Alternative Energy Research Paper


The world's sources of fossil fuels are drying up faster than the earth can renew them. Fossil fuels, like coal and oil take the earth thousands of years to reproduce so an effective alternate energy source must be explored. For many years we have been running out of oil. This phenomenon is called the Hubbert peak theory also known as peak oil. Hydrogen is a great option to power an engine. To make hydrogen we can decomposition methane or using electrolysis. There are two methods: combustion, and fuel cell conversion. Nuclear power is also an option to powering a vehicle. As we all know we have to use uranium to produce nuclear power. Biofuel is a fuel that comes from biomass, living organisms, like cow manure. This area is very active, because it can convert biofuels and other fuels into fuel cells (Biofuels)

Alternative Energies
The world's sources of fossil fuels are drying up faster than the earth can renew them. Fossil fuels, like coal and oil take the earth thousands of years to reproduce so an effective alternate energy source must be explored. Fossil fuels or crude oil has been around for a long time and can be refined to form a number of products. Such products include gas, naptha, gasoline, kerosene, gas oil or diesel, and other things. This form of an energy source is used in many things such as generators, electricity, automobiles, aircraft, watercraft, and many other things. While this is a very strong and versatile energy source it still is an excellent energy source. We are also running out of crude oil, a non-renewable resource.

For many years we have been running out of oil. This phenomenon is called the Hubbert peak theory also known as peak oil. The peak oil theory states that every finite resource has a beginning, middle, and an end of production. Production of oil usually follows a bell shape curve when graphed. When oil production reaches the mid-point of it's life it also reaches the peak oil production. This theory was developed by the geologist for Shell oil, named M. King Hubbert. In the 1960's Hubbert predicted oil would peak 40 years from then, putting peak oil production right about now. Since oil is running out we have to start thinking about alternative fuels that are available to us. The problem is not whether these alternative energy sources exist or nor, they do. Should the government fund and give large tax breaks to research into alternative energy sources.

Alternative fuel is any other method of powering an engine without using petroleum. Some of these alternative fuels and methods of powering an engine or the economy are: coal, hydrogen, nuclear power, biofuels, Athabasca Oil Sands in Canada, Venezuelan Orinoco tar sands, green alternatives, and Thermal Depolymerization. These are just few of other methods. The majority of these alternative fuels are arranged to be cheap, non-polluting, and infinite sources of energy. (Hubbert Peak Theory)
Coal is a fossil fuel dug up from the Earth by deep mining. Coal is an extremely important source that produces electricity worldwide. In the United States coal produce over half the electricity consumed by the nation. Coal can be produced into oil by gasification and liquefaction (Coal). This process is called synthetic oil from coal (Life After the Oil Crash). This is a good process because it does not contaminate the environment.

However, coal is not as great as it seems. Coal production will peak approximately 2 decades. "If demand remains frozen at the current rate of consumption, the coal reserves will indeed last roughly 250 years...population growth alone produces the lifetime to some 90-120 years...the use of coal for conversion to other fuels reduces the lifetime of coal to less than a human lifespan" (Life After the Oil Crash).

Hydrogen is a great option to power an engine. To make hydrogen we can decomposition methane or using electrolysis. There are two methods: combustion, and fuel cell conversion. In combustion, hydrogen is burned like in traditional gasoline cars. The combustion cars burn hydrogen directly, and produce water vapor, which is non-polluting. In fuel cell conversion, hydrogen is turned into electricity through fuel cell, which powers the engine (Hydrogen vehicle). Fuel cell conversion is highly efficient.
However, there are problems with this method. The problem with combustion is that hydrogen fuel is used rapidly. The first problem fuel cell conversion has is that hydrogen has a low density. Meaning that the amount that can be stored is limited (Hydrogen vehicle). The second problem is the expensive cost of making a reliable fuel cell that would provide electric power in a hydrogen car. Fuel cell designs require the use of platinum, and platinum will become scarce soon (Life After the Oil Crash). The third problem is that hydrogen is an energy carrier, meaning that it does not produce energy. It has to be produced by fossil fuels (Hydrogen vehicle). The electrolysis process consumes more energy than it produces.

