. La Rance barrage in Normandy puts out 240 MW and was installed in 1966. In 2007 New York City tried installing turbines in the Hudson river. The current was so strong it was snapping the 20 foot blades. In 2010 using what they have learned a new project is under way to install 30 underwater turbines in the East river between Queens and Roosevelt Island. The completion will be sometime in 2011 if all goes according to schedule.
Last on our list and probably the least talked about is Magnetic Energy. This is also credited to Michael Faraday. A quick question. Have you seen the flashlights that you shake to get them to light? If not I urge you to get one and take a close look at how they work. Most of them are clear plastic so you can see the working parts. Inside is a small wire coil, a magnet on a slide and a battery. When you shake it the magnet moves up and down across the wire coil producing DC electricity that in turn charges the battery. This is a very simple way to produce electro-magnetic energy. There are larger scale machines that are producing 10 KW by setting the magnets in perpetual motion. By doing this the power continues until it is stopped. Next question. Is it possible that the power companies know about this and are already using it? This would be free energy that they sell to us.
I hope that this article started you thinking about the possibilities when it comes to alternative energy. If you read my other articles you will see that I am pro Renewable Energy. I just think the window is closing if we plan to make a difference. We have had these technologies at our fingertips for years and what have we done with them? Not enough in my humble opinion!