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Alright, there's a ton of people here but a stunning lack of good discussion going ... Stackers' Lounge forum

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    alternative energy: my attempt at sparking a good discussion

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    Alright, there's a ton of people here but a stunning lack of good discussion going on here in the cafe. This is an attempt at starting one.

    First off, I just want to say I'm in my last year of college at an engineering focuses school who is a premier facility for alternative energy research (Colorado School of Mines). So I sort of know what I'm talking about.

    I want to ask you guys how you feel about these solutions to our 'energy crisis'. Corn based ethanol, other biofuels, fuel cells, wind energy, nuclear power, etc...

    I'll wait a bit to give my opinions, otherwise this first post would be a wall of text and nobody would post.

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    I think either the corn based ethanol or biofuels would be our best bet. My wife grew up in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor, just not what I want for my kids. From what I hear fuel cells, I am assuming solar power are a helpful source, but cannot produce enough to be a primary source. I have read several articles on solar powered cars, and either the right person has not figured it out or they don't produce enough power to say fuel a car for extended distances. So if it was raining you would have to stay home, etc. Just my 2 cts, trying to help the spark grow into a flame of conversation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by thbassman View Post
    I think either the corn based ethanol or biofuels would be our best bet. My wife grew up in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor, just not what I want for my kids. From what I hear fuel cells, I am assuming solar power are a helpful source, but cannot produce enough to be a primary source. I have read several articles on solar powered cars, and either the right person has not figured it out or they don't produce enough power to say fuel a car for extended distances. So if it was raining you would have to stay home, etc. Just my 2 cts, trying to help the spark grow into a flame of conversation.
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    Good points, but I will teach you a bit about fuel cells

    Basically they take pure Hydrogen gas as fuel (chemically H2). The H2 breaks down into single hydrogen ions (H+), and electrons, and mixes with oxygen from the air. The electrons move from the anode to the cathode creating the electrical power source. The H+ ions mix with the oxygen in the air to make water (H2O). This means that the only waste of a fuel cell is water, and the power source is electric. Its the cleanest source of energy we have, BUT at this point its too difficult to get pure Hydrogen gas (H2) which is the fuel source. In the future it may be cost effective but as of right now its not.

    As you can see it has no link to solar power at all. Hope I helped a bit

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    What about solar cells?
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    Quote Originally Posted by gorcorps View Post
    As you can see it has no link to solar power at all. Hope I helped a bit
    Unless you using solar in the production of the Hydrogen

    Anyway...
    I think the best solution would be what is most efficient and practical for the geographic area. Coastal regions should harness wave power from oceans and seas or use wind farms offshore. Wind alleys should use wind farms and solar. Desert regions should harness the sun like no ones business and pipe that to metropolitan areas. Geothermal is another one that can be utilized in appropriate regions. I think many are trying to enact these alternatives but its still slow to become adopted on national levels. Everyone one is concerned about the dollars, no reason not to be, but if they don't spend them now they may be spending way more in the future do to natural disasters and changes in weather patterns.

    Back to the car discussion, I agree with the short distance issue that most drivers complain about on zero emissions vehicles, specifically electric. Personally, I drive more than the average person per day, about 85miles to and from work. Unless my work has a place to 'plug in' I won't make it home. I think that electric vehicles need to obtain about 100-150 miles per charge before the masses will feel comfortable about making the switch.

    On the hydrogen topic, what kind of range do those vehicles get? Could that dripping water pose a risk in cool climates, creating slick roads? I'm not opposed but just curious. Could we use hydrogen in other situations where the bi-product (water) could be used for consumption or farming?

    I'm kinda all over the place so I'll stop now.

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    Isn't fuel created from sugar beet better than corn. I think I heard you get more energy from it or have to put less in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vince1 View Post
    Isn't fuel created from sugar beet better than corn. I think I heard you get more energy from it or have to put less in.
    Well it isn't so much 'better fuel' as it is a slightly higher return. An acre of beets can potentially produce around 100 gallons more ethanol than corn with corn producing around 450 gal/acre. The plus of beets is it's not used as widely as corn is, so the impact on the rest of our food prices won't be affected if beets were used. The biggest problem being is that beets aren't exactly grown in huge quantities in the US for our fuel needs and there isn't enough land here to do so at the current rate of fuel coming from the beets. So we'd have to import beets or the ethanol so we would STILL have foreign dependence on our fuel source. But if they got the process more efficient it could turn into a viable option.

