Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Wind Driven Power Surging Globally

windpower

Wind power is thriving in Arizona.

“Globally, the use of wind driven turbines to generate electricity is growing extremely rapidly.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

April 30, 2018—-Wind has long been used as a power source. The earliest use of wind as an energy source probably began with its use to power boats and ships. Evidence indicates that it has been used for this purpose for several thousand years. Both Egyptians and Phoenicians were using primitive sails on boats. Pictorial evidence shows that it was used on the Nile nearly 4000 years ago.

Windmills are believed to have been in use in what is now China and Persia as early as 2000 BC. They came into use to power water pumps and for grinding grain in Europe around the tenth century. Paintings by early Dutch artists often include windmills. They are still widely used to lift water from the ground throughout the arid and semi arid lands. In the United States such windmills are visible throughout the Great Plains region.

wind turbines

Building offshore wind turbines.

Historic Growth of Wind Power

Wind is one of the renewable sources of energy that is rapidly replacing the use of coal to generate electricity. Windmills to generate electricity are a product of the 20th Century, and in the 21st Century there has been a phenomenal growth in the industry. Today a single wind turbine can power up to 500 homes. According to current estimates renewable energy sources will surpass coal by 2045.

Wind Driven Turbines are now in Operation on Both Land and Sea

Not only are wind driven turbines found on land, but they are also being placed in the ocean. Some are in shallow water with their base on the sea floor. Others are now being placed on floating platforms in deeper water. Hywinds, the world’s first floating wind farm recently began operation off the coast of Scotland and extends towards Norway. The project includes five turbines. The turbines will be tethered to the sea bottom in several hundred feet of water. The system was developed by Statoil, a Norwegian oil and gas company.

wind turbines

Building Wind Farms offshore.

Wind Power Usage in the United States

In the United States five states now produce more than twenty percent of their electrical energy from wind farms. These states are all in the Midwest. They are Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Texas is known worldwide for its history of oil production. Now the state of Texas ranks 6th in the world in energy produced from wind when compared to that produced by countries around the world.

The state of Iowa is a leader in the proportion of its energy demands being met of wind driven electrical energy. In 2016 it got 36 percent of its electricity from wind turbines and this is expected to increase to at least 40% by 2020. The town of Georgetown, Texas decided in 2015 to require all of the city’s electricity to be from renewable sources. The town currently gets most of its power from a wind farm in Amarillo and this summer will add solar energy from a West Texas farm.

Wind turbine

Wind farm off the coast of the U.S.

Global Use Growing Rapidly

Globally, the use of wind driven turbines to generate electricity is growing extremely rapidly. The year 2017 saw a record high amount of installed wind power. The capacity increased 11 percent over 2016. In 2017 China was the world’s leader in installing wind energy capacity. The European Union was second in amount. Among the countries projected to make substantial increases in wind power generation are Russia and India, both potentially large markets.
Not only is the total amount of electric energy produced by wind increasing, but other aspects of the industry are increasing as well. For example, in the year 2016 there were more than double the number of employees in the wind industry than in the coal industry. As renewable energy grows, so will job opportunities.

Wind Power

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Looking Back at Renewable Energy in 2014

Turbines have increased in size.

Advancements in wind power have made energy less expensive.

The remaining solid waste will be used to make biofuels. They’re putting contaminated water in and taking out valuable metals, clean water and producing fuel.”

By Linn Smith

January 3, 2015—To start the new year off on a positive note, let’s look back at seven advancements in renewable energy in 2014:

1. Wind power capacity has increased. Wind turbines have become more powerful, more efficient and more affordable. The increased size of the rotors on the wind turbine has raised the turbine’s capacity to generate electricity. By increasing the area of the rotors, from 70 to 100 meters, they can generate more energy at lower wind speeds

2. New research in nanostructure-based technology will make it more efficient for energy conversion in photovoltaic solar cells. The nano materials will allow more light to be trapped for future energy.

3. Advancements in renewable energy storage using quinone molecules, as those found in rhubarb, can be used in flow batteries at 1/3 the cost. (See the Planet Earth Weekly article titled, “The Organic Megaflow Battery.”)

4. A company called Heliateck, based in Dresden, Germany, is a leading company in the production of organic solar film. They have developed tinted glass that can be used on car roofs to generate energy. Also, architectural glass panels and windows incorporating HeliaFilm enable electricity to be generated at very low light levels with a level of high efficiency. “At the moment, Heliatek is making the transition from pure technology development to industrial manufacturing….to bring mass-produced organic solar films.”

