Electra Therm has developed a technology to convert ‘waste heat ‘into electricity. The Green Machine is enable to create clean energy from from heat thrown off as a buy product of manufacturing of other operations. It is the first commercially viable heat generator. What Electra Therm’s technology has also in common with geothermal technology is that it requires no fossil fuels and creates no emissions.
Making waste heat is the newest source of clean energy. But it is rarely include as a renewable energy source, because waste heat derives from factories and plants that run on fossil fuels. But it meets defintion of both clean energy generation as well as energy conservation.
The Green Machine has an output of 50 kW of electricity generation, placing them in the small medium size segment of this business. In the lower output there are currently more creations of converting waste heat to electricity. For example the Green Turbine 1-15 kW is a mCHP solution that uses existing waste heat to produce power, (electricity) heat and/or hot water. It can be driven not only fossil fuels, by any fuel type : natural gas, propane, waste heat Biomass, fuel cell, solar PV Thermal.
How does this sound; using urine, the most abundant waste on earth, as the new fuel source? And, to catch two birds with one stone, it helps clean-up municipal wastewater at the same time. Urine-powered cars should be available in six months according to scientists from the Ohio University, who developed an electrolysis method to retrieve hydrogen from urine collected from livestock.
Hydrogen fuel cells are one the cleanest burning fuels ever developed. Hydrogen was, until now, taken out of water and then put into fuel cells as a gas that can power a vehicle. The only emission that is said to come out of this fuel cell powered vehicle is water vapor. Urine’s major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule – importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules. By placing a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine and applying an electrical current, hydrogen gas is released. Once the urea is removed from the waste pool, a farm is left with water that is significantly less polluted than it was, with irrigation as one possible use.
One of the hurdles facing this alternative fuel source is that hydrogen gas requires high pressure and low temperatures to be stored. It becomes somewhat easier to store when it’s binded back to oxygen to create water, but even then it still requires large amounts of electricity to be released. The Ohio University scientists who developed the urine technology found that attaching hydrogen to nitrogen in urine allowed it to be stored without the strict requirements of ordinary hydrogen, and allowed it to be released with less electricity (0.037 volts versus 1.23 volts needed for water). A fuel cell, urine-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon according to the Ohio scientists.
Some argue that hydrogen-fueled cars won’t offer a cost-effective way to reduce automotive air pollution or reduce
emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide gas for at least several decades. Environmental scientist David Keith is one of them. He doesn’t oppose the use of hydrogen fuel cells but argues saying it makes far more sense to first use this fuel in ships, trains and large trucks rather than cars. Such uses could achieve large reductions in air pollution without the need for the extensive hydrogen distribution infrastructure which would be required for refueling automobiles. Such an infrastructure is very expensive (approx $5.000 per vehicle or more), according to the researchers’ work. Also around 10-20% of the hydrogen would escape into the atmosphere. He says that if hydrogen fuel cells replaced all of today’s oil and gas-based combustion technologies, such losses would double or even triple the total hydrogen deposited into the atmosphere at the Earth’s surface.
Other researchers say that the use of hydrogen on large scale would oxidize when reaching the stratosphere, which would cool the stratosphere and create more clouds and, in effect, making the holes in the ozone layer larger and longer lasting. However it is not yet known on what scale this process will take place and there is also uncertainty how soil absorbs hydrogen from the atmosphere. The bottom line is that hydrogen could still be considered the far better option when it comes to competing with the toxic elements that are released into the air with gasoline burning cars. It might have its downsides but weighed against all the positives, they don’t seem to stand a chance.
It seems like we have a winner here.
The Seattle Steam Company, which operates two plants that produce steam for heating downtown Seattle office buildings, hotels and hospitals, has plans to replace a natural gas-fired boiler with one that uses recycled and waste wood as its fuel. For Seattle Steam, the move to biomass represents an initial step in the switch to renewable energy sources. The switch, according to the company will reduce Seattle Steam’s carbon emissions by about 55,000 tons annually. The plans for the conversion to wood fuel were already on the table in 2006, as it is now it looks like it will be this autumn when the boiler is ready for use.
