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Power Science

Milestones and Trends in Renewable Energy 295

Posted by Hemos
from the slow-movement-forward dept.
Sterling D. Allan writes "Some reflections and projections: The year 2005 saw large wind power installments come into a price range where they are now competitive with traditional grid prices. 2006 could see several solar designs do the same. Cold fusion was boosted with two, concurrent and independent sonofusion breakthroughs, though the stigma in the name is still deeply seated. 2006 could see floating wind turbines arrive on the commercial scene -- floating in the water like oil rigs, or floating high in the air, courtesy of helium. 2006 will see at least three companies offering after-market kits for adding Brown's gas (H and O from electrolysis, common ducted) to the air intake of vehicles for enhanced mileage and performance. Many other fuel economizing systems are slated to mature in the marketplace. Climate change evidence will continue to mount. It will yet be years before we harness lightning, but stable tornado systems prototypes that tap waste heat from power plants could arrive this coming year. Will 2006 be the year that clean energy becomes more the vogue than cool computer gadgets?"
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Milestones and Trends in Renewable Energy

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  • Gadgets (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edgr (781723) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:04AM (#14378135)
    Clean energy sources will become as cool as cool computer gadgets because they are themselves cool gagdets. I mean, come on, how cool is a wind generator floating in the air?
  • Until It Hurts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ehaggis (879721) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:09AM (#14378160) Homepage Journal
    Until it hurts, U.S. consumers will not switch anything. The market will drive change. Gas prices are currently inconvenient but it is not something that keeps people from getting to work. When prices are prohibitive, maybe we will see changes.

    U.S. citizens must also get out of the "grid" mentality. Electricty on site, not relying on the grid is a shifting in thinking for most. Lori Ryker addresses this in her book, "Off the Grid" [amazon.com]
  • by NardofDoom (821951) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:12AM (#14378173)
    Would it be better if your $50,000 Mercedes smelled like a truck stop?
  • Re:Until It Hurts (Score:2, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:18AM (#14378202) Homepage Journal
    The market is good at eventually seeking the best answers, however the market cannot handle very large shocks very quickly(obviously nothing can handle huge shocks perfectly but) the problem is, oil is so ingrained in our current economy it's going to take the market a long while to find adequate substitutes for all its uses without an outside shove. I know that I personally would probably starve to death if tomorrow I woke up and all the oil supplies were cut off. Oil is essential in not only the production of food, but perhaps more importantly, the distrubution of food to everyone who isn't a farmer. While the market should decide the winner(s) of the alternative energy battle, I applaud both government and non-government actions in researching alternative fuels even if they are not cost effective right away.
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:33AM (#14378257)
    > The year 2005 saw large wind power installments come into a price range where they
    > are now competitive with traditional grid prices.

    Incorrect.

    The year 2005 saw oil come into a price range where it competes with wind.

  • by JackDW (904211) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:34AM (#14378259) Homepage
    It seems that our government is preparing to build reactors again,

    But nuclear reactors are the only practical alternative to oil/natural gas-fired power stations. Which is the cleaner fuel, again? We made a mess because we didn't build enough reactors: we relied too heavily on dirty fossil fuels.

  • Re:Until It Hurts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Toby The Economist (811138) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:37AM (#14378271)
    The problem is that the deadly cost of using oil and gas is globally distributed.

    It is one of the roles of the State to ensure the people who ought to bear a cost *do* bear a cost.

    In this case, carbon taxes would be the solution.

    However, this requires willpower on the part of the State.

    When this is lacking, the people who ought to bear a cost do not and as such the fuel they are using is cheaper than it ought to be and so has a competitive advantage in the market.

  • by kamapuaa (555446) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:38AM (#14378274) Homepage
    He sticks his head in the sand, in the most hilarious of fashions!
  • by Claire-plus-plus (786407) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:40AM (#14378285) Journal
    Oil won't last, cheap enough to use for power generation, for 50 years.

