Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Geothermal Energy: The Ground's Not Getting Any Cooler

Looking around the internet, I found this article which gives a little blurb about a new geothermal project on a little island in the Caribbean. It will be capable of producing 8.5 MW of power. While that not might seem like a lot to us here in the US, that could provide a lot for a little 36 square mile island.

Aerial Shot of Nevis
From my earlier post on geothermal energy, one of the reasons that geothermal energy isn't expanded upon that was brought up by a reader was that geothermal can only be utilized at "hot spots" around the globe, which are places where high temperature geothermal resources are available near the surface. The island where the project is being planned, Nevis, is a little to the southeast of Puerto Rico. It is the dormant remnant of an ancient volcano, which is why it has a multitude of hot springs and why the geothermal project is being planned for it.

After looking up all of this info on Nevis, I started wondering if the US had any geothermal plants in Hawaii, where volcanic activity is very present resulting in a lot of geothermal potential. I then researched that and found that they do indeed have one geothermal plant on the big island that only produces energy for the big island. It produces about 20% of the island's energy needs, so it is very useful and helpful.
Hawaii's Geothermal Plant

While they are doing some things with geothermal energy, I feel like they could do a lot more in Hawaii. There has to be a lot more places where they can build geothermal plants around the different islands, instead of just having the one on the big island, but that's just ideal speculation. I remember reading at one point something about Hawaii wanting to go green and have a majority of their energy come from renewable sources, so I think geothermal can definitely help them reach their goal.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Look Back At That Corny Fuel

With gas prices going up and looking like they won't be going down really anytime soon, a lot of people's wallets are going to be hit pretty hard at the gas pumps around the nation. In previous posts I have talked about a couple of remedies to high oil prices: electric cars and ethanol-mixed fuel.

I recently found this article that gives the ethanol outlook report regarding ethanol. The report involves findings from the International Energy Agency that say biofuels will provide 27% of fuel sources by 2050, up from the 2% it is currently. They attribute this increase to the reason that the current trends in energy supply are unsustainable, so other forms will be utilized in the future to meet the energy demands. They also address the food vs. fuel issue, by saying that they support the use of using food crop waste and cellulosic and algae biofuels instead of corn.

The one part of this article that I found the most interesting was the price difference between gasoline and ethanol, which is at $1.20 when the government tax credit is included. With such a discount, demand for ethanol will most likely increase. I mean I would go for it if I could save around $10 at the pump each time I filled up.

I found this video about ethanol production from Modern Marvels that I liked a lot. It seems a little pro ethanol skewed, but it is still very informational and a good watch.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Water and Electricity: Perfect Combination??

Hoover Dam
For any kid that has ever played Pokemon in their life, the combination of water and electricity is a no go. Everyone knows that electrical attacks are "Super Effective" against water pokemon, so why would anyone ever want to mix the two??

Hydroelectricity, that's why!! Hydroelectricity uses water to turn a turbine, which then generates electricity to be sent out through transmission and distribution lines to the consumer. As a student in electrical engineering, I had the pleasure of actually touring a Hydro plant up in Boulder, so I have a little more experience and knowledge in this area.

Most hydro plants, including the Boulder Hydro we toured, use gravity to generate the energy to turn the turbine. They transport water from a higher level down pipes using only gravity to build up energy. It then goes through a penstock, which gets narrower as it gets closer to the turbine, increasing the pressure of the water. The water is then forced through a needle valve, which makes the water into a high-powered stream. This stream is what is then used to turn the turbine. At the Boulder Hydro, they used a Pelton Wheel Turbine, which has these buckets all along it that are shaped like two concave ovals welded together, and they have a sharp ridge in the middle of them that splits the water from the needle.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Here is a video/song that I wrote and made entitled "Energy," and it is based off the smash single by Rebecca Black, "Friday." I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing and making it!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Hope This Brightens Your Day

After the earthquake in Japan and the crisis with the Fukushima Power Plant, I bet you thought I would talk about nuclear power in this post, but I decided to go a different route and talk about solar power. The article I found that prompted this week's post, actually talks about the Fukushima incident, but in respect as to how it affected solar energy.

If you have ever driven down 6th Avenue towards Denver, then you may have seen the photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, to your right, in front of the Federal Center. These panels convert the solar radiation from the sun shining on them into electrical current using semiconductors along their surface that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. This effect refers to the photons of light from the sun knocking electrons into a higher energy state, which creates the electrical current and, thus, electricity.

Since Fukushima, unease about nuclear energy has risen, resulting in an increased interest in solar and wind energy. Stocks in many solar companies have risen in the last few weeks, marking the added interest in the area, rising an average of 3.6% in the last week alone. Germany has also taken action to promote solar energy instead of nuclear, by planning on installing enough solar cells to generate 7.5 gigawatts in 2011. Also, they recently elected a Green party-led coalition over a Conservative party in one of their states as a result of anti-nuclear voters.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hot Energy!!

I've been looking to write about geothermal energy for a while, but just haven't been able to find a good article to start it off, but today I found this article that I found pretty interesting. It is about Iceland's geothermal production, and how they plan to export the energy to mainland Europe. I knew that Iceland was a big user of geothermal energy, but I did not know that they used it to produce 81% of their electricity!!

Geothermal energy works by using the natural heat from Earth to heat water or another working fluid, and then the fluid is used to turn a turbine which turns a generator to produce electricity. It is not very efficient, only being at 10-25%, but as it uses heat from the Earth's core, it is a renewable source of energy, which makes it appealing. The figure to the left shows the basic dry steam plant, which takes geothermal steam directly to turn the turbines and produce electricity.

Currently, the United States is the world's largest producer of geothermal energy with a capacity of 3,086 MW per year, but it only accounts for 0.3% of the electricity produced in the U.S. Hopefully some of the money attributed to renewable energies in the budget, so that we can expand even more with geothermal energy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More "Shocking" News

After last week's post on electric cars, I was looking at this one blog I've been following called Potential Energy, and it had a post about the money that the Obama administration has set aside for electric cars.

Obama wants to have one million "advanced technology vehicles" on the road by 2015, which includes hybrid vehicles as well as strictly electrical vehicles. To help achieve this number, the budget has allocated two billion dollars for factories to build batteries and other components for electric cars, as well as $300 million to make electric cars more appealing to the public and money to increase research and development for them. Rebates are also going to be offered for anyone that buys an electric car or hybrid for up to $7,500.

Do you think that this money is being budgeted appropriately? Is it worth appropriating this much money to electric vehicles?