New study says world can be completely powered by clean energy in 20-40 years
By Darren Quick
18:54 January 27, 2011
According to a new study, 100 percent of the world's energy needs can be met by renewable sources in 20-40 years
Here at Gizmag we cover a seemingly endless stream of renewable energy technologies designed to wean us off our reliance on fossil fuels and improve the health of the planet. As important as such developments are, for these technologies to have an impact they must of course be implemented – and on a large scale. What has been sorely lacking is a plan to accomplish such a Herculean feat. Now researchers from the University of California-Davis and Stanford University have published a study that details one scenario to completely convert the world to clean, renewable energy sources – and they say it could be done in 20 to 40 years using technology available today at costs comparable to fossil fuel-based energy.
Electricity the key
The two part paper coauthored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, of UC-Davis, evaluates not only the technology required, but also the costs and material requirements for converting the planet to renewable energy sources. Their plan would see the world running predominantly on electricity, with 90 percent of this sourced from wind and solar. The remainder would be made up from geothermal and hydroelectric sources, which would provide around four percent each, while wave and tidal power would contribute the remaining two percent.
For our transport energy needs, cars, trucks, motorbikes, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells, while aircraft would be fueled by liquid hydrogen. Commercial processes would also be powered by electricity and hydrogen, which would be produced using electricity. Meanwhile, our homes would eschew natural gas and coal in favor of electric heaters, while water would be preheated by the sun.
20 to 40 years
"We wanted to quantify what is necessary in order to replace all the current energy infrastructure – for all purposes – with a really clean and sustainable energy infrastructure within 20 to 40 years," said Jacobson.
To that end, the plan would see all new energy generation coming from wind, water and solar by 2030, and all pre-existing energy production converted by 2050. The researchers say that the millions of lives saved by the reduction in air pollution and a 30 percent reduction in world energy demand – thanks to the conversion of combustion processes to the more efficient electrical and hydrogen fuel cell processes – would help keep the cost of such a conversion down.
"When you actually account for all the costs to society – including medical costs – of the current fuel structure, the costs of our plan are relatively similar to what we have today," Jacobson said.
Addressing variability of solar and wind
To overcome that variability of wind and solar and ensure there is a reliable base load of energy Jacobson says wind, water and solar energy sources could be combined as a single commodity as they are generally complimentary. Solar peaks during the day, while wind generally peaks at night, and hydroelectric could be used used to fill the gaps.
The plan also envisages the connection of geographically diverse regions using long-distance transmission to overcome energy shortfalls in a given area. If the wind or solar energy generation conditions are poor in a particular area on a given day, connecting widely dispersed sites would allow electricity to be provided from a few hundred miles away where the sun is shining or the wind blowing.
"With a system that is 100 percent wind, water and solar, you can't use normal methods for matching supply and demand. You have to have what people call a supergrid, with long-distance transmission and really good management," said Delucci.
Additionally, off-peak electricity could be used to produce hydrogen for the industrial and transportation sectors and, as it is today, pricing could be used to control peak demands.
While the large-scale construction of wind and solar power plants would require large amounts of materials, the researchers found that even rare materials, such as platinum and the rare earth metals, are available in sufficient amounts for their plan to be realized. They say recycling could also be used to extend the supply further.
"For solar cells there are different materials, but there are so many choices that if one becomes short, you can switch," Jacobson said. "Major materials for wind energy are concrete and steel and there is no shortage of those."
Crunching the numbers
The researchers also calculated how many wind turbines, solar plants, rooftop photovoltaic cells, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal and wave-energy installations would be required to provide 100 percent of the world’s energy needs. They found that 0.4 percent of the world’s land would be needed – mostly dedicated to solar – and that the spacing between installations – mostly wind turbine spacing – would add another 0.6 percent, much of which could be used for other purposes.
"Most of the land between wind turbines is available for other uses, such as pasture or farming," Jacobson said. "The actual footprint required by wind turbines to power half the world's energy is less than the area of Manhattan."
Long way to go
Already 70 percent of the hydroelectric sources needed to realize the plan are already in place, but only about one percent of the wind turbines required and an even lesser percentage of solar power. But the researchers say their plan is doable.
"This really involves a large scale transformation. It would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system," Jacobson says. “But it is possible, without even having to go to new technologies. We really need to just decide collectively that this is the direction we want to head as a society."
User Comments (4)
It is too much optimism. Even simple box type solar cooker which is more than 50 years old is still to take off!
Anumakonda Jagadeesh - January 27, 2011 @ 08:14 pm PST
Spring-loaded USB concept seeks to end plug-in frustration
By Paul Ridden
12:42 January 27, 2011
The Double USB concept from designer Ma Yi Xuan would allow users to plug in a device without first making sure the connector was the right way up
Admittedly, it's not a major headache, but it is an irritation nonetheless. I'm talking about having to make sure that the male USB-A connector is the right way up before you slot it into the female socket. Designer Ma Yi Xuan has come up with one of those simple, effective ideas where you have to wonder why no one else has gone there before. The Double USB concept features a couple of spring-loaded plastic connectors laid one on top of the other with the metal strips pointing inwards. The idea is that whichever way you push in your USB plug, it will always connect.
The way it is at the moment, a USB-A plug generally consists of a metal housing that encases a plastic divider sporting connector strips facing inward, that sits at one end of the housing. A similar plastic divider sits at one end of the receiving port on the device, again with the strips facing inward. When the two are brought together, a lovely snug and secure connection is made and whatever you're connecting via USB begins to work... but you have to make sure that you insert the USB connector the right way up.
True, if you don't get it the right way up, then it won't push into the receiving port and you just turn it over in your hand and try again. However, the Double USB design from Ma Yi Xuan makes things even simpler. As you push a USB connector into the port on your device, whichever of the two plastic contact plates inside the metal housing is blocked by the receiving port's equivalent simply pushes back within the outer shell of the double USB connector end. This leaves the other to marry up with the device port's contact strips and away you go. When you pull the plug out, the spring brings back the hidden contact plate for next time.
For those of us who have wasted way too much time fumbling and stretching behind an inaccessible computer tower – so much so that it would have been much better just to pull the whole thing out from its cubby hole, connect the USB device in plain view and then push it back in – this would be most welcome indeed. We only hope that the mighty powers who oversee the world of USB take note, and something like this is made real in the near future.
User Comments (6)
It should be fool proof (Rugged) as many handle it roughly.
Anumakonda Jagadeesh - January 27, 2011 @ 08:21 pm PST
Lilypad floating city concept
By Darren Quick
23:04 January 26, 2011
The Lilypad floating city concept is designed to house climate change refugees
With global sea levels predicted to rise significantly over the next century due to climate change, a lot of people living in low lying areas are expected to be displaced from their homes. Architect Vincent Callebaut has come up with a possible relocation destination for these climate change refugees in the form of the “Lilypad” concept – a completely self-sufficient floating city that would accommodate up to 50,000.
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With a shape inspired by the highly ribbed leaf of Victoria water lilies, the double skin of the floating “ecopolis” would be made of polyester fibers covered by a layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), which would react with ultraviolet rays and absorb atmospheric pollution via a photocatalytic effect in the same way as the air-purifying concrete and paving stones we looked at last year.
Three marinas and three mountains would surround a centrally located artificial lagoon that is totally immersed below the water line to act as ballast for the city. The three mountains and marinas would be dedicated to work, shopping and entertainment, respectively, while suspended gardens and aquaculture farms located below the water line would be used to grow food and biomass.
The floating city would also include the full complement of renewable energy technologies, including solar, thermal, wind, tidal, and biomass to produce more energy than it consumes. The Lilypads could be located close to land or set free to follow the ocean currents wherever they may lead.
While Callebaut‘s Lilypad concept is admirable in its aim of providing a home for displaced climate change refugees, it seems that these same people would be the last ones to be able to afford a place on what would likely be an enormously expensive piece of real estate.
Callebaut’s hope that the Lilypad becomes a reality by 2100 might also make it too late to benefit those worst affected by any rise in sea levels. Still, like the Green Float and Ark Hotel concepts, it’s an eye-catching design that will hopefully get people thinking about ways to tackle the looming problem of climate change refugees.
User Comments (14)
Is not SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE there.
