Main electricity source in 2060?

vrijdag 7 oktober 2011

New fuel for cars: hydrogen or electric?

Mobility takes up a large portion of our energy consumption. Most cars run on fossil fuels, but in the future this needs to change to another source of energy, because of global warming and because the worldwide oil reserves are declining. It is necessary that the industry adapts to new technologies in time because if they wait too long it might be damaging for the economy, if everybody is still driving a petrol-powered car while the price of petrol has tripled compared to today.

So, what are the options? A few years ago we were introduced with hybrid cars. These cars are more economical but still use petrol. This year the Nissan Leaf and Peugeot Ion were released, completely electrical cars. Now in theory this is a good idea, but in practice we can see a lot of problems with electrical cars. Most importantly, their action radius is way too short to be used by everyone. A car like the Nissan Leaf can barely drive 120 km / 80 miles until its battery is empty and it takes TWELVE hours to recharge (there's a nice Top Gear episode about that: season 17 episode 6).

So we need a green car which doesn't take 6 days to drive from Amsterdam to Marseille or from New York to Chicago. Hydrogen is the solution here. 100% renewable (if the hydrogen is generated with green electricity) and you can fill up your car in 2 minutes. Downside: it's expensive, and hydrogen doesn't contain as much energy as petrol, which means that you need more of it in terms of volume to drive the same distance. But I think hydrogen has a better future than electricity because I don't think that batteries will ever be improved so much that you can drive an electric car 500 kilometers on one charge and then charge it in 15 minutes. Hydrogen will become cheaper once it gets big and people won't mind visiting the petrol station (hydrogen station!) a little bit more often, if they can spare their wallet and the environment with it.

Below a picture of the Honda Clarity, a concept hydrogen car:

donderdag 1 september 2011

New types of wind power

Besides the well known regular wind turbines you see everywhere, scientists are thinking of alternative ways of wind power generation. One cool gadget is a micro-wind turbine on your own house! Though I'm not sure if the noise they make won't get complaints from your neighbors, but this is something you could look into.

On the other hand they're looking for more large-scale wind power generation. One example can be seen here:

Maglev Wind Turbine

Later! M

zondag 31 juli 2011

Solar power

More on solar power!

Solar power is currently more expensive than wind energy, but this depends on the circumstances. Take a look at this map (wikipedia):

Around the equator, solar energy is more efficient. The black dots represent the area of solar panels that is needed to provide all the worlds energy (that is, electricity+fuel+all other energy).

It also explains why warmer countries like Italy and Spain invest more money in solar energy than countries with less sunshine. Though Germany is investing billions of euros in solar panels, while their efficiency is much less than in southern countries.

Solar energy is getting cheaper and more efficient because of technological improvements. At the same time, oil is getting more and more expensive (currently around $100 per barrel and increasing). This means that solar energy is the future!

zaterdag 25 juni 2011

Why is green energy important?

A quick reminder for you, the main arguments why green energy is so important:

1. Currently the western world is very dependent on oil and gas. Increasingly we have to import this from unstable and/or totalitarian countries like Nigeria, Libya, Iran, Venezuela and Russia. Our own oil+gas supplies are depleting fast. Most fields in the USA, Norway, Netherlands and UK are already long over their production peak and they are declining fast. Most gas in western Europe used to be from Norway and the Netherlands but in 20 years from now it will all be from Russia. This is bad for the western economy and political position so we simply need to consume less gas.
2. The greenhouse effect. I tend to believe scientists who claim that humans are creating a rise in temperature and sealevels because of burning fossil fuels. It is a fact that temperature has been rising sharply for the past 50 years and this is probably (though not certainly) linked to emission of carbondioxide. More windmills and less coal plants is the solution. (or nuclear plants??)
3. Air pollution is bad for our health so more electric cars - especially in big cities where it is proven that air quality is pretty bad mainly because of cars - can give a great contribution to clean air in cities.
4. Depletion of oil reserves. After the 'peak oil' production of oil will drop but demand will still remain the same or even rise, creating high oil prices and potentially civil unrest and shortages of electricity and gas. To prevent this chaos we need to convert to wind/solar/nuclear in time.

pic: solar plant in spain

zaterdag 18 juni 2011

How can I save on energy?