This 115 year old privately owned company now provides steam generated from burning natural gases, diesel and oil. This supplies heat through 18 miles of steam pipeline to 200 of downtown Seattle’s largest buildings. It also uses steam for generating hot water and humidity control. Because of rising gas prices as well as Seattle Steam being the biggest single natural gas consumer in the state, the company decided to make the switch to give it a more competitive edge. Subsequently, in its effort to reduce carbon emissions, it plans to fire up a new boiler which will allow it to derive more than half of its source fuel from wood waste. The wood coming from crates, packaging material and tree trimmings will be reduced to chips 3 inches or smaller.
Some have said the choice of wood is not a particularly sensible one. It might be a lot cheaper than natural gas, but burning wood will actually release more carbon emissions than the burning of natural gas. Still, advocates of the switch say this is not entirely true. A tree absorbs as much carbon (or carbon dioxide) in its lifetime as it releases when burnt. Wood burning does not release more carbon dioxide than during it’s biodegradation (i.e. rotting). Wood burning can therefore be called “carbon neutral”. Of course, harvesting and transport operations can produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas pollution, but considering that Seattle Steam plans to use ‘urban’ wood it seems to work out in it’s favour.
Seattle Steam’s use of biomass will reduce its use of natural gas by 60% and reduce it’s carbon footprint – and subsequently the footprints of its customers – by 50% the company says. This is an enormous step in the early days of carbon recognition. Stan Gent, president of Seattle Steam explains; ‘It will move us to beyond where the State’s goal is for 2050 and we will achieve that in 2009’. The company won’t stop here in its efforts to continue the search for more alternative fuel stocks. The use of glycerol, instead of the remaining natural gas, might be a next step. Although research is still in somewhat experimental stage at this point in time, Stan Gent has high hopes for the future: ’The process of burning glycerol might be commercially available within five years, if that’s the case we have every expectation that our carbon footprint will approach zero by 2020.’
A new climate energy bill is making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives this week. Named after its two sponsors, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Waxman-Markley bill sets goals for reducing the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging companies to turn to renewable sources like solar, wind, geo-thermal and water. The bill would require the country to cut emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050, steering it gradually towards a solar and smart-grid future.
President Obama yesterday said that the House took an “extraordinary first step” by passing the climate bill on Friday, adding that he hoped it will induce action by the Senate, predicting that the legislation could make renewable energy “a driver of economic growth”. However the vote wasn’t a clear victory for the Democrats. It was passed by 219-212, signaling the tough fight ahead as the bill goes to the Senate for consideration. Many Republicans fear the bill will be a “job killer” because it would require businesses to pay to emit. The New York Times has noted that “while some environmentalists enthusiastically supported the legislation, others, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth opposed it”. Friends of the Earth, an international environmental organization, announced its opposition to the Waxman-Markley bill believing it to be too weak and cited support from Shell Oil Company and Duke Energy as evidence of the bill’s shortcomings.
So what does this legislation come down to? Let’s start with the cap and trade program. In this case the government sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Companies that want to increase their emission allowance must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Each year, there will be a reduction in the number of permits issued. Because of this, the market value of each permit will increase, stimulating companies to look for alternate means to reduce emission.
If this bill gets passed by the Senate, the development of enough renewable energy sources has to be ensured to make up for the required reduction in fossil-fuel emissions. However, the legislation contains provisions that would encourage the use, and development of, amongst others, smart-grid technologies. Last Thursday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a 3.9 billion funding in “smart grid” aimed at making power transmission around the country more flexible. With this funding, and the existence of plans for a nationwide smart-grid to be implemented in the future, methods as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems appear a competitive and realistic alternative that will eventually help reduce Global Warming.