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Old 04-16-2008, 05:59 PM   #1
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Default Wasted resources and solutions for the energy problem?

OK guys, after reading the water-car thread, I decided to throw some questions at everyone here;
What resources do you see going to waste, and how would you put them to use?
Do you have any ideas for offsetting fossil fuels as energy producers?
Do you have an idea for reducing pollution without making a major change in our daily lifestyle?

Here'* a few of my own thoughts as examples:

1) One of the biggest, and most inexcusable wastes right now is the burning of waste methane produced by landfills in the recovery stages. It could easily and cheaply be stored and refined for use in small power plants, rather than simply burned as waste.

As an example, Phoenix golf course here in Columbus is built on a covered over landfill. There are a number of stacks around the property that take methane released from the landfill and gathered by a network of pipes, and they simply burn it in open air. Millions of BTUs wasted, when they could instead pipe that methane back to a small generating station to fuel either a turbine or piston motor to turn a generator. It wouldn't be super efficient, or put out a lot of power, but it would pay for itself, and put a wasted resource to use.

2)Make Auxiliary Power Units mandatory on every new semi equipped with a sleeper berth, and offer tax abatements for companies and owner operators who equip their older trucks with them.
An APU is a small diesel generator that can be installed on the frame of a truck. The best of them supply electricity in 12V and 120V, have heating and A/C units, and can share hot coolant with the main motor of the truck.
They allow the driver to run any accessories or appliances in the truck, keep the cab warm or cool, and keep the motor from freezing in cold weather.
Currently, most drivers idle their trucks through the night for the reasons I listed above.
Other than an APU, the only solutions currently available are:
A ) Shut the truck off, which allows the engine to cool and means you can't use much power to run your stuff....
B ) Use a system that monitors engine temps and starts the truck automatically when they drop too low. Unfortunately, it'* about impossible to sleep through the starting of a diesel engine, because of the shaking and noise involved. Do that 3 to 4 times a night, and you have a tired trucker behind the wheel in the morning...
C ) Use a shore power system like IdleAire, to run your block heater and provide power for your stuff. Unfortunately, the price for this service is pretty steep, and can even cost MORE tha nidling an efficient truck overnight. Also, many companies do not reimburse their drivers for the service. It also can't keep the engine much warmer than about 20* above ambient temperatures. They also aren't available at rest stops, or in store parking lots for drivers who spend the night at their destination.
Requiring APUs would allow drivers to stop anywhere, keep their motors at a constant temperature, and provide ample power to run any equipment or accessories the driver might have in the cab.
Right now, many states have anti-idling laws that can cost drivers big bucks if they get a ticket. However, those tickets don't effect the companies that own the trucks. This puts the entire burden of anti-idling laws squarely on the shoulders of those who can afford it least, and don't have the option of modifying a truck that they might not own.

3) Solar energy.
Why is it that whenever people talk about solar energy, they either talk about huge installations and power plants designed to supply energy to large areas, or individual solutions like adding solar panels on the roof of your house?
Why not combine the two solutions? Pass legislation that within the next ten years, every new residential or commercial building must have a certain amount of solar paneling per square foot of floor. And for industrial buildings, a certain amount according to power usage.

Imagine the amount of energy you could produce within the first year if every new house or apartment building had, say, just one square-foot of solar panel for every 50 square-feet of living space?
Now, tie all that into the national grid so that the excess from each house can be sold to rest of the grid.
Many households are doing this already. On cloudy days, or when they are using large amounts of power, they buy the extra power needed from the grid, just like normal. But on sunny days when they are using less power than the panels are producing, they actually sell the excess power back to the grid.
Now, if every new house was doing this, not only would those families be saving money on their own electric, but it would lower the price of energy for every one else.
And by channeling it through the national grid, even on a rainy day, the system would still be receiving abundant sun from elsewhere in the country.

We could extend that to older buildings as well, by allowing people who install solar panels, wind generators, or geo-thermal generators to write the purchase and installation off on their taxes, as long as they are tied into the grid?

As for the expensive price of solar paneling, as production increased to cover the new demand, the price would come down. Higher volume of production would force manufacturers to automate, which would bring the price down. New developments in solar collectors are also bring the price down as well...