    Coal is too damed poluting

    Nuclear is not that easy to set up and then switch off again, that is... the nuclear waste will always be there and after switching off the reactor it will stay hot for years.

    If I had to use one of the current technologies that provides most of our power (by no means all, Aussieland has quite a bit of wind power and solar these days) I would use natural gas, there's more of it than there is oil and it burns cleaner than coal.

    Oh and by the way, I think if we can't find renewable power in 50 years we are screwed. Saying "I don't think that will be the case" won't help.
  • by ThosLives (686517) on Monday January 02, 2006 @10:55AM (#14378373) Journal
    You don't just need better technology to produce (more) power in a "clean" way. You also need better technology and awareness to consume less power. I'm proud of the fact that I only used an average of 3 kW-hr per day for the period between Nov and Dec of last year (That amounts to an average of only 125 W for the entire day). I'm not sure exactly what my transportation consumption was, especially because I'm travelling a lot because of work, but my "domestic" energy consumption has dropped quite a bit.

    Generally speaking, consuming less requires no technology or additional cost. Sometimes it might cost something intangible, such as moving closer to work (think about it - if everyone who commuted 30 miles one way was willing to move to only commute 20 miles one way, or, if possible, 10 miles, the aggregate reduction in transportation energy consumption would be quite large).

    The problem is the "consume less" mentality is not very popular, and, unfortunately, not a problem which is readily solvable through technological means. While more efficient devices are better, what typically happens is people just get more devices and use as much if not more resources than with the "less efficient" technologies. Ah, the wonderful ironies of life...

  • Re:Climate Change (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @11:17AM (#14378490)
    Yeah, because developing new industries like wind and solar that could potentially fuel the world's energy needs is really bad for commerce. Put your Michael Chrichton down please.
  • by Da Fokka (94074) on Monday January 02, 2006 @11:23AM (#14378523) Homepage
    You bring up a very valid point. We'll be stuck with fossile fuels for a long time anyway, so research into CO2 sequestration is also very important.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Da Fokka (94074) on Monday January 02, 2006 @11:26AM (#14378540) Homepage
    Chernobyl killed about 3000 people, that about 10% of the amount of mine workers that die in China each year. And Chernobyl was a very unsafe design with unsafe procedures. Modern nuclear power plants are inherently safe - if the cooling fails, the nuclear core will stay at a resting temperature until started up again.

    In the face of a nuclear attack a nuclear power plant is way safer than say, a refinery.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 02, 2006 @11:49AM (#14378664) Homepage Journal
    Good grief it is full of more pseudoscience than a Kansas biology class.
  • This is Science..? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ancil (622971) on Monday January 02, 2006 @12:25PM (#14378867)
    Climate change evidence will continue to mount.
    Well I'm glad we settled that up-front.

    Research goes a lot smoother when you decide ahead of time what the results will be.

  • Re:why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Monday January 02, 2006 @12:47PM (#14378969) Homepage Journal
    A collection of strawdog arguments at best. I follow this subject a lot, the techniques being developed now are outstanding and are working well, and all the indications are it will be getting better. You propose to tell some nation "sorry, you can't have farmland and grow crops"? You are telling farmers, "sorry, I have determined that you shouldn't grow XYZ, only ABC? You insist that everything remain in stasis? How are humans around the planet supposed to live? We're humans, we will be altering the environment, this is justa gimmee, there's zero argument there, it has, does and will happen, so taking that, the best we can do is study on it and do it gracefully. We can't ignore the realities of increased demand over the next generation combined with lessening of conventional petroleum/natgas supplies, combined with external and unforseen geopolitics. I mean, just check world population stats and trends. We have to use everything we can think of in the next generation to pull this off, and then some. We can see *today*, right this second, go check your favorite general news source, exactly what can happen when you put a lot of your energy eggs into one basket, witness Russia shutting off natgas supplies to the Ukraine. Stuff happens. We have aacdemic theory and on the ground in your face realities, two different things there.

