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Technology Science

Green Energy Now, And On The Tide 577

Posted by timothy
from the washing-ashore dept.
thpr writes "The Electric Power Research Institute and its partners have completed their Offshore Wave Power Feasibility Demonstration Project, which defined potential wave energy projects off the shores of the United States. This is building off of work already done in Scotland (and elsewhere). San Francisco, New York and other areas are considering trial installations of the technology. It is interesting to note (table 1 in the report) that the energy density (kW/m^2) that can be achieved is much higher than wind or solar. In addition, harnessing 24% of available wave energy near the US at 50% efficiency is equal to all of the hydropower currently generated in the US