Waste to Energy

According to a report by the National Solid Wastes Management Association, or NSWMA, the average American household generates 4.4 pounds of garbage every day, and about 1600 pounds per year. Doesn’t it all seem like a huge waste? No pun intended, but can’t we put our garbage to use to generate clean energy?

Waste Management is currently developing a system to convert sewage and raw garbage into clean energy, and at the same time help to alleviate the strain excessive amounts of garbage has had on landfills.

Currently Waste Management is re-using garbage to generate enough power to supply one-million homes, and will soon have enough to power two-million a year.

Solar Hydro Energy Corporation is developing a process that helps to convert methane from landfills into hydrogen. Other companies are experimenting with the use of plasma to break down compounds into harmless elements that can be used for power.

As fascinating as these approaches are, I think the most realistic and appealing approach would be to have home units which can break down waste and convert it into power. Imagine having your own trash-compactor that can also double as a power-generator.

You wouldn’t have to buy power from the grid, and you would help the environment as well. It would take a while for these devices to reach an affordable price where many people can have access to them, but it would be worth the wait. Imagine never having to pay a power bill again… I’m sure that’s something you’d look forward to.

But don’t expect the energy giants to roll over, they might fight tooth-and-nail like the oil industry to keep their stranglehold on the economy. They wouldn’t want to go out of business, so it would be either adapt or die for them at that point. They could help design, develop, and produce these waste-energy generators, or fizzle out and disappear.

I mean it’s not a doom-and-gloom scenario (click here for a real one), but merely reality. Adapting to a changing energy market, defined by the long-tail effect, will be the defining transformation that will make-or-break energy giants.

The Magic Bicycle

Still driving that steam-spitting, steel crushing, monster-on-wheels, spewing black-smoke pollution machine that breaks down often but gets you there?

What if there was another way to get around? What if you had a vehicle which could take you from point A to B in a moderate amount of time, and get you in shape at the same time? Well, my friends, there is a magical invention called the ‘bicycle’ which does just that.

Now obviously you have heard of a bicycle, and for those of you that haven’t, please see the picture below. With the astronomical prices of gas nowadays, many people are more than happy to ride to work, school, and back on their bikes. It’s saving the environment, money, and gets you in shape. What better way to curb America’s weight problem than to ride a bike?

Image courtesy travelismo.com.

Now I’m not going to write a whole post encouraging you to go ride a bike, because well, that would be kind of ridiculous… so I’ll introduce some new ideas.

You know how you pay for power? Well, I’m kind of sick of it, and if you’re like me, you could be cheap as well.

Here’s my idea: How about people hook up generators to their bikes, and over the course of the day they accumulate power in a battery source as they ride around.

They can then use this battery source to power anything from a computer to a home appliance to lights. If you’re going to ride your bike anyways, why not generate some power? It could save you money, save the environment, and if you rode more you would lose a few pounds?

I got the idea from a story over at Alternative Energy News. about an innovator who has created a practical solution to help purify polluted drinking-water.

There’s a man named Paul Berg who’s an engineer with CH2M Hill Inc, who has invented a bicycle-powered water sterilizer, which could help an estimated 1.1 billion people purify polluted water. The practical invention is incredibly cheap and with just 25 watts of power, people can purify water and possibly use the power generated by the bicycle for other things.

If you got yourself a stand-alone gym bike, you could lose weight and generate electricity for your home. Coupled with personal wind-power units and solar units, you could power your entire home on renewable resources. It would take a little effort, but if you never have to pay a power bill again would you do it?

I would… then again, some might call me green, but that’s trendy nowadays anyways so I’m cool with it.

Tower Of Power

The energy crisis is getting out-of-hand, as you’ve probably heard. Check out the prices on oil. They aren’t going down anytime soon either.

I know we consider ourselves world leaders in many areas, such as; technology, culture, and most importantly bombing sovereign nations. Sorry, I had to throw that last one on there.

I didn’t come here to get all political, so I’ll get to my point.

Australia, the country of the Aborigines, kangaroo, dingo, and Foster’s (Australian for beer), has recently drawn-up a design for a revolutionary new solar plant. This plant will generate 200 megawatts of power, and will be able to power 200,000 Australian homes per-year when it’s completed in 2012. EnviroMission Limited is currently constructing the tower in Australia based off a successful prototype-test in Manzanares, Spain.

This solar plant isn’t like any other solar plant; it has a tower. The tower isn’t just for looks though, it does have a function. Everyone knows from basic physics class (or maybe you don’t), that hot air rises. This solar plant is revolutionary because it utilizes the laws of thermodynamics to generate electricity (Check here for a quick brush-up on physics).

The sun heats up the air under the solar collector, forcing the air to rise. When it rises the air turns the turbine and generates electricity. It’s quite a simple idea, but it could alleviate greenhouse gas emissions and generate 100% clean energy.

Most solar collectors and solar plants (like Saguaro Solar Plant in Arizona, below), can’t generate energy at night because there’s no power source. The Solar Tower plant in Australia can generate energy at night thanks to heat storing material located under the solar collector. It stores heat during the day and releases it at night, allowing for continuous operation.