1. Easy one: turn the lights off in rooms when you're not there
2. Turn your lights + pc monitor off when you go to the bathroom
3. Use public transport instead of car
4. Use bicycle or walk instead of public transport
5. Eat less meat.
6. Use energy saving light bulbs
7. Buy a LED-monitor and LED-television.
8. Clear the ice from your freezer.
9. Drink water instead of coke. Is healthier too.
10. Remove all electronic devices from their power sockets when you go away for a few days.

ALL THESE TIPS save money as well. Who said being good for the environment is expensive?

maandag 13 juni 2011

Energy grid

If green energy is implemented on a very large scale, like a one third or more of all energy in the world, then an intelligent system of providing energy is required. This is because in some periods the wind is much stronger or sunshine is more intense than in other periods. If there is an excess of wind energy, the electricity needs to be stored somewhere. This can be done by temporarily stopping hydro plants, so the water level in the lake next to the dam rises, and once the wind lies down again the hydro plant can be turned on to provide the needed energy. This is already being done in Denmark (lot of wind mills) and Sweden (lot of hydro energy).

The countries surrounding the North Sea (UK, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany) are planning to line up their power grids so they can easier exchange their excess wind, hydro or solar energy. The EU has a goal to make 20% of all energy renewable, so building the North sea full of windmills, installing more solar panels and building this international power grid is essential in reaching this goal.

donderdag 26 mei 2011

Electric cars

Usually I wouldn't blog about cars, because cars=pollution, right? Well that depends on the fuel. If a car runs on electricity, the co2-emissions are a lot lower than when a car is fueled by ordinary petrol. Though this depends heavily on how the electricity is generated. In some countries, more than half of all electricity is renewable (Norway, Austria). But in the Netherlands for instance, about 85% is fossil fuel (and a little nuclear). Still an electric car is better even if all electricity would be generated by fossil fuels. Especially when you drive the car in a city: this reduces air pollution in the streets, and they make less noise.

Oh and some electric cars look very good too, check this out:

This Tesla Model S is a good example of the progress that's being made in electric cars. The cost of this car is only half of its predecessor, the Tesla Roaster (price down from $90,000 to $50,000), while its capabilities are the same.

Electric cars seem to be have a quicker start than hydrogen cars. Also biofuel seems to become less popular recently, probably because of cases in Brazil where rainforest was destroyed in order for soya to be grown. It is unclear though what the main source of fuel of cars will be in 50 years from now. Biofuel, electricity, hydrogen, or still petrol?

vrijdag 20 mei 2011

Some statistics

Hi guys, back to inform you more about green energy.

Let's look at how we're progressing in implementing more green energy. Got most of this from wiki ;)

Which countries use the most solar power in Europe? Germany is on the lead here, mainly because of their guaranteed feed-in tariff, which is a government rule forcing energy companies to buy solar energy at normal electricity rates (the cost this is generally paid by consumers of electricity). Number of Watts per capita in 2009:

1. Germany - 120
2. Spain - 76
3. Luxembourg - 52
4. Czech Rep - 44
5. Belgium - 34
6. Italy - 17
All others are below 10 watts per capita, with low numbers in for instance the UK with 0.5 watts (no surprise there, little sunshine in England and Scotland, they had better focus on wind energy) and Sweden and Denmark with 0.8 watts.