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    Beets for fuel production, that's one I have never heard. ~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~

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    Quote Originally Posted by thbassman View Post
    Beets for fuel production, that's one I have never heard. ~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~
    People get creative when they have to

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    Quote Originally Posted by thbassman View Post
    What about solar cells?
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    I'm not as informed on solar cells as other things, because for a while they were fading away. Just recently though they've been putting more effort into them to get them much more efficient than before, meaning they won't be as ignored. They could be useful for areas of near constant sun like the deserts and stuff, but unless everybody gets their roofs COVERED with high efficiency solar cells they'll never be able to sustain their current energy use on solar alone. I think it's a good step in the right direction for some areas, and would definitely reduce the amount of coal based electricity they use. However burning coal isn't near as dirty as people think it is. Even mining it isn't that bad these days with how closely monitored everything is. Plus coal a domestic source ( in the US anyways) so we don't have to rely on other countries to keep our houses going.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorcorps View Post
    Well it isn't so much 'better fuel' as it is a slightly higher return. An acre of beets can potentially produce around 100 gallons more ethanol than corn with corn producing around 450 gal/acre. The plus of beets is it's not used as widely as corn is, so the impact on the rest of our food prices won't be affected if beets were used. The biggest problem being is that beets aren't exactly grown in huge quantities in the US for our fuel needs and there isn't enough land here to do so at the current rate of fuel coming from the beets. So we'd have to import beets or the ethanol so we would STILL have foreign dependence on our fuel source. But if they got the process more efficient it could turn into a viable option.
    The climate problem we are told is a global issue. So this should be looked at with that in mind. Why cannt more beet be grown as this gives 22% more fuel, I have to check this as I think it might be higher.. In my mind it makes sense to use beet for this reason as you would have then to put less land to beet than corn.
    The biggest issue is that american cars are so fuel hungry. For years the US has been cushioned against this crisis with cheap fuel. The price of petrol in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe is approx twice what is paid in the US. The time to pay for this huge waste is now. We have lived with these higher prices for years and such have quite fuel efficient cars. The party of cheap petrol is over in the US and now the hangover is hitting hard, but we are suffering more.

    Please note I am based in Europe.

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    ~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~ ethanol can be produced from almost any plant matter. What is lacking from any other source other than corn is startup money. Corn is ridiculously subsidized. If we would get government out of the way and stop all of the price manipulation they do the solution would make itself known rather quickly.

    Wind is really cool. Offshore wind farms would be wonderful for the fish as they would be fantastic habitat. If people don't like the looks of them they can be painted blue to blend in with the horizon so they won't be visible at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yellowfin View Post
    ~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~ ethanol can be produced from almost any plant matter. What is lacking from any other source other than corn is startup money. Corn is ridiculously subsidized. If we would get government out of the way and stop all of the price manipulation they do the solution would make itself known rather quickly.

    Wind is really cool. Offshore wind farms would be wonderful for the fish as they would be fantastic habitat. If people don't like the looks of them they can be painted blue to blend in with the horizon so they won't be visible at all.
    I actually read a really interesting article about wind turbines killing birds and bats at alarming rates. And it wasn't because they were getting hit by the turbines, it was that when they flew into the low pressure zone behind the turbines they hemorrhaged and died. I like the idea of turbines out in sea, and I actually like the turbines on land, but apparently we need to not make them so big or so tall as they're causing other problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gorcorps View Post
    it was that when they flew into the low pressure zone behind the turbines they hemorrhaged and died. I like the idea of turbines out in sea, and I actually like the turbines on land, but apparently we need to not make them so big or so tall as they're causing other problems.

    Thats wild! I would have thought the blades were cutting them in half or something. So what the air pressure is too much and their heads explodes!
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    Quote Originally Posted by thbassman View Post
    Thats wild! I would have thought the blades were cutting them in half or something. So what the air pressure is too much and their heads explodes!
    lol not quite that catastrophic, but things were definitely popping internally. Here's the full article I read about it:
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=...ines-kill-bats

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