(Image courtesy ABCnews.com)

Why can’t the United States create a solar-tower plant?

The Answer: I’m not sure…

If the Australian full-scale prototype is successful, I’m sure we will be looking into it. Granted we’ll have to make sacrifices, and at a time when the economy is struggling, I don’t think anyone wants to do that.

Home Sweet Solar (and wind)

SOLAR! The energy of the blinding yellow (sometimes orange) glowing ball of light in our sky otherwise known as the sun. Sorry for the mouthful, but hey, it’s the sun; it’s kind of a big deal.

Now rather than tapping into the power grid, you can get your own home-solar energy unit from Power-Save Energy systems. Basically it’s a wind turbine with 600 watts of power in a cylindrical tube. It’s a novel and inventive idea, and will certainly help people alleviate their electrical bills because it doesn’t need a massive support system and can be mounted on a roof or balcony.

It’s interesting to see how in the absence of a large energy conglomerate switching to green energy, new companies are starting to fill niches. The Power-Save company is simply taking advantage of a void created by the refusal of big energy companies to heavily invest in green-renewable energy.

(Image Courtesy Sajadi’s Blog)

Ever hear of the long tail effect? Sure you have. Basically, instead of people getting a large amount of energy from one source, they could possibly get a small amount of energy from different sources. In the same thinking, rather than people buying their energy from the power grid, they could simply get it directly from a home unit.

I’m sure the energy conglomerates wouldn’t want people gaining energy independence. They would lose not only business, but power, and if it’s anything people don’t like losing, it’s power.

(Image courtesy GreenEnergyNews.com)

Although the home wind-turbine unit isn’t going to cause an energy revolution anytime soon (or hey… it might), it could possibly generate more interest in home-energy units. It also probably can’t power a house by itself, but coupled with solar power and other sources, it could help to lessen energy bills. Who doesn’t want a lower power bill?

According to the Energy Information Associaton’s website, the average price of energy, although lower than in the past (since 1960), is again on the rise. This means that Americans will likely be paying more for electricity in the coming days, and having a home power-generating unit wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Mark Paul, owner and operator over at the ‘Energy Independence’ Blog, thinks that we desperately need energy independence, and so do I. Why not give American consumers their very own power plants?

I think we all need a little more energy independence, don’t you?

 

Solar Power, Free Energy, and Bicycles

So I was riding my trusty gray and pink bicycle to class the other day (I’m a real man), enjoying the balmy early Arizona Morning, minding my own business. I was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and sunglasses, quite the regalia for a quick morning bike ride. I arrived at school, went to class, and afterwards I rode over to Sun Devil Television where I work.

I hung out for about three hours, editing like a well-oiled machine (pardon the cliche).

All was well until I went outside. Damn… It was hot, and it’s February.

So, should I blame global warming for the temperature on this particular day? No, but it reminded me of it. I mean, I believe that it’s real, it certainly is not some ‘cycle of nature.’

So you might ask where I’m going with this… and the answer is:

I don’t know!

Wait… Yes I do, check out this video:

O.K., so I’m not 100 percent sure if this is legitimate but it’s certainly interesting to ponder. Just imagine a world where everyone has equal access to energy. If you’re a politician or an oil company, you probably wouldn’t like this very much. You would lose control of energy and therefore power over people. For the masses it would be fantastic, but energy giants wouldn’t take too kindly to it.

I certainly wouldn’t mind attaching one of these puppies to my bike and tearing across campus. I’d be doing the environment good, and would certainly look like a complete jackass in the process. I mean besides saving the world, looking like a jackass is one of my favorite pastimes.

It’s all linked the ‘zero-point’ energy phenomenon, which you can learn more about on the Calphysics Institute website.

It might not be completely figured out yet, but in the meantime I can get a solar-powered bicycle from treehugger.com. I would certainly want to purchase one, but they are currently being sold by a Canadian company for $1,500 CAD, and with the American Dollar worth about the same as a bag of peanuts, that’s quite expensive. I mean you have to be incredibly lazy to purchase one in the first place, but it’s pretty cool anyways.

Car-tasrophe

Pardon the cheesy title, unless of course you like cheese, but I have been pondering the state of automobiles in our country. We’ve got exotic cars, luxury cars, family cars, family luxury cars, gas guzzlers, classics, etc… The list goes on (for quite a while).

I own a 1997 Grand Marquis, which is quite the love boat. I must say it feels like I am relaxing on a couch whenever I drive it; the seats are just plain fantastic. I especially like the heated seats in the wint-

Errr, uhh.

O.K. O.K. O.K., I’ll get back on topic.

In our country there are many different types of cars from many different makers, of which a good portion are actually from overseas. United States car manufacturers like General Motors, Ford, and Chevrolet (to name a few), have recently (somewhat) caved in to government pressure and are starting to manufacture environment-friendly cars on a large scale. Hybrid car sales began to ‘soar’ in 2004, according to an article on commondreams.org, and have been steadily increasing ever since.

