Monday, May 08, 2006

What to do about high fuel prices?

Make them even higher...

Before you get your knickers in a knot over having to pay more to use your car and all the other costs affected by high fuel prices, let me explain.

What is the sole reason alternative energy sources are still regarded as novelties by the general public? Simply because oil has been so cheap for so long, people have gotten used to having their energy source 'on tap' and cheap, any attempts to show an alternative energy source (that is usually more expensive) have been ignored. When they have been taken notice of, it is generally in the form of a cockroach shaped solar car that has no link to the real world and is thusly thought of as a novelty.

Raising the price, even artificially through taxes) will make alternative power sources start to look viable to the general community. And as an added bonus, the extra tax revenue could be put striaght back into energy research programmes. Of course it will go through the normal channels and end up only a fraction of what was collected.

A couple of nice concepts that need more research funding:
    • Power Towers
      Power Towers (also know as 'Central Tower' power plants or 'Heliostat' power plants (power towers) use an array of flat, moveable mirrors (called heliostats) to focus the sun's rays upon a collector tower (the target). The high energy at this point of concentrated sunlight is transferred to a substance that can store the heat for later use. The more recent heat transfer material that has been successfully demonstrated is liquid sodium. Sodium is a metal with a high heat capacity, allowing that energy to be stored and drawn off throughout the evening. That energy can, in turn, be used to boil water for use in steam turbines. Water had originally been used as a heat transfer medium in earlier power tower versions (where the resultant steam was used to power a turbine). This system did not allow for power generation during the evening.
    • Solar Tower
      Solar Tower technology is not simply solar energy. Solar Tower technology is created when the sun’s radiation is used to heat a large body of air, which is then forced by the laws of physics (hot air rises) to move as a hot wind through large turbines to generate electricity. A solar thermal power station using Solar Tower technology will create the conditions to cause hot wind to flow continuously through its turbines to generate electricity.
    • Tidal Power
      Tidal power was used in medieval Europe to turn waterwheels, producing mechanical power. With the growth of the electricity industry it was realised that tidal power, like hydropower, could be used for electricity production. A barrier is built across the entrance to a bay so that the incoming flood tide rises to a higher level than that of the bay itself, creating a difference in water level or potential head. This potential energy of the difference in water levels across the barrage is then converted into kinetic energy in the form of fast moving water through the turbines located in the water passages within the barrage.
    • Hot Dry Rock Geothermal
      The concept behind HDR geothermal energy is relatively simple. Heat is generated by special high heat producing granites located 3km or more below the Earth's surface. The heat inside these granites is trapped by overlying rocks which act as an insulating blanket. The heat is extracted from these granites by circulating water through them in an engineered, artificial reservoir or underground heat exchanger.
  • No comments: