Posted by Jeff Id on July 20, 2009
Calling me a skeptic on biofuels is an understatement, I’m a denier. If you’ve invested in biofuels, my opinion is that you need to do it with the understanding that the technology doesn’t really work. There simply isn’t enough capture of sunlight to make the process operate to the claimed levels.
I feel similarly about solar although in the case of solar, there is a reasonably good chance that in the future it can generate much of our needs. Geothermal is interesting though. I’ve not studied the costs which are said to be low but in today’s geothermal plants, temperatures are required to be quite high in order to turn water into steam. In some plants two wells are drilled (typically very deep wells), the rock between them is shattered using explosives or other methods, water is sent down one pipe and steam returns up the other which then powers a series of turbines.
One of the big drawbacks of geothermal is that in many locations on earth the magma doesn’t come close enough to the surface to provide enough temperature at an achievable drilling depth. The result is warm rock too cool to make steam but there is still a great deal of energy available. The ability to use this lower heat efficiently could dramatically expand the use of geothermal energy by making it practical in more areas. From an engineering perspective, the answer to solve the problem is to use a different fluid which changes phase at a lower temperature, however finding a different fluid is a challenge.
Today on Science Daily, there was an interesting article which used a phase changing fluid created from new materials. They claim the efficiency of their method is similar to a steam based one using different materials at lower temperatures.
ScienceDaily (July 20, 2009) — A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will determine if their innovative approach can safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.
This is a description of how they did it.
To aid in efficiency, scientists have added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHCs, which boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle. McGrail cited PNNL’s nanotechnology and molecular engineering expertise as an important factor in the development, noting that the advancement was an outgrowth of research already underway at the lab.
I’m sure that even if it works there are other problems to be considered, like the introduction of an odd chemical to the rock. If the costs are as low as other geothermal energy, this could be a very serious improvement.
My opinion on where we should be heading with energy is that we should expand capacity and usage of CO2 producing energy to keep costs as low as possible on our economy while staying away from government funded energies who’s technology isn’t ready to be introduced. The technology to actually stop using CO2 based energy production will be available in 50 years and already is in nuclear. It is only our artificial limits created by politicians, and leftist organizations which will limit the introduction of these potentially newer cleaner and — cheaper, technologies. False ideologies and a lack of economic success can do nothing but delay their introduction.
Whether you agree with me or not, one thing I am sure of is that nobody knows how much warming will occur from doubling CO2. People in climatology who claim certainty are foolishly wrong or even occasionally dishonest in my opinion and it is a highly visible problem in climate modeling. Models often disagree and are only as good as the knowledge put into them. Waiting 30 years and expanding our current usage would give the time needed to clear up the substantial and undetermined details in climate modeling and perhaps people looking to make money will find a better way in that time. Don’t forget, it was only 110 years ago when we stopped riding horses.
Anyway, maybe these guys really have something.
The Science Daily article is at the link below.