Sales figures indicate a 26 percent increase in hybrid sales from 2005 to 2006, which is part of a larger trend. The popularization of hybrid cars has come as a result of environmental issues, as well as gas prices. Currently the price for a barrel of crude oil is hovering around $100 per barrel, which has forced many people to alter their transportation routines and habits. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, for a hit to the wallet could also force new technology (which could help alleviate global warming) to the forefront.

Although many hybrid cars get 30 to 50 miles-per-gallon, there are other more efficient cars which have been developed by grant-based groups and private researchers. The most surprising article I came across was an article on SeattlePI.com entitled, “Hybrids, meet your rival — it gets 376.59 pg.” I was astounded before I even read the article; this can’t be true! Over 350 miles-per-gallon? That’s impossible!

It’s actually quite realistic. Although they tested this prototypical vehicle in 1973, the technology and construction method that makes it so efficient has not been integrated into modern cars. The car is incredibly simple, lacking all of the luxury features and ‘bells and whistles,’ which is probably why it wouldn’t be able to sell in America. To make the Opel car a road-safe vehicle, modifications would be needed, which would probably drop the miles-per-gallon rating down to 176.

How horrible! Oh wait, how…. amazing?

Most hybrids now get 50 to 60 m.p.g., and this is far more efficient. The man who now owns this car, Evan McMullen, says it best,

“Here’s a car that was 20 years old at the time of the contest that was the project of a couple of guys in a garage,” he said. “You can’t tell me we can’t do better than this with cars today.”

Well Mr. McMullen, there is a trendy, hip, space-age solution out there. It’s more modern looking and it gets 330 miles-per-gallon.

I’m talking about a car designed by Accelerated Composites of Carlsbad, California.

According to the article on theautochannel.com,

“The lightweight composite, hybrid car will post this fuel efficiency in normal city and highway driving and demonstrate acceleration and handling similar to that of a Honda Insight. Dubbed the Aptera(C), the vehicle achieves these remarkable numbers through the use of cutting-edge materials, manufacturing methods, and a maverick design mantra.”

The key to the vehicle lies in its lightweight construction and smooth aerodynamics. Although I wouldn’t be seen driving around in an ‘Aptera,’ I could possibly envision a time in the near future when people would be. Heck, with oil prices increasing every day, why not invest in something that could actually do some good for your wallet as well as the environment.

Transportation & Energy

Now I’m sure you’ve used the public transportation system in a major city like New York, Los Angeles, Boston or Phoenix. Although Phoenix is currently lacking a rail system (for the time being), you’ve probably hopped on the ‘Flash’ or ‘Orbit’ buses and vans. They aren’t aesthetically pleasing, but they’ll get you there. Larger cities like New York and Boston have extensive transit systems composed of buses, subways, and above-ground rail systems. In recent years people have been encouraged to use public transportation to help combat global warming.

An article on the Sierra Club’s website blog highlighted the issue,

A new study released today shows if a solo commuter of a household switches their daily driving and uses public transportation then he or she can reduce their household carbon footprint by 10 percent. If one household’s driver gives up that second car and switches to public transit, a household can reduce its carbon emissions up to 30 percent.

Obviously, 30 percent is a huge number. This would certainly help curtail United States carbon emissions and aid in the crusade for the environment. The question is: How realistic is this goal? Obviously people living in urban areas have much more immediate access to public transportation than those who don’t, but what about people who live in suburban and rural areas?

The answer lies in not only increased use of public transportation, but also in the energy sources this transportation uses. According to statistics from the United States Department of Energy, the United States produces roughly 79 percent of its energy from fossil fuel sources. Although many rail systems and some vehicular systems run on electric power, the power comes originally from the power grid itself. With 79 percent of the country’s energy being produced by fossil fuel sources, the benefit of electric public transportation systems is somewhat negated.

The answer is to phase out fossil fuel sources in lieu of renewable energy sources as well as nuclear power. An interesting and innovative power plant has been developed near Phoenix, AZ by Arizona Public Service and Greenfuel Technologies Corporation.

A press release on the APS website outlines the operation of the prototypical plant,

At the Redhawk Power Plant, specially designed pipes captured and transported the CO2 emissions coming out of the stack. The gas was then transferred to specialized containers holding hungry algae. Algae are unicellular plants and, like all plants, they divide and grow using the process known as photosynthesis. In the presence of sunlight, algae consume CO2.

Rather than one miracle answer to the looming energy question, there seems to be a combination of different methods. The power plant utilizes microorganisms to help recycle CO2 waste, and although it still burns fossil fuels it is much more environmentally-friendly.

We need to replace our aging, atmosphere-choking, fossil fuel-burning plants with more environmentally friendly plants if we are going to overcome the global warming problem. The plant in Arizona is a good start,  and hopefully the technology spreads quickly. If the slow-moving action of the oil companies is any indicator, it could be a while before we see any change.

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