In the process, biofuel is made.

Researchers are using algae to clean up contaminated water.

5. A Cornish tin mine in Cornwall, England, which closed in 1992, is using algae to clean up the heavy metals in the toxic water from the mine, while at the same time producing biofuel. This is in the very early stage of development. Researchers are “Converting the algae into a solid form which heavy metals can be extracted and recycled for use in the electronics industry. The remaining solid waste will be used to make biofuels. They’re putting contaminated water in and taking out valuable metals, clean water and producing fuel.”

6. For a twenty-four hour period in 2014, Germany generated almost 75% of its electricity from renewables. Earlier in 2014, renewables produced 27% of the country’s electricity. “Energiewende” for Germany means energy transformation, which has a goal of powering Germany entirely by renewables by 2050. Even though the transition is met by many challenges, the majority of Germany’s population support the change to renewables.

7. Researchers have advanced in the technology of making biofuels from wet farm waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips, is much easier to turn into biofuels, as it doesn’t break down on the way to transformation like wet waste. Researchers at the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) say, “We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment.” It’s a win-win partnership!

So, onward into 2015! Let’s see what it brings in advancements toward a cleaner planet!


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The Organic Megaflow Battery

The megaflow battery would store twice as much energy as a conventional battery.

Working Toward Renewable Energy

“It would store a day’s worth of sunshine from the solar panels on the roof of your house, potentially providing enough to power your household from late afternoon, through the night, into the next morning, without burning any fossil fuels.” Michael Marshak

By Linn Smith

September 3, 2014—What’s new in renewables? It’s not on the market yet, but it’s a metal-free flow battery that stores energy in chemical fluids outside of the battery instead of inside the battery. It can be stored in tanks. This battery, developed by Harvard scientists, can store electricity from solar or wind turbines at a very low cost and the amount of energy stored is only limited by the size of the tanks. To store the energy, the battery uses inexpensive, small organic, naturally occurring, molecules called quinones, which are abundant in green plants. The quinones used by the Harvard team are almost identical to the quinones in rhubarb.

Twice as Much Storage as a Conventional Battery

A team led by Michael Aziz, a physicist at Harvard, administered more than 10,000 charge carrying quinone molecules of a rhubarb like compound and incorporated them into the megaflow battery. Each carbon based molecule holds 2 units of electrical charge, compared to 1 unit in conventional batteries, storing twice as much energy as other batteries. The team showed that the battery works, generates a considerable amount of power and is inexpensive compared to other batteries.

Working towards sustainable future

Quinones are naturally occurring molecules that can store energy.

Using Solar and Wind Energy Night or Day

In a wind turbine field, the tanks could be located underground or above ground or as one of the developers, Michael Marshak of the Harvard team, said, “Imagine a device the size of your furnace sitting in your basement. It would store a day’s worth of sunshine from the solar panels on the roof of your house, potentially providing enough to power your household from late afternoon, through the night, into the next morning, without burning any fossil fuels.”

I like that idea! An idea that furthers our efforts towards saving our planet for future generations!


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Renewable Energy: The World’s First High Altitute Wind Turbine, The Bat

The Bat generates immediate savings by replacing expensive sources of energy in remote areas.

Another Renewable Resource

First Airborne Wind Turbine.

The Airborne Wind Turbine

April 6, 2014–Borrowing from the technology of a blimp which is used to hoist communication equipment, Altaeros Energy was created in 2010 by MIT students for the sole purpose of building the first commercial airborne wind turbine called the Bat (Buoyant Airborne Turbine). Ben Glass designed an array of turbines for his senior project, one of which was the buoyant airborne turbine.The Bat is not anchored to the traditional turbine base, but floats at a high altitude, producing twice as much energy as a regular wind turbine because winds are more consistent at higher altitudes.It’s a “helium filled donut surrounding a rotor.”The Bat will be a low cost alternative to fossil fuels, delivering energy to the furthest points of our earth.

