Posts Tagged renewable energy

Flying Wind Turbines

Posted by on Friday, 3 December, 2010

Wind farms already provide power in many locations across the United States, but most of these turbines are attached to ground based structures. Stronger winds high above the earth have the potential to provide much more energy for a wind turbine to capture. The main problem is getting a wind turbine off the ground and keeping it in the air without using too much additional power.

Kites are one way to get the wind turbines up in the air. The wind turbines are only useful when the wind is blowing strongly, which means that there will also be enough wind to keep a kite aloft. According to Unity College, a wind turbine attached to a kite can operate at five times the maximum altitude of a ground based turbine, which provides twice as much power to the power plant on the ground.

Another method of getting the wind turbine in the air without using up additional power is attaching it to a blimp. The blimp is filled with helium, so it is lighter than air and does not need to have the wind blowing to stay up in the sky. Another advantage of a blimp is that it can hold a heavier turbine than a kite can.

There are several reasons why an airborne wind turbine is more effective than a ground based turbine. The wind flow on the ground is not consistent, and wind often comes in from a direction that does not allow a fixed turbine to easily capture it. According to Worchester Polytechnic Institute, at higher altitudes, the wind blows in the same direction for long periods of time, and it keeps blowing at a high speed. A mobile platform, such as a kite or a blimp, can also change its orientation in the air so that it can collect the maximum amount of wind energy. It is possible to use computer software to automatically launch or control the kite or blimp as well.

Another major advantage of an airborne turbine is its reduced cost. A ground based turbine may be several hundred feet tall. This means that the wind farm owner must build a support structure out of metal to prop up each turbine. The support structure does not produce any energy itself, but it does require a lot of energy to mine the metal and build the structure. A blimp or a kite is made out of thin cloth, so the main cost of the project is the turbine itself. Airborne turbines can produce much more power than ground based turbines with the same amount of cash investment.

Renewable Energy in New Jersey

Posted by on Thursday, 24 June, 2010

New Jersey’s electricity provider, PSE&G, is involved in many renewable energy projects. This large utility formed as a merger of many smaller utilities and provides a large portion of the power supply of New Jersey. Installing solar panels on electrical poles is only one initiative, this company has a lot of solar and wind projects under construction, and is repairing the damage caused by power generation from nonrenewable fuels.

Street lights are receiving some major upgrades. The older street lights use a mercury vapor process to produce light, and the newer systems will replace these lights with fluorescent installations. According to PSE&G it is the first utility in the entire United States to install these new fluorescent inductment lights.

PSE&G is the recipient of a 2005 Smart Growth Award. PSE&G is cleaning up the pollution caused by oil and gas power generation, including groundwater and soil remediation, according to New Jersey Future. There are a lot of sites in New Jersey where petroleum based power generation has caused lots of damage. This utility plans to clean up 38 manufactured gas plant locations, in partnership with the New Jersey government.

PSE&G is in partnership with other companies to set up renewable energy projects. The utility is working with Deepwater Wind to set up offshore wind turbines. Deepwater Wind specializes in wind farms and is working on other East Coast projects that include the Block Island Wind Farm and the Rhode Island Sound Wind Farm. The Rhode Island wind farm is slightly larger than the Garden State Offshore Energy wind farm, with a maximum capacity of 385 MW compared to the 350 MW size of the New Jersey project. The Block Island wind farm is much smaller at 28.8 MW, according to Deepwater Wind.

California Proposition 16 and Alternative Energy

Posted by on Sunday, 6 June, 2010

California has several propositions on the ballot. One of these propositions, Proposition 16, requires a two thirds vote before establishing a community power generation project. The proposition is backed by Pacific Gas and Electric, the large utility, since it would prevent cities and counties from setting up competing power generation systems.

This proposition would have a significant detrimental effect on renewable energy generation. Wind turbines, solar panels, and other clean energy generating systems require an investment to install, and many individuals cannot afford to purchase them. This is why the federal government is distributing money for the state rebate programs. Since communities have more resources than an individual, they can afford the upfront costs to set up a renewable source of energy. Proposition 16 requires a supermajority which means that a third of the people in an area could block the wind or solar plant.

Alternative energy systems are already operating throughout the state. Santa Clara Green Power provides renewable energy to its customers with a surcharge of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Customers who sign up for this program are also supporting wind and solar generation systems nearby. One of these wind turbine installations is the High Winds wind farm in Solano County. Santa Clara Green Power mentions that this does not include the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, which are an older design that produces hazards to birds. New turbine designs such as the two blade turbines that Nordic Wind Power receives federal loan guarantees to produce are less hazardous to birds.

The proponents of Proposition 16 will argue that their ballot proposition saves residents money. According to Marin Clean Energy, the county offers residents the opportunity to buy renewable energy at the same rate their current power suppliers charge. The Marin County Energy Authority administers this program and provides energy to Marin County residents, including residents of cities such as Belvedere, Mill Valley, San Rafael, and Sausalito.

Clean energy generation is not limited to cities in Northern California. One of the famous community power projects operates in Anaheim. Anaheim provides water and power as a local service. According to the City of Anaheim, power rates are as much as forty percent lower than rates in neighboring cities, and this is in Orange County where the cost of living is very high. The City of Anaheim is also offering double rebates to residents who purchase Energy Star appliances. Note that Pacific Gas and Electric, the major utility supporting Proposition 16, doesn’t operate this far south, Southern California Edison is the main regional utility, and according to Black Voice News, it hasn’t taken a position on Proposition 16.

According to the Topanga Messenger, the community power generation projects were established after the Community Choice Aggregation Bill of 2002. This bill was a response to the electricity crisis that occurred a year or so earlier, which involved Enron, blackouts, and significant price gouging. Communities decided they didn’t want to be forced to buy electricity on an easily manipulated market, and set up their own power generation systems.