Within twenty years, we could be exporting energy at wholesale prices to the rest of the world.
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Old 04-16-2008, 06:11 PM   #2
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I would love to add solar panels to my home. I inquired about them but was told my development does not allow solar panels to be attached to the property
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Old 04-16-2008, 06:14 PM   #3
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Easy solution: Stop driving Cars, Semis, and airplanes so much

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Old 04-16-2008, 06:33 PM   #4
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"Retro-fitting" energy efficiency costs too much currently in this country.

Adding solar panels, replacing appliances with more energy efficient models, adding more insulation in my walls, etc...all these things just take too long to recoup the investment, even with todays run up in energy prices. As energy prices rise further, the day may come when it makes more economic sense; I wouldn't bet on it though, as material costs are rising crazily, too.

As you say though, new construction could certainly take better advantage of newer technologies in energy efficiency.

But to answer your questions:
What resources do you see going to waste, and how would you put them to use?
Water. Biggest problem on earth IMO. There should be more grey water recovery/reuse in industry and agriculture, and also more implementation of desalinization for potable water use.

Do you have any ideas for offsetting fossil fuels as energy producers?
I would like to see where biofuels from cellulosics goes. I feel there is more future in this than in biofuels that directly impact the world food supply (ethanol, vegetable oil diesel)
Geothermal where possible.
I also believe there is a great deal of potential in wind power.
I also think it'* time to seriously look at nuclear power again.

Personally, I am not a big believer in hydrogen as a fuel, or solar as a mass-generation power source.

Do you have an idea for reducing pollution without making a major change in our daily lifestyle?
Grey water recovery/reuse; xeriscape; resuseable canvas grocery sacks; higher fuel taxes (to discourage wasteful driving); timers/motion sensors on lights; more efficient lighting; all the stuff already discussed about new construction technologies; basically, all the cool stuff they do to reduce pollution and conserve resources in Europe.
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Old 04-16-2008, 06:44 PM   #5
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Brian, in your original post:

1. We do this in Oregon. The power generated runs the recycled material sorting equipment.

3. It'* not going to work until manufacturing costs and conversion efficiency improve. There are several companies I know of (one very near and dear) that are working on such projects. There will be a day soon that the lid of your laptop has solar cells. Maybe not enough to power you full-time, but enough to significantly extend your battery charge life. There are companies already building solar cells into outside panels on buildings or roof tiles. Again, it'* far too expensive to be feasible just yet, and not really efficient enough.
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Old 04-16-2008, 07:15 PM   #6
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For reducing fossil fuel use, we could use mass transit more, combine trips with friends, live closer to where we work (when feasible), and leave the skidmarks on the dragstrip instead of the entrance to the neighborhood.

Nuclear is an idea whose time has come again, as well as large-scale wind and geothermal energy. Corn-based biofuels in the US are absolutely asinine. Non-food-crop biofuels are a lot better for the world. They still don't have everything going for them, though.

Flame suit in closet, check.
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Old 04-16-2008, 07:37 PM   #7
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Default Re: Wasted resources and solutions for the energy problem?

let me take a crack at this.

What resources do i see going to waste and how would i put them to use?
humans. we are wasting our greatest resource, and that is the human mind. thankfully, its a renewable resource, but still. there are too many people working mindless jobs like on assembly lines and the check-out stand at walmart and mcdonalds. to fix this, i would export those low-level, low-thought jobs overseas where kids in korea can make my cars and dvd players. sadly, i cant export the walmart and mcdonalds jobs, so i will import people from other countries to do those jobs. then our children will have no choice but to excel in school and put their minds to use, because we already have all those low-thought jobs filled.

do you have any ideas for offsetting fossil fuels as energy producers?

yes. i support wide-scale euthanasia for old people who we dont need and only drain the economy. i also support random javelin-ing of people who do not meet my suitably random criteria of what it means to be "intelligent". also, i would not allow people under the age of 21 to drive a car and people who are considered "overweight" would be required to ride their bikes to work and school. these simple steps alone can drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels

do you have an idea for reducing pollution without making a major change in our daily lifestyle?

as always, yes. cease packaging our food from the market in containers. those get thrown away anyway, so just dont bother with them. also, people must carry their stuff to their car individually (no bags necessary, we have arms). also to be cut, packaging, insulation, and all that other jazz is completely unneeded. speaking of unneeded stuff, we also do not need central heat and air. humanity is too weak by far, as we have removed survival of the fittest from the equation. humanity must be required to live without things that weaken us, like central heat and air.

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