Peak Oil & Climate Change

Almost everybody has heard about climate change but not so many have heard about peak oil. These two links will take you to a brief summary of each each topic:

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The important thing to remember, though, is that we already have the technology to solve both these problems. It is already possible to generate all the zero-carbon electricity we need.

Wind turbines have grown 10 times bigger and 100 times more powerful in the last 20 years.

A single wind turbine, with twice the wingspan of a jumbo jet, and standing taller than the Statue of Liberty, can now power a small town. The paid article describing this is here. A related (free) article is here.

We can also reduce demand by using ‘intelligent devices’ that switch themselves off when demand is too high. So-called “Dynamic Demand” technologies could save us the equivalent of one or two whole power stations!

Concentrated solar power mirror arrays covering just 1% of the Earth’s deserts could supply a fifth of all current global energy consumption.

Of course the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so new technologies are needed to capture and store energy for when it gets dark or the wind stops. Vanadium flow batteries can store huge amounts of energy.  Compressed Air Energy Storage also offers huge possibilities, with reduced CO2 emissions. In Europe we are developing ‘Advanced CAES’ which will emit no CO2.

Tidal power is generating energy in France (tidal barrage) , Norway (‘underwater windmill’) and also the UK (which led to this article: ‘Rise of British Sea Power‘).

Enhanced Geothermal Energy can now be used to generate unlimited, carbon neutral geothermal energy just about anywhere in the world. It is seen by some as the “killer application of the energy world“, and Google.org is investing heavily.

Waste plant materials (sugar cane, wood chips, grain from breweries) can also be used to generate ‘biomass’ power.

With all these different ways of generating renewable energy, several communities around the world have already switched to generate all or nearly all of their electricity from renewable sources.

These communities include:

In fact several more towns in  Europe are already 100% renewable and many others around the world are beginning to make the switch (Frieburg, Masdur, New Zealand, …)

It is possible. Life is better with renewables. It is just a question of choosing to make the Transition.

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If you find a link to a website or an article that is interesting and relevant, please add it by using the “comment” function on the appropriate page.

For example, there’s a link here to the Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy that explains why nuclear energy is “a dangerous cul-de-sac”.

And the Guardian has a rather excellent ‘Energy’ section, here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/energy

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6 Responses to Peak Oil & Climate Change

  1. Cian Duggan says:

    Peak oil and district heat schemes.

    Because we at Colour Eco (www.coloureco.com) are being asked by more clients about CHP (Combined Heat and Power) systems to generate electricity and heat, I went along to a Central London Energy Managers Group discussion last week where district heat schemes were being discussed.

    Primarily, the discussion focussed on the Pimlico heat scheme (which was once heated by the Battersea powerstation, now it’s powered by a couple of CHP systems and extra heaters for winter use)

    There was also a presentation by the LDA who outlined their blueprint for “heat highways” across London, matching up producers of heat (CHP systems etc) and users (from commercial to domestic users).

    Which really got me thinking – district heat schemes are ideal for smaller communities, locally produced electricity with the excess heat being used to heat local homes and businesses. Does anyone else have ideas / contacts for the Farnham area? Biomass seems a good solution given we are in the most wooded county in the UK…

    Any and all contact gratefully recieved – cian.duggan@coloureco.com

    Cian

  2. Kathryn Brooke says:

    I began investing in geothermal energy in Australia in 2007, and it’s not nearly as simple as the video link above suggests. There have been all kinds of complications in applying the technology in other areas of the world, as the hot rock is not as close to the surface as in Australia or Iceland, and trying to fracture the granite has often resulted in tremors and instability in surrounding populated areas. In addition, the flow through this granite layer is often insufficient to allow commercially viable and consistent supplies of energy. One Australian company has developed a promising heat-exchange technology that does not require drilling into the granite layer; another has designed its own drilling equipment, rather than using available oil-drilling equipment. Improvements are going on all the time, but its viability outside of certain areas is pretty limited at present and remains to be proved as a viable, large-scale energy supply.

  3. finnjackson says:

    We may also be able to get energy from some of the waste we produce, a process known as ‘waste to energy’.

    There’s a wikipedia article about it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste-to-energy

    One such technology is plasma gasification. One company that comes high in a google search for plasma gasification is linked here: http://www.recoveredenergy.com/ and there’s an explanation how it works here: http://science.howstuffworks.com/plasma-converter.htm

    I know from a planning application for an incineration plant near where I used to live that not all these technologies are perfect yet. But the point is that there are alternative ways to create local energy, if we look for them and develop them.

  4. Tom says:

    I absolutely agree on being wary about ‘snake oil’. With our use of fossil fuels we are literally burning off millions of years of plant growth. Replacing that from current plant production is a bit of a stretch and per unit area we can capture more energy with existing solar panels than via plants. I have seen figure (for the UK anyway) of about 10% of our existing liquid (transport) fuel use from agriculture.

    The other 90% can be met from electricity, mainly off-peak and in future excess renewables. Existing battery technology cannot match the energy density of liquid fuels but with most trips under 30 miles, a combination could close the gap. Plug-in electricity for the short trips and biofuels to handle the greater endurance needed for the more occasional longer trips. See http://www.pluginamerica.org/ and http://www.nicecarcompany.co.uk/ for some off-the-shelf answers.

    Now, if only Farnham had some recharging points….

    .. and hot off the press (OK, phone), I just learnt that the electric scooter I want to get (http://www.allelectricbicycles.co.uk/images/ped-large.jpg) just arrived in the country!

  5. finnjackson says:

    Here’s a book that says we can grow all the transport fuel we need from plants and distill them to create alcohol plus animal feed plus CO2 sequestered into the soil plus….

    http://www.alcoholcanbeagas.com/book_menu/360/518

    Sounds too good to be true. But the approach certainly sounds good!

    This report from the New York Times, however, is rather more measured. It weighs up the evidence and closes with the quote: “The issue here is the fate of the planet, not the fate of a particular industry.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/18/opinion/18tue2.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

    My conclusions?
    1) The total impact of any new industry can be hard to see, but if we want our future to be sustainable then it is the total impact that we need to measure
    2) Beware snake-oil salesmen, but by god we need something!!

  6. Rob Simpson says:

    Newly established UK taskforce on peak oil has published a report
    called The Oil Crunch. See Guardian article “UK firms fear collapse of
    oil supplies will mean devastation for economy”.

    Visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/oct/29/fossil-fuels-oil

    The taskforce’s report is at http://www.peakoiltaskforce.net

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