      It is MUCH, MUCH better to be well diversified and to have backups. This is good for data, and it's good for "energy" as well.

      It's all fine and dandy from someone's POV who already has access to energy products and running vehicles, etc, and lives a first world experience, but you want to limit those who currently *aren't* so well off to remain like they are. How the heck is some poor family making 200 bucks a year ever supposed to be able to even come close to a western styled middle class existence without more and cheaper energy sources? You want to limit the way the economies are running now to just making the current energy suppliers more wealthy and have even more influence over politics? What's a viable solution right now? Hydrogen? What can be done *today* right now as an alternative to petroleum products? Not 20 or 50 years from now, but today? To ME, biofuels are certainly one answer. Need fuel for your tractor and truck in order to get more efficient and be able to feed more people? A) shell out half your monthly pay for conventional diesel or gasoline that is sold at world prices, or B) "grow your own fuel" on your own land.

    Now GUESS what will actually happen.

    To me, the alternative energy "silver bullet" isn't one particular tech, it's the combination of techs we have that are getting better and better daily. Biofuels are just one of them, and the bulk of the rest of the planet agrees, because we ARE putting in wind farms and solar PV and solar thermal and biofuel facilities, and geothermal, and etc, in all the nations.

    And guess what? It's WORKING. slow but sure, it's working, despite the critics insistence it won't, daily now people are driving around with full or partially fueled bio-derived fuels, from Canada to the US to Europe to south america to Asia. And it hasn't become "ghastly". Just because immediately right this second it can't "replace" all the petroleum is a weak argument, we as humans are working both ends to the middle, developing more fuel efficient devices and increasing sources of supply of fruel, and near as I can see that's all we CAN do for this problem. We can't just sit back and go "well, it might not work so let's don't try". That mindset GUARANTEES failure.

    Alternative energy in general is a lot like Linux, it is the ability to adapt and create a solution that exactly fits your particular needs and resources. There is no "one size fits all" energy solution,the proverbial Mr. Fusion reactor, it doesn't exist, nor is it likely for the forseeable future, so we need to develop the "many sizes for many needs" sets of solutions in the meantime, else we as hoo-mannz will become en-screwed.
  • Re:Until It Hurts (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Colin Cordner (920954) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:07PM (#14379085)

    Until it hurts, U.S. consumers will not switch anything. The market will drive change.

    No, I'm afraid the market will not drive change, because "The Market" cannot drive change, because "The Market" does not exist. "The Market" is not a great Leviathan standing astride the conceptual econonomies of the world. It is not a thing. It does not exist as anything other than a concept or meme in human brains.

    "The Market" is nothing but a shorthand describing you, and a data-set including other humans like yourself within certain arbitrary bounds (ie. the nation-state of the USA). "The Market" has no will, and is only as rational as its "members" are; which is to say, "The Market" is just as irrational as you are, multiplied by a factor of X million.

    So no, "The Market" will not drive change. Overconsumption is essentially a psychological problem, and you can't make people not be crazy. At best, you can only encourage certain behaviour, and make it really discouraging to act like a nut.

  • Taxes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:09PM (#14380177) Homepage
    Taxation is such an awful way for governments to "correct" market failures.

    They never do it correctly. I'm sure if there were carbon taxes today, they'd manage to make you pay to burn renewable fuels like wood, ethanol, methanol, and biodiesel along with fossil fuels.

    Tax revenue never goes to correct the problems it was meant to correct. In a democracy, politicians will always find a way to divert funds to pork projects or buy votes with dubious social programs.

    In the long run, governments become dependent upon taxes from sources that they were originally meant to discourage. Taxes then become the perfect way for harmful industries to become legitimized in the eyes of their regulators. History is rife with examples of corrupt governments becoming one with those who profit from harming others.

    What's really better, your neighbor spewing pollutants into the air and water, or him doing so with the backing of the government and military?

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