Nuclear power is also an option to powering a vehicle. As we all know we have to use uranium to produce nuclear power. At the rate we are consuming gasoline, there are 50 years left of low cost uranium (Life After the Oil Crash). There are reactors that create inefficient nuclear fuel, which leads to nuclear waste. However, there are more efficient reactors that reduce the amount of nuclear waste. If we use these types of reactors we are still going to have 10,000 to 5 billion years' of uranium for use in these power plants (Nuclear Power).

However, nuclear power is less convenient than what they state. It is dangerous to put a nuclear reactor in your trunk (Life After the Oil Crash). It is also a problem because we do not have the time or the money to build 10,000 power plants to produce the energy we get from fossil fuels (Life After the Oil Crash). It will take $3-5 billion per plant, without including the cost to repair old reactors, and converting nuclear energy appropriate for cars, boats, and airplanes. It takes 10 years to build one of these nuclear power plants (Nuclear Power).
Biofuel is a fuel that comes from biomass, living organisms, like cow manure. This area is very active, because it can convert biofuels and other fuels into fuel cells (Biofuels). Bioenergy develops 15% of the worlds energy use. Biomass can also be used for the making of electricity and heating. There are solid biomasses that can be made into fuel, like: wood, straw, animal waste, husks or shells from crops, and bagasse (Alternative Fuel). There are also liquid biomasses that can be used as fuel: bioalcohols, like ethanol, methanol, and butanol; biological produced oils like, straight vegetable oil, waste vegetable oil, and biodiesel; oil and gases can be produces by methane, and thermal depolymerization. Gaseous biomasses can produce fuel, like: bio-methane, wood gas, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide (Biofuels).
However, biofuels has become less efficient than oil. It consumes more energy than it produces. "It takes 11 acres to grow enough corn to fuel one automobile...for 10,000 miles, or about a year's driving...the amount to feed seven people for the same period of time" Life After the Oil Crash). To replace a small part of our oil supply we would have to turn most of Africa into a giant biofuel farm. It's a great idea, and we can develop it further, but it won't be enough to the rate we consume oil (Biofuels).

The Athabasca Oil Sands are large deposits of tar sands that are located northwestern of Canada and Venezuela Orinoco. It is said that Athabasca contains two thirds of total global oil deposits (Alternative Fuel). It contains 1.6 trillion barrels of oil. With the technology we have today only 311 billion barrels could be extracted (Athabasca Oil Sands).
Then why not get most of our oil supply from the Athabasca Oil sands? According to the Department of Energy it will only lower oil prices less than fifty cents. It will also take 10 years to come online. It will peak at 875,000 barrels per day, but not until 2025. By then we would need 35 million barrels per day, while the world needs 120 million barrels per day (Life After the Oil Crash).

Green alternatives like, solar, wind, wave, and geothermal power are fine ways to power the nation, better yet the world. Geothermal energy comes from radioactive decay from the core of the Earth. Which heats the Earth inside out, and the sun heats the surface. There are three ways to produce geothermal energy: geothermal electricity, geothermal heating through deep Earth pipes, and geothermal heating through a heat pump (Geothermal Power). The most renewable energy is solar energy, energy coming directly from sunlight. Solar power can be made by: generating electricity using solar cells, generating electricity using thermal power plants, generating electricity using solar towers, heat buildings, heat buildings through heat pumps, and heat foodstuffs through solar ovens (Solar Energy). When the sun heats up the earth unevenly, it creates winds. Wind is able to run wind turbines capable of producing electricity. Some areas do not have prevailing wind power so it's best to put them offshore or at high altitudes, the wind is more continuous. Waterpower can be harnessed and used (Wind Energy). Like water is a thousand times heavier than air, even a slow stream of water can produce large amounts of energy. There are many forms of waterpower: hydroelectric energy, tidal power, tidal stream power, wave power, ocean thermal energy conversion, and deep lake water-cooling (Water Power).

However, green alternative is not a good idea. The green alternatives have limited capacity, compared to fossil fuels. "California's 13,000 wind turbines generate as much electricity like a single 555-megawatt natural gas fired power plant" (Life After the Oil Crash). To replace a drilling platform that pumps 12,000 barrels of oil per day we would have to build 706 wind turbines (Wind Energy). The combined output of all solar cells in the world is less than 40% of the output of a single coal power plant. The amount of energy distributed by one gas station in one day is equal to the amount of energy that four Manhattan size city blocks of solar equipment produces. To power the whole Earth with solar panels it will take 220,000 square kilometers (Solar Energy). These options only produce energy at certain times or conditions of the day. In order to power a small portion of Earth we would need trillions of dollars to build hydrogen-powered cars, trucks, boats, and air plains; need thousands of dollars to build oil-powered factories; build an expensive refueling and maintenance network; and we would need huge amounts of platinum, silver, and copper (Life After the Oil Crash).

All of these alternative energies and fuels cannot compare to the efficiency oil produces for us. These alternatives were too expensive, there was not enough time, and more energy was put in to produce than it produced, or it was an underdeveloped idea. All of the alternative energies need a little bit of maturity to produce something as proficient as oil.
Recently many countries have become increasingly interested in indigenous, renewable energy sources, such as tidal energy as an alternate to fossil fuels for the production of electricity. Tidal energy is a huge source of renewable energy and holds great potential for future electricity generation. Tidal power is predictable, unlike solar power or wind energy. Though, even using modern day technological advances the amount of energy generated will still not totally cover and resolve the world's energy supply problems. Alternative energy is an option that needs to be put into play. It is proven wind generators have a very mild, hardly if any effect on the environment. If anything a bird might fly into the propellers or a cluster of wind generators might somehow generate a magnetic field disrupting migratory bird's route during migration season. Another problem would be lack of wind. Imagine if we relied mostly or entirely on wind power, if we had no wind going things would be thrown into chaos and confusion, people would be helpless in some places, looting would be abundant and many other problems would be occurring.

The curiosity of mankind has led to the discovery of various types of energy, the most essential being nuclear energy. It has become such a necessity over the years that humans cannot survive without it. Nuclear energy provides us with relatively cheap electricity, it helps expand the making of drugs and the equipment in the medical field, and the most vital of all, nuclear weapons. When Einstein and Hahn first began exploring this fascinating kind of energy, their intentions were not to use it as weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, that is what humans have made of them. Nuclear Weapons are a threat to the world; they are harmful to the environment and its inhabitants, they are indestructible and they cause competition between nations.

Nuclear power has been around since the early 1950s. It is clean with the exception of producing of radioactive waste which has to be stored somewhere, plus there is a risk nuclear meltdown. It is still extremely efficient, for example a golf ball sized lump of uranium can fuel a nuclear powered submarine for 13,700 leagues or 66144 kilometres. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and makes up 99 percent of the total amount of uranium on the earth. I can't explain the process of nuclear reactors in one small paragraph so I'll just say that heat from the uranium is used heat water, create steam, and that steam spins turbines. So what do you think about coastal wind farms? Are you all for them, unsure, or completely against them? Well these wind turbines have caused a real uproar and this project of coastal wind farms haven't adapted to the public as the government thought they would. It's now staring to look as though it's been more trouble than what it's worth.

The Victorian government has designed on installing 2000 megawatts of energy production by 2010, which is the equivalent of 1200 to 1500 wind turbines. There are at present 27 operating wind turbines in Victoria, 14 at Codrington near Warrnambool, 1 on the Bellarine Peninsula, and 12 at Toora here, in South Gippsland. Each turbine stands between 100-130 metres tall, the equivalent of a 35-40-storey building, and the next generation is said to be even bigger.
This sounds good, positive, it's clean and renewable energy, pollution free, but it was where the turbines were to be placed that outraged the public. They were to be placed overlooking some of our most pressured landscapes on our coasts, like 'Wilson's Promontory', 'The Great Ocean Road' at Nirranda, 'The Bay of Islands', 'Discovery Bay', 'Cape Bridgewater', 'Logans Beach', 'Corner Inlet', 'Bald Hills', and 'Kilcunda' Coastal wind farm projects have become a problem as they have already, and will continue to have a devastating visual impact on our beautiful coasts, ruining the natural landscapes that values Australia's Coastline. The sight of our coastlines has been obscured by these giants and is said to be industrialising our coast, which is hypocritical.
As much as the coastal communities are fighting for their coast to stay the way it is, the government doesn't seem to be listening.

This is only one disadvantage of these coastal wind farms, as there are many difficulties that have contributed to these projects. Another complaint is that wind farm developments could actually wipe millions of dollars from Victoria's coastal property market, which has already occurred of up 30%. Landowners within 2 kilometres of Toora Wind farms have struggled desperately to sell their properties, and those who found buyers had to sell well below the market price. This price is also expected to drop even further if more wind farm developments near the coast start to take off like the expected wind farms near Cape Liptrap, which is said to have devastating effects on land values and it's scenery.
The noise factor is another problem, which has been an issue after some of these developments. People have been forced to abandon their dream homes from the coasts because of the tremendous noise of these wind farms. Mr. Stephen Garito, who said he had to leave his peaceful country lifestyle because of the low frequency, humming noise that is generated by the blades as they pass the towers and high speeds, which he said, created a similar effect to nightclub music. It was like a disco beat coming from a few blocks away rising and falling all day and all night. Even with all the windows and blinds shut, it still didn't stop the irritating noise, making them unable to sleep at night. The glare from the rotating blades was also a major turnoff for prospective buyers, and they complained as the flicker was worse than noise and drove you crazy. There was also the cost issue of establishing a wind farm development as each turbine would cost approximately $2.8 million (Australian) to be installed, therefore a 40-turbine wind farm would cost around $122 million.

That was the bad side of this situation, and believe it or not there is also a good positive side and some advantages to be had with these wind farm developments starting with electricity. A modern 1.75 MW will produce approximately 5 million kilowatt hours of generation per year, which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 900-1000 Victorian households. Wind farm energy is also a renewable resource of clean pollution free energy. Electrical energy is essential to billions of people around the world as we rely on it for the simplest things like light to read and water for the shower, but the conventional sources of power come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas, oil, or from nuclear fuels. Apart from the fear of fossil fuel shortages, they are destroying our planet and changing the climate, which has warmed by about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the last 300 years and about 0.5 degrees Celsius of that warming occurring in the last 100 years, which is a great concern. This change is due to the increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases, which these burning fossil fuels have created and scientific models predict that the average global temperature will rise by a further 3 degrees Celsius by the next century, unless change takes place now. With the global temperatures changing, this is also leading to the ice caps in the artic and Antarctic waters already melting, which is leading to sea level rises. The result of this on human and natural environments could be devastating as rising sea levels could submerge whole islands, flood low lying areas in many countries and without doubt push entire species to extinction. An alternative generation of clean energy source like wind farms are a growing importance and a global priority for future generations, as a modern 1.75 MW wind turbine would annually displace approximately 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from other electricity sources.
There is also the fact that jobs will be created through wind farm developments including coastal wind farm developments of about 30-50 local jobs during construction, and atleast 5 permanent jobs for operation and maintenance. As the supply of wind farm energy is greater then electrical energy, and depending on the normal economic theory, electrical prices will drop and the power quality should increase.

The best advantage of coastal wind farms apart from the general advantages above is that wind turbines can actually be placed on concrete pillars in the water off the shore. So unlike wind farms inland, which still leaves more than 97% of the land it's situated on for farming and grazing, these coastal wind farms won't ruin views and sceneries as they will hardly be seen. At Port Phillip, Western Port and Corio bays, 300 wind turbines are planned to be erected across these bays by the Nepean Wind Energy Company. The 140 metre high, 54 metre long bladed turbines are said to be built in water depths of up to 25 metres outside shipping lanes and away from areas with significant bird population. The facility could produce almost half of the State Government's target for wind energy in a single project, and the company claims the project will result in a reduction in the state's output of greenhouse gases by 1.8 million tonnes and provide enough power for 260,000 homes. These wind farms will also allow energy users in Melbourne and Geelong to contribute to producing pollution free energy and it is said that 'A project of this scale has the potential to give Melbourne an iconic and sustainable feature.

Tags
Related Essays Science