The Nordic Wind Power Company

Posted by on Sunday, 30 May, 2010

Nordic Wind Power is receiving a federal loan guarantee. This will ensure that the company has the funds to develop its wind turbine technology. The company’s main claim to fame is its two blade wind turbines. Looking at the picture on Nordic’s home page, their turbines require much less material than the turbines of competitor companies, which means that their cost of production is a lot less. A smaller turbine design also has a lower visual footprint, which is a great advantage when homeowners in wealthy communities block the installation of wind turbines because they are afraid the turbines will decrease their land value.

The two blade system provides other advantages. A design with less material is also lighter. This means that a less powerful crane is necessary for the installation, and reduces other construction costs. The 70 meter tall tower will also cause less damage if it falls down, although hopefully that won’t happen. According to Nordic, a two blade wind turbine also produces less noise than a three blade turbine. I’m guessing that this design also creates less interference with other signals. A large wind farm in Oregon was blocked for months because the Air Force was concerned about interference with its radar project, so this technology might also provide advantages in that area.

According to Green Tech Media, wind turbines have a weakness because they do not provide a spinning reserve. This isn’t an insurmountable flaw. Another project with federal loan guarantees is Beacon’s flywheel system which stores energy using the spinning flywheels. Combining these projects is a great idea. Renewable power generation will require the use of several methods to provide power which is as reliable as oil and gas. A combination of cost efficient wind turbines and flywheels to store power and distribute it over a period of time provides great advantages for any city that wants to create clean energy. The government is funding Beacon Power’s smart grid, Nordic’s wind turbines, and Solyndra’s solar panels at the same time, and a combination of these energy generators and power storage systems creates synergies that will make these projects cost efficient methods of generating electricity.

Delaware Renewable Energy Grants

Posted by on Saturday, 22 May, 2010

The State of Delaware provides funding to citizens to set up generators of renewable energy, partially funded by the ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is the federal support for state programs. Delaware organizations offer several types of grants, some for much larger amounts than the appliance rebates and retrofits which are available elsewhere.

Delaware’s Renewable Resource Program provides funding for installing a source of renewable energy in a business, a home, or as a town or city project. The business limits are larger, with the state offering a grant as high as $30,000 for building solar panels or wind turbines. Residential limits are lower, although some of the installations may receive as much as $15,000. Compare this to the $300 appliance rebates and the sales tax exemptions of other states, this is huge.

The Renewable Resource Program is 1/3 matching funds, which means that the homeowner or the business has to pay the other 2/3 of the cost for installing geothermal heat pumps or other machinery. Changing the cost of a homeowner’s solar array from $45,000 to $30,000 shortens the payback period quite a bit and a grant of this size can change a project from a net loss to a net gain. For example, if a company calculates it will lose $20,000 by installing wind turbines, the grant can change that to a $10,000 gain. The catch is that Delaware grants for green energy installations will take about three years before the state pays out the grant money, which requires a sizable investment up front. An accountant will also remember that you have to discount any payment according to the rate of return you could receive in another investment. For example, you invest $30,000 at 10% and make $3,000 interest in one year, $3,300 in two years, and $3,330 in three years, a total of $9,630. Subtracting $9,630 from $30,000 still gives a gain of $20,370, and the gain is higher if you would be receiving less than 10% on your investments.

Delaware also offers rebates, including rebates for efficient light bulbs such as compact fluorescents and LCDs. The State of Delaware offers an extension of the lighting rebate program, to the end of August. State rebate programs may not officially end on their original posting date. If the state still has funds left to provide rebates or grants, they can decide to extend the program, since they are in charge of distribution of the money. Of course, states may also shut down a program early if it becomes too popular and the state gives out all of the rebate money quickly, so quick submission of grant and rebate applications is important.

The Bladeless Tesla Turbine

Posted by on Saturday, 8 May, 2010

Wind turbines provide power in many locations, and are under construction throughout the US and throughout the world. Regulators sometimes block wind turbine installations, for two main reasons: The turbine blade can harm birds, and the blade spins around which disrupts some types of radar. A design originally sketched out by Nikola Tesla a hundred years ago eliminates these issues by creating a disk turbine that collects wind energy without requiring a blade.

It’s possible to build a tesla turbine at home with spare parts. A researcher at the University of Washington constructed a tesla turbine from hard drive platters. A hard drive already includes a platter that spins around, so it is already useful for building the turbine. This researcher encases the hard drive in a ceramic casing to hold it in place, and then attaches it to a shaft. Compared to the size of most windmills, this isn’t very big, although it should be possible to attach several of these systems to a rack to create a home made tesla turbine array. According to the University of North Texas, larger tesla turbines are not as efficient as other large windmills, but the smaller tesla turbines are very effective, so they are useful to power smaller sensors and machines that do not require large amounts of power.

The tesla turbine is not in major production because of materials science issues when it was invented. According to The University of Texas, a tesla turbine disk has to be able to stand up to high temperatures. Ceramics and metals found in technology such as hard drive platters allow the original turbine plan to be implemented. According to the University of Texas page, it is even possible to create a microturbine with a wooden disk, although you won’t see the type of performance you can get with other materials.

Tesla turbines are under development by labs funded by the US military. These turbines are very effective at small sizes, so they are portable and lightweight enough to be carried by individual soldiers. This is very useful, especially in battlefields located in windy areas such as the desert. Solar power is possible at night through solar thermal plants, but those aren’t portable, and a tesla turbine is. Tesla turbines provide a source of energy for hikers, travelers, forest rangers, and anyone else who is taking a trip on foot and doesn’t want to carry around heavy batteries.