Alternative Energy Sources

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!

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Solar and Wind Energy Together Create Hybrid Energy

Hybrid energy is the combining of two or more renewable energy systems to provide the energy for one consuming source such as a home or small business. For purposes of illustration we will use a solar power system and a wind power system, as the energy sources generating the electricity.

For a clearer understanding all renewable sources generate voltages and the voltages will vary from source to source. Solar is usually 35 to 45 volts incoming while wind, because of the nature of wind, can be as high as 160 volts and lastly hydrogen fuel cells can reach up to 95 volts. As an example, let’s use a 5 KW (5000 watts) solar array that is affixed on a home roof. The other source is a 2.5 KW (2500watts) turbine-free wind system that also is affixed to the roof. The advantage of a hybrid system such as this is that the consumer is now producing energy 24/7.

If the sun is out but there is no wind, then electricity is being generated. If it is a windy but cloudy day, then electricity is being generated. If it is raining and no sun, electricity is being generated. At night when there is no sun but it is windy, electricity is being generated. A renewable hybrid system is truly a unique way to generate electricity that will move renewable energy to a higher presentation platform for the power demanding consumers.

The tricky part is handling the electricity after the two power sources have generated their respective voltage. The solar system requires an inverter to invert the lower voltage to higher voltage, but also to change the incoming DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) so that the electricity can be used in a home or small business application.

The wind system requires a converter which converts the higher voltage into lower voltage while also changing the incoming AC (incorrect form) into DC and then back to AC (correct form). In the illustration we have chosen, a 5 KW solar array and a 2.5 KW turbine-free wind system would normally require many pieces of electronic support equipment that would probably cover a 4X8 foot metal backdrop (required to be metal and not a sheet of plywood). The other drawback is the loss of total energy, called lossiness, as the electricity works its way through all these pieces of equipment and on to the grid-tie inverter, the storage batteries, etc. The energy efficiency of the system is reduced therefore the total outgoing energy is definitely lowered as opposed to the maximum amount of energy being generated and retained.

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