Tag Archives: power plants

An Excellent Explanation of Our Climate Prospects in 2015

An excellent article recently appeared at Spiegel Online International titled “The Warming World: Is Capitalism Destroying Our Planet?” and I highly recommend reading it through to the end.  In it the authors give in-depth information on the current status of the global climate, relating it back to human activity and national and international politics.  (Millions of tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere every day has to have an impact, sooner or later.)  The politics of various key nations and the negotiations at past climate conferences are described, and a lot of the latest climate science is brought forth.  The topic is a bit frightening but of such critical importance to us that, really, every adult should have to read this article (whether they believe it or not).

Then, better informed, we need to take action, vote for politicians who are deserving, and “clean up our acts” by making many changes in our selves, our decisions, and our lifestyles in order to preserve a reasonably habitable world for our kids.  The trouble is … it might already be too late.

Thanks for reading — Tim


A Better Vision of a Likely Future

Advanced technologies will give us excellent data on future disasters.  As we plunge headlong toward a time of population-driven crises, struggling to put band-aids on climate change, pollution, and other results of the population explosion, I see rapid development of new technologies that may not slow the disasters but will provide much better information on them and may connect us each far more intimately to them.  Information technology may not save us, but it will make us much more aware of the details. Continue reading

Consciousness of the Need for Sustainability is Growing in the American Countryside

Consciousness of the need for renewable energy sources is growing. On a recent trip to Northern Lower Michigan I found clear signs that a much larger proportion of the populace are becoming aware of the energy and pollution problems related to overpopulation.  While the topic of overpopulation isn’t discussed much there is a great deal more concern about the need for renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels.  Especially in the areas near the shores of the Great Lakes, where winds are more constant and strong, there is much discussion and planning (and some construction) of wind power infrastructure.  While I only saw one large scale wind turbine, I saw more small turbines, more advertisements by companies who install them, and evidence of townships making zoning changes to specifically regulate wind turbines. Continue reading

Key Smart Grid Features Include Load Regulation and Transmission Efficiency

A recent article in Scientific American describes the advantages of the “Smart Grid” we keep hearing about.  One problem with wind and solar power is that they are not constant like a big coal or nuclear power plant.  When the sun goes down those solar panels stop delivering power, and if the wind dies down at the same time, how do you get power except from batteries or fossil fuels?  There are two answers to this issue: a highly efficient power grid that can carry electricity to where it is needed at lowest possible cost, and the ability to regulate the load on the system.  The Smart Grid is an electricity transmission system that may appear quite similar to the high tension lines that now make a web across the country, but include digital communications capabilities.  The communications side of the Smart Grid will allow utility districts to share information and efficiently switch power to where it is needed, and will also permit the grid to temporarily shut off properly equipped water heaters, refrigerators, air conditioners, HVAC systems, and similar equipment.  In that way the system can be balanced to prevent power outages and enable alternative energy sources that are inherently variable to play a bigger part in supplying our energy needs.  Load regulation is a direct tradeoff with system capacity, and has the potential to lower electricity costs substantially.  Will the average consumer get on the bandwagon soon, or will economic conditions have to become much worse to get the average person to make changes? Continue reading

Moving Towards Sustainability – What is the Payback Time on an Outlet Strip?

One of the biggest problems for those of us who understand the need to pursue sustainability is to know what to do. There is far too little information available about how to conserve energy, minimize one’s carbon footprint, and make a positive move towards living sustainably.  Just when you think using paper bags is more ecologically responsible than plastic bags, someone figures out that the energy required to make the paper created more pollution than the processes that produced the plastic bag.  Then, some time later, someone else tells you that the paper comes from renewable trees while the plastic is made from non-renewable oil, and paper is therefore more responsible.  There are so many pieces of conflicting information flying around in the media that it is daunting, and a lot of people give up trying.  Perhaps I can throw a very tiny bit of light on this topic with a simple idea, the common electrical outlet strip,  backed by some simple calculations. Continue reading

The Future of Energy: Things Never Change So Much …

Things never change so much as they stay the same. That’s the saying, anyway, and I figure I’ll see how things balance out if I stick around long enough.  I expect that there will be surprises, and some advances people expect won’t happen, or will be disappointing, while other inventions will become mainstays of our civilization.  Inevitably, the deciding factor behind the decision to discard or keep something involves money, and I believe that will extend to our energy infrastructure. Continue reading

Transportation Off-Earth Could Become Less Prevalent in the Next Few Decades

If rising fossil fuel costs were all that mattered they would eventually make space travel prohibitively expensive, but such decisions are more political than economic. Still, as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce and expensive, traveling off-earth will become accordingly more costly, especially for human beings, whose need for as bulky life support equipment greatly increases the energy requirements for space transportation systems. As a result, cost will become an increasing concern in space-related projects, and take on an increasingly high profile in the political and scientific debates that govern space programs. Recent cutbacks in funding to NASA shows evidence of this. Increasing costs and decreased funding may result in an increasing proportion of robotically-manned space expeditions, and could even reduce the human presence on the space station in the future and see it refitted for increasingly automated operation.  Eventually a new, cheap, and powerful energy source (fusion?) will be developed and a new era of space travel will come about.  How soon that happens, however, depends on us. Continue reading