The goal of this site is to provide scientific information and discussion necessary for engineers, energy professionals and policy makers to plan a secure energy future. The time horizon of the information on the site is limited to approximately 50 years because environmental conditions vary, new technologies emerge and priorities of society continuously change. It is therefore not possible to make reliable projections beyond that period. Given this time horizon, this site deals only with technologies that are currently available or are expected to be ready for implementation in the near future.
Energy is the main stray of our industrial society. As the population of the world increases and people strive for a higher standard of living, the amount of energy necessary to sustain our society is ever increasing. At the same time, the availability of non-renewable energy sources is rapidly shrinking. Therefore, there is general agreement that to avoid an energy crisis, the amount of energy needed to sustain society will have to be contained and, to the extend possible, renewable sources will have to be used. As a consequence, conservation and renewable energy technologies are going to increase in importance and reliable, up-to-date information about their availability, efficiency, and cost is necessary for planning a secure energy future.
The timing of this blog also coincides with a new impetus for the use of renewable energy. This impetus comes from the emergence of renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy policies. A renewable portfolio standard requires that a certain percentage of energy used be derived from renewable sources. The details of the renewable portfolio standards and conservation vary, but all of them essentially offer an opportunity for industry to compete for the new markets. Thus, to be successful, renewable technologies will have to become more efficient and cost-effective. Although renewable portfolio standards are a relatively new development, it has already been demonstrated that they can reduce market barriers and stimulate the development of renewable energy. Use of conservation and renewable energy can help meet critical goals for energy source diversity, price stability, economic development, environmental protection and energy security and thereby play a vital role in an energy policy.
The expected growth rate of renewable energy from portfolio standards and other stimulants is impressive. In 2005, photovoltaic production in the world has already topped 1000 MW per year and is increasing at a rate of over 30%. In Germany, the electricity feed-in-laws that value electricity produced from renewable energy sources much higher than that from conventional resources, have created demand for photovoltaic and wind power. As a result, over the years 2005-2007 the photovoltaic power has grown at a rate for more than 50% per year and wind power has grown at a rate of more than 37% in Germany. Recently, a number of other European countries have adopted feed-in laws similar to Germany. In fact, growth of both photovoltaic and wind power has averaged in the range of 35% in European countries.
The information on this blog can be essentially divided in 3 parts:
Information is provided as a survey of current and future worldwide energy issues. The current status of energy policies and stimulants for conservation and renewable energy are given. Economic assessment methods for conservation and generation technologies are covered and the environmental costs of various energy generation technologies are discussed. Use of renewables and conservation will initiate a paradigm shift towards distributed generation and demand-side management.
Although renewables, once in place, produce energy from natural sources and cause very little environmental damage, energy is required in their initial construction. One measure of the energy effectiveness of a renewable technology is the length of time required, after the system begins operation, to repay the energy used in its construction, called the energy payback period. Another measure is the energy return on energy investment ratio. The larger the amount of energy a renewable technology delivers during its lifetime compared to the amount of energy necessary for its construction, the more favorable its economic return on the investment will be and the less its adverse environmental impact. But during the transition to renewable sources a robust energy production and transmission system is required to build the systems. Moreover, because there is a limit to how much of our total energy needs can be met economically in the near future, renewables will have to coexist with non-renewable fuels for some time. Furthermore, the supply of all non-renewable energy sources is finite and their efficient use in meeting our energy needs should be a part of an energy and CO2 reduction strategy. Therefore a perspective on the efficiencies, economics and environmental costs of key non-renewable energy technologies is needed. Also projections for energy supply, demand and prices through the year 2025 are needed.
The transportation system relies heavily on fossil fuels. Engineers predict that worldwide fossil fuel production will reach its peak before 2015 and then begin to decline. At the same time, demand for fossil fuels by an ever-increasing number of vehicles, particularly in China and India is expected to increase significantly. As a result, prices will increase unless we reduce non-renewable energy consumption by increasing the mileage of the vehicle fleet, reducing the number of vehicles by using mass transport and producing renewable energy. The options to prevent an energy crisis in transportation include: hybrid vehicles, biofuels, city planning and mass-transport systems.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that the security of the energy supply and transmission system has been recently placed in jeopardy from various sources, including natural disasters and worldwide terrorism. Consequently, energy infrastructure security and risk analysis are an important aspect of planning future energy transmission and storage systems.
Energy efficiency is defined as the ratio of energy required to perform a specific task or service to the amount of energy used for the process. Improving energy efficiency increases the productivity of basic energy resources by providing the needs of society with less energy. Improving the efficiency across all sectors of the economy is therefore an important objective. The least expensive and most efficient means in this endeavor is energy conservation, rather than more energy production. Moreover, energy conservation is also the best way to protect the environment and reduce global warming.
Recognizing that energy conservation in its various forms is the cornerstone of a successful national energy strategy this blog is also devoted to conservation.
A large part of the blog deals with energy storage and energy generation from renewable sources. One of the most challenging tasks, especially for renewable energy systems that cannot operate continuously is energy storage. The main reason why non-renewables are such convenient energy sources is probably their easy storage. But there are new and relatively undeveloped storage technologies with also includes the design of a robust and intelligent electric energy transmission system. The availability of the renewable sources solar and wind are given as well as renewable generation technologies for solar thermal and photovoltaics and wind power are covered.
We hope this blog will serve as a useful blog to all engineers in the energy field and pave the way for a paradigm shift from non-renewable to renewable energy systems based on conservation and renewable technologies. We recognize the complexity of this task and invite readers to comment on the topics covered.