Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cornwall Wave Energy Hub

A £21m wave energy farm in Cornwall has been agreed to.
More than £21m of funding has just been agreed for Wave Hub, a giant electrical terminal on the seabed 10 miles off the coast of Hayle, near St Ives, through which wave energy devices can transmit the energy they generate along a high-voltage undersea cable back to the National Grid on shore.

When it is operating next year it is likely to support the largest array of wave energy machines in the world, and mark an enormous step forward in the development of wave power, which has long been the Cinderella in the family of renewable energy technologies - far less advanced than wind and solar power.

....Wave Hub will allow developers of wave energy devices to test new wave energy technology. Groups of devices will be connected to the terminal and float on or just below the surface of the sea to assess how well they work and how much power they generate before going into full commercial production.

The terminal will be connected to the National Grid by a 15.5 mile cable linked to a new electricity substation at Hayle. It could generate 20 megawatts of electricity, enough power for 7,500 homes or three per cent of Cornwall's domestic electricity needs.

Although surfers fear the Wave Hub will detract from their surfing excitement, only time will tell whether the surfers' waves lose energy and height as a result of this experimental project.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Access to Energy Archives

Access to Energy is a decidedly "in-your-face" optimistic pro-technology energy news and views website/newsletter.

The first 25 years of Access to Energy are available online in archive form. These articles, essays, editorials, and news reports are presented from a point of view that has been extincted from university campuses, out of political correctness. Fortunately, the internet is a wild-west style wide open information space where you can still find most points of view.

If the monkeys who run universities ever get control of the internet, you can expect a "Ministry of Information" style overseeing of a once-free information space. For an idea of what such a MOI would be like, read George Orwell's 1984.

If your mind is still open after reading this far, congratulations. There may be hope for you yet. In that case, check out the archives to ATE.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Improved Use of Tidal Energy

The tide rises and falls twice a day, every day, as regular as clockwork. Why not tap into the tidal river to produce renewable energy?
Thanks to lessons learned by wind turbine designers, tidal power is already economically competitive, producing electricity at prices similar to wind power, according to feasibility studies by the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry R&D consortium. And it offers a big advantage over wind and other renewables: a precisely predictable source of energy. As a result, developers in the United States have laid claim to the best sites up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In the past four years the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, has issued preliminary permits for tidal installations at 25 sites, and it is considering another 31 applications.

.... "The whole point of doing kinetic hydro is to have a very small environmental footprint," says Dean Corren, Verdant's director of technology development, who designed the tidal turbines in the early 1980s while conducting energy research at New York University.

Corren's team installed its first two turbines in the East River in December. One has been delivering a maximum of 35 kilowatts of power to New York City, swiveling to generate power as the river swells with the high tides and empties with the low. The other turbine delivers performance data that Corren says will be crucial to refining the blades and gearbox, generator, and control system to optimize power generation.

This month Verdant added four more 35-kilowatt turbines. Corren says Verdant is now working on a next-generation design that will be cheaper to mass-produce, in anticipation of installing a farm of at least 100 turbines at the East River site.

Although the absolute quantity of electric power available from the East River may not compare with a large coal or nuclear power plant, the potential is not insignificant. New nuclear power plants will be needed, but adding incremental sources such as wind, tidal, and wave power will help round out the symphony of power sources.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Energy from the Sea

The sea stores massive amounts of energy from both the sun and the wind. The Energy Blog points to a recent news story on marine energy.
After sputtering along for nearly a decade, marine power appears poised to join the alternative energy juggernaut, though the technologies are still in the early stages and have no guarantee of success. Developers are using an array of contraptions — from spinning turbines to bobbing buoys and undulating, snakelike cylinders — to convert ocean or river movements into electricity.

The world's first commercial wave farm is scheduled to launch this summer off Portugal's coast. The first pilot tidal generator in the USA revved up in New York City's East River last December. And the USA's first utility-scale wave project, off Oregon beaches, won preliminary federal approval this year. All told, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has cleared 21 preliminary permits, and about 35 are pending for wave and tidal projects, largely off the West Coast and shores of Florida and New England.

Widespread use of marine energy is about a decade away, says Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader for the Electric Power Research Institute. In 50 years or so, he says, 20% of offshore wave energy could be tapped practically. That, combined with tidal energy, could constitute 10% of all U.S. power sources.

I am particularly interested in any energy technologies that would facilitate the success of seascapes or undersea habitats.


Friday, April 13, 2007

More on Nuclear Power Resurgence

Brian Wang at Advanced Nanotechnology Blog, has a recent post up on the wildly accelerated pace of new nuclear plants to be built in Russia and China.
The United States has not had to rely significantly on nuclear power because energy from the abundant U.S. domestic coal supply (reserves are estimated at 520,494 million tons) is much cheaper than nuclear energy, which requires significant initial capital investment. However, from an economic perspective, energy suppliers are taking a second look at nuclear energy, since expected GHG regulations and requirements for coal plants to use cleaner technology will make coal-powered energy more expensive.

Other factors will add to the growing support for nuclear energy development in the United States. First, Americans too young to have seen the effects of nuclear plant disasters are much more open to nuclear development than the previous generation, particularly as younger citizens grow more concerned about climate change. Second, the notion of energy independence and security is popular with politicians and the public who view nuclear development as a way to make the country less dependent on petroleum from politically unstable regions. Further, environmental groups are beginning to come around to nuclear energy because of its potential role in slowing climate change; some environmentalists have come out in support of nuclear energy as a viable option (though most still prefer alternative energy and energy efficiency measures). A convincing argument for a repository like Yucca Mountain or a successful implementation of GNEP could certainly add to the growing support for nuclear energy development in the United States.

Merely replacing the existing U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors could be worth as much money as all of the planned expansions in France, Russia and China combined. Such a development would not only revolutionize the U.S. domestic nuclear industry but would also lead to expanded nuclear technology research and development worldwide. Also, U.S. acceptance of nuclear energy likely will lead to a quick increase in nuclear operations in other industrialized countries that have been hesitant to pursue further nuclear activity because of safety concerns.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Peak Uranium--As Overblown as Peak Oil?

Recent concerns over CAGW have led many planners--and even environmentalists--to suggest that increased use of nuclear power may reduce CO2 dumping into the atmosphere. But many anti-nuclear activists are claiming that there is a shortage of uranium which prevents any large scale nuclear energy alternatives. What is the reality?

Uranium is a common mineral--as plentiful as tin.
Uranium prices reached an all-time low in 2001, costing US$7/lb, but have since rebounded strongly. As of January 2007, uranium sells at US$72/lb and the price is rising fast. This is the highest price (adjusted for inflation et cetera) in 25 years [2]. The higher price has spurred new prospecting and reopening of old mines. Cameco and Rio Tinto Group are the top two producing companies (with 20% of the production each), followed by Areva (12%), BHP Billiton (9%) and Kazatomprom (9%).
Deposits of uranium lie primarily in Canada, Australia, the US, South Africa, and countries of the former USSR. There is tremendous flexibility in the production of uranium, depending on pricing and political/regulatory conditions. Currently Canada and Australia are the world's major producers, but producers in the third world are gearing up for higher production with Chinese and Russian backing.

Realistically, "Peak Uranium", like "Peak Oil", is an almost meaningless term. Better terminology would refer to pricing of these commodities--which reflects supply, demand, and political/regulatory factors. Although some people have seized upon this report that suggests an impending bottleneck of uranium supplies for the US, more informed individuals with a broader perspective of commodities markets will understand that markets find a way--even when ivory tower academics can only see government action as a solution.

The important thing is to assure that government regulatory agencies do not make it impossible for the market to function.

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