Alternative power

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Posted by: stak
Posted on: 2008-12-15 00:03:02

It seems like most of the companies capitalizing on alternative ("green") sources of energy (e.g. Bullfrog Power) are harnessing wind and water to generate electricity. Definitely an improvement over coal/oil, but I'm wondering if all we're doing is switching to a less evil alternative.

Using the wind to generate electricity necessarily removes energy from the wind, which means the wind can travel less distance. This is bound to have some sort of effect somewhere, and though it may be negligible now, supermassive wind farms may make it less negligible. And even if it's not negligible it's probably really hard to track and measure properly, which means it's going to be ignored.

Just some food for thought.

Posted by Varun at 2008-12-15 09:41:05
Speaking with my Energy Analyst hat on, there was a study commissioned about this about four years ago by RAND. While I can't seem to find the study on my drive right now, the conclusion was basically that we would need to generate approximately 4,500,000% more electricity than now in order to make a noticeable dent in the earth's energy budget; i.e.: we would run out of places to put said wind and water farms before we made said dent. The long and short of it was that the main problem with wind is dead birds and the main problem with water is dead fish.

Ultimately, the solution rises every day. But getting solar PV panels up to a decent conversion rate (best we've seen in the labs is <40% efficient) is key to making this work. Otherwise, the costs of the panels (both price and impact), make it unsustainable.
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Posted by stak at 2008-12-15 19:15:09
Well, good to know somebody did some studies on it at least :)
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Posted by Varun at 2008-12-15 21:39:02
Yeah. Whew. :)

There are a bunch of weird questions about the various sorts of alternative energy. One of our ex-consultants just did a report on this, and Ars had a good write up just today.
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Posted by Dmitry at 2008-12-19 13:44:02
Harnessing energy from tidal waves and winds will slow the rotation of the earth!

Does man's folly have no boundaries?
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Posted by Varun at 2008-12-19 14:45:21
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