The Bat: Environmentally Friendly and Economical

The Bat is made from a durable fabric and inflated with helium, much like a blimp. The outside shell moves around and lines up with the wind direction, thus channeling wind through the turbine to create electricity. Tethers are connected, which anchor it to the ground and a portable ground station, which is build on a trailer platform for easy mobility. Wenches on the ground station adjust the length and align the shell to keep the tethers from getting tangled. The tethers can be adjusted to an altitude of 1000 ft above the ground, if needed, for peak performance. A weather monitor, camera or sensor equipment can also be added to the shell, giving it multiple functions in places that are isolated and difficult to accommodate traditional turbines.This turbine has less impact on humans and wildlife and will reduce the cost of energy for remote communities.The first turbine will launch in Alaska where the price of electricity can reach $1.00 per kilowatt, much higher than the national average, but with the Bat electricity will cost as little as 18 cents per kilowatt, much less expensive.

Within the next several weeks, a smaller test version of the Bat will be launched. This is a blimp with 3 blades, 18.3 meter diameter and will be tethered 300 meters in the air near Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Bat, another clean resource working towards a healthier planet!


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Scotland’s Wind Power–Not if Trump Gets His Way!

Construction Begins On The New Donald Trump Golf Course By Lin Smith July 13, 2013—In 2006 Donald Trump bought 1400 acres of land near Aberdeen, Scotland, a town of about 220,400 people. Trump states, “When I saw this piece of land I was overwhelmed by the imposing dunes and rugged Aberdeenshire coastline. I knew that this was the perfect site for Trump International – Scotland. I have never seen such an unspoiled and dramatic sea side landscape and the location makes it perfect for our development.” One golf course has been finished, opening in 2012.  Plans also include several more golf courses, a large hotel, 500 homes, nearly a thousand rental apartments, 36 villas, a golf academy and housing for a staff of 400. After “reshaping” the coastal beauty of the land outside of Aberdeen, Trump will have created a $1.2 billion golf course resort.

Trump has met several challenges on the road to building his golf kingdom. First, a man named Michael Forbes, not of Forbes fame and fortune, but a farmer from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Mr. Forbes has painted “NO GOLF COURSE” on his shed and, digging his heals in, has refused to sell his farm to Trump–at any cost, even though The Donald has offered him quite a sum of money to evacuate the premises. Trump has called Mr. Forbes’s land “in need of repair, and an unsightly menace to his golf course patrons.” So, what did the Donald do?? He fenced off part of Forbes’s land even though Forbes owned it! AND, according to Wikipedia, was threatening to use “Compulsory Purchase Order” to force the family out, saying, “The property is a slum and will spoil the view from my new hotel!” And this farmer’s reply—a healthy, “Trump can shove his money up his arse!” Hats off to Mr. Forbes! The struggle between Trump, Forbes, and the other farmers  in close proximity to the golf course, has been made into a documentary appropriately named, “You’ve Been Trumped.” 

Trump’s next challenge to his golf kingdom is wind turbines. Scotland has a long term goal to become completely independent of fossil fuels by the year 2020, and this goal is fast becoming a reality. Renewables such as windpower, biofuels, and energy from tidal waves are currently under development, with an estimated 28,000 jobs being created, making it a step closer to Scotland’s goal of being 100% free from fossil fuels in 7 years. The reality of global warming has driven renewables to the top of Scotland’s political agenda. Their largest political party, the SNP, claims,” Scotland will do more to lead the world in the area of renewable energy, tackling climate change, and do our part in creating a more peaceful and stable planet.”

To Trump’s dismay, the remaining work on his Magic Kingdom for golfers has come to a halt, as Scotland has recently approved its newest windfarm 1.5 miles off the coastal shore of Aberdeen. Trump threatened to sue if the project went forward, but instead has halted his project, threatening to move it to Ireland (does Ireland know??) Trump has said the construction of the 11 massive wind turbines in the Aberdeen Bay will be ” detrimental to tourism, will kill the bird population and will spoil the view from his new hotel!” Sounds to me like the turbines and Mr. Forbes have something in common–they both can make The Donald’s hair stand on end–not an aesthetically pleasing vision either! For the record, the top offenders of bird kill are cats, cars, pesticides, powerlines, windows, and communication towers.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s government and the Aberdeenshire Council have sent a petition to the Scottish Parliament with 20,000 signatures calling for “a public inquiry into the handling of Trump’s controversial golf resort development.”

And, finally, this one made me laugh! A reader’s comment on the article, “Trump and the Turbines” by Theresa Riley, “The sooner Scots see this buffoons erse disappear ower the horizon the better….yer no wanted in Scotland wee donny!”