Having not much to do, I made a piechart of wind power generated in Europe in 2010:

A country with most notably low wind power is Russia. They need to sell their gas and oil to Europe and probably don't like the rise of green energy (the more gas we use, the more money they make). In about 25 years from now, most gas and oil fields in Europe (mainly in UK, Norway and Netherlands) will be empty and we will need to import it all from Russia. Before that happens we really need to build way more windmills and solar panels than we do now (about 85% of all energy in the EU comes from fossil fuels) otherwise hundreds of billions of our euros will disappear into mr Putins and mr Ahmadinejad's wallets.

woensdag 13 april 2011

Tidal power

Now a form of energy that is less known: generating electricity through tidal waves.
The moon exerts huge energy on the oceans. But we don't really use it on a significant scale to tap this energy. It is a form of hydro power. See this vid:
We should  invest more in research into this type of energy. There are plenty of places in the world where this can be done and it can be a welcome source of energy in the 'green mix': a combination of renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, hydro and other sources.

zondag 27 maart 2011

Wind power

Interesting video on wind energy:

I'll keep you updated soon with more on green energy!

vrijdag 4 maart 2011

Saving the environment by planning

Not many people will think of urban planning / infrastructure planning when they think of 'going green'. However, the places where people live, work and do their things, decide for a large part how much energy someone produces. This is mainly through transportation but also through living in a energy-efficient building.

I will give Hong Kong as an example.
This and other Asian cities like Tokyo and Singapore are a good example of efficient planning. A society where no one needs to use a car, or at least car use is limited to a small proportion of transportation, needs extremely dense cities. In HK, people travel by metro or by foot, saving millions of tons of CO2. Also living in flats instead of freestanding houses is very efficient regarding heating and transport.

Especially the US but also Europe can learn from this. Not that we suddenly all need to live in a small apartment in a crowded city, standing in the metro like sardines in a can, but urban planning should focus on building more dense, especially near hubs of transport like train stations. This is called Transport Oriented Development in planning science. So less 'urban sprawl' (suburban areas with widespread free standing houses, open areas) and more dense and mixed used development.
This cycle must be broken and it can only be broken by intervention of the government:

woensdag 5 januari 2011

Nuclear energy

Hi guys, been away for a while, busy with my study. Now back to inform you more about green energy.

To continue my line (already discussed wind and solar power), I'll discuss a third form of energy: nuclear. Now most people won't regard nuclear as 'green' or 'renewable'. Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste which needs to be put away in a safe place for up to 200,000 years. There is also the risk of a nuclear meltdown, which we saw in the Ukrain in 1986 and an accident in Three Miles Island, Pennsylvania. Thirdly there is the risk of nuclear bombs made with the fuel for the plants.

Despites these disadvantages, interest in nuclear energy is on the rise again. Multiple causes can be identified, the most important are (in this particular order):
1. Making the energy supply of Western countries independent from unstable and/or unsubmissive oil producing nations like Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria etc.
2. Depletion of worldwide oil reserves. Securing affordable energy in the future is important here, lower oil production means higher prices (see my former blog about Peak Oil).
3. Global Warming.

Countries with the largest proportion of nuclear energy in their grid:

1. France - 79%
2. Slovakia - 54%
3. Belgium - 52%
4. Ukraine - 49%
5. Armenia - 45%

France is by far the largest producer (per capita and proportional to total electricity produces) of nuclear energy in the world. This has downsides. Since its difficult to shut a nuclear plant off, France has a huge excess of electricity produced at night and in weekends. Therefore they have to either shut off the plants at night/weekends, or export to neighboring countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Italy etc (France is the largest net exporter of electricity in the world), which isn't very efficient.
This shows that more problems would arise if all of Europe would convert to nuclear energy. Way too much electricity would be generated at night and in weekends, which calls for expensive and difficult solutions like storing the energy in water reservoirs.
Mind you: related problems arise with wind power.

I think this can be concluded with the same thing I already mentioned before: in the future we need a MIX of different sources of energy. You can't have just one source of power. We need wind power, solar power, nuclear power, hydro power and maybe other sources of power which haven't been invented or optimalised yet.

Picture: a nuclear plant, how it works.