Here is an Energy Island concept developed by Dominic Michaelis:
Anumakonda Jagadeesh - January 27, 2011 @ 08:19 pm PST
Energy Island: unlocking the potential of the ocean as a renewable power source
By Kyle Sherer
15:23 January 28, 2008
Energy Island sketch
Image Gallery (5 images)
January 29, 2008 While governments and corporations were exploring petroleum as a fuel source in the 19th century, Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval proposed another liquid source for power – the ocean. It may have taken a hundred years, but his ideas are finally starting to come into fruition. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion uses the temperature difference between surface and deep-sea water to generate electricity – and though it has an efficiency of just 1-3% - researchers believe an OTEC power plant could deliver up to 250MW of clean power, equivalent to one eighth of a large nuclear power plant, or one quarter of an average fossil fuel power plant. Architect and engineer Dominic Michaelis and his son Alex, along with Trevor Cooper-Chadwick of Southampton University are developing the concept with plans of putting the theory to the test on an unprecedented scale by building a floating, hexagonal Energy Island that will harness energy from OTEC, as well as from winds, sea currents, waves, and the sun.
The US National Renewal Energy Laboratory estimates that the world’s tropical seas absorb the solar power equivalent of 250 billion barrels of oil per day. OTEC uses warm surface water to vaporize a fluid with a low boiling point, typically ammonia or propane, and pumps cooler water from depths of up to 1000 meters below the surface to re condense the fluid. The movement of the liquid through the system is enough to continually power a turbo-generator. The simplistic nature of the station, which behaves almost like a gigantic internal combustion engine, allows OTEC power plants to be largely self-sufficient. And unlike wind and solar energy, which have a fluctuating output that changes according to the weather and the time of day, the regularity of ocean temperatures and movements provide a far more stable and consistent source of power.
The Energy Island project is bidding for the US$25 million funding offered by Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Prize, which is awarded for environmentally responsible research. The OTEC technology is something of a green dream; not only is it clean and renewable, but so are its by-products. By subjecting the steam to electrolysis, large quantities of hydrogen can be produced, paving the way for cheaper hydrogen fuel cells. And by using an Open-cycle OTEC - where low-pressure containers boil seawater and condense the steam elsewhere after passing it through the turbo-generator – large amounts of fresh water can be created. Energy Island is also packed to the brim with other renewable energy collectors, with wind, wave, current and solar sources providing a total of 73.75 MW.
Michaelis estimates it would take a chain of 4-8 Energy Islands to achieve the production levels of a nuclear power plant. To replace nuclear power entirely, Michaelis estimates a chain of 3708 modules would be required, stretched over a total length of 1928 kilometres, and consuming a total square area of roughly 30 by 30 kilometres. To shoulder the entire global energy consumption, based on 2000 figures, 52 971 Energy Islands would be needed, occupying a total area of 111 x 111 kilometres - described on the Energy Island site as “a pin point in the oceans.” Though the Islands have to be spread out to be effective, their location doesn’t infringe on otherwise usable real estate, as is the case with land power stations, and some bioethanol farms. Michaelis claims that in certain areas, chains of Energy Islands may even help maintain the environment, by combating erosion from the predicted rising sea levels, supporting deep-water ecosystems and aquaculture, and cooling greenhouses.
Energy Island isn’t the first project to portray OTEC as the solution to Earth’s power and pollution woes. Previous plans for the technology, most notably John Craven’s, have been positively utopic. Craven saw OTEC not only as a source of cheap power and water, but also as a method for accelerating crop growth, and, (no utopia would be complete without it), a provider of free air conditioning. Project Windfall, meanwhile, was a plan authored by a Florida group that involved installing an OTEC plant in order to reduce the hurricanes that routinely ravage the east coast.
But while OTEC has captured the imagination of scientists, it has not had nearly so much success with governments. The United States established the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in 1974, viewing the high electricity costs of the state, and the dynamics of the surrounding water, as the ideal testing ground for OTEC technology. The NEL successfully demonstrated a 250 kW closed-cycle plant in 1999, but ultimately the money evaporated faster than the water, and Congress shifted attention to more economical areas of research. OTEC could be commercially viable, said test director Luis Vega, but it needed “patient funding” to reach that stage.
Only now, with rising oil prices and the increasingly cataclysmic predictions of global warming, could OTEC receive the “patient funding” necessary for progress. Plans for OTEC plants are being entertained by the governments of Japan, Taiwan, India, South Africa, the Philippines and the US, which recently passed a bill that gives OTEC, and tidal, wave, and ocean current research, $50 million per year for five years.
However, the next breakthrough in OTEC research may well come from the armed forces. The US government has been directing its various departments into funding and using renewable energy – in an example that must give Democrats migraines of confusion, Guantanamo Bay receives a quarter of its power from wind energy. By 2025, the Pentagon is to increase its renewable energy use to 25% of its total power. The Navy is planning to build an 8MW OTEC facility in 2009, near the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, while the Army is planning to build an OTEC facility in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.
As the Energy Island site states, despite being 100 years old, OTEC is in its infancy. But given the renewed interest, and the multitude of various benefits, it’s possible that the next 100 years of this concept could profoundly change the energy and environmental management of the Earth.
Floating-Gate Device may revolutionize computer memory
By Paul Ridden
07:14 January 26, 2011
Researchers have developed a single 'unified' device that can perform both volatile and nonvolatile memory operation, with applications that could affect computer start times and energy efficiency for internet servers
A team of researchers from North Carolina State University claim to have created a memory device that could give computer users the speed advantages of DRAM system memory and the data retention capabilities of flash memory, in one unit. The new device could lead to genuine instant-on computing and machines with improved resiliency. The development may even lead to power-hungry server farms making considerable energy savings by allowing parts of the system to be shut down during periods of inactivity without fear of data loss.
The new scalable, dual-metal device is called a double floating-gate field effect transistor (FET) and is said to combine the advantages offered by two forms of computer memory currently in common usage. Nonvolatile memory, like that used in USB flash drives, allows data to be retained after the power is turned off while the volatile variety, like the memory modules slotted into a mainboard, offers faster read and write access but needs constant power for the retention of stored data.
Currently in the testing phase of development, the new FET device stores data as electric charge and uses a special control gate to quickly get to the stored data. Whereas modern nonvolatile flash memory uses a single floating gate to store the charge for long term data retention, the new device utilizes a second gate which is said to give the device transfer speeds comparable to current volatile DRAM memory. The researchers also believe that the new technology could "have a very long lifetime, when it comes to storing data in the volatile mode."
Unifying volatile and nonvolatile memory
The device's state is determined by its threshold voltage, and can be switched between the volatile and nonvolatile states quickly on a row-by-row basis. In bulk form, the device is said to be scalable to at least the 16nm node and can be three-dimensionally stacked using deposited layers of indium-gallium-zinc-oxide amorphous semiconductors, which have the potential to achieve better performance than amorphous silicon transistors. A stack of four devices could have similar densities to an 8nm node.
The research team believes that the new double floating gate FET device could potentially offer instant-on functionality, as the computer would not need to retrieve startup information from a hard drive. It should also lead to improvements in a computer's ability to withstand and recover from faults and could solve energy-proportional computing problems.
For instance, when a computer or server is just performing background tasks, the double gate allows portions of the memory to be powered down and reactivated as necessary without losing data. This could lead to enormous power savings at server farms, which currently need to maintain constant power throughout the whole system, even at times of low usage.
User Comments (1)
Anumakonda Jagadeesh - January 26, 2011 @ 08:57 am PST
Breakthrough promises $1.50 per gallon synthetic gasoline with no carbon emissions
By Mike Hanlon
05:26 January 26, 2011
Cella Energy CEO Stephen Voller exhibits his breakthrough technology - right shows the fuel's hydrogen microbeads under a microscope
UK-based Cella Energy has developed a synthetic fuel that could lead to US$1.50 per gallon gasoline. Apart from promising a future transportation fuel with a stable price regardless of oil prices, the fuel is hydrogen based and produces no carbon emissions when burned. The technology is based on complex hydrides, and has been developed over a four year top secret program at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford. Early indications are that the fuel can be used in existing internal combustion engined vehicles without engine modification.
According to Stephen Voller CEO at Cella Energy, the technology was developed using advanced materials science, taking high energy materials and encapsulating them using a nanostructuring technique called coaxial electrospraying.
“We have developed new micro-beads that can be used in an existing gasoline or petrol vehicle to replace oil-based fuels,” said Voller. “Early indications are that the micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without engine modification.”
“The materials are hydrogen-based, and so when used produce no carbon emissions at the point of use, in a similar way to electric vehicles”, said Voller.
The technology has been developed over a four-year top secret programme at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, UK.
The development team is led by Professor Stephen Bennington in collaboration with scientists from University College London and Oxford University.
Professor Bennington, Chief Scientific Officer at Cella Energy said, “our technology is based on materials called complex hydrides that contain hydrogen. When encapsulated using our unique patented process, they are safer to handle than regular gasoline.”
User Comments (19)
Congratulations. Major breakthrough in fuel source.
Anumakonda Jagadeesh - January 26, 2011 @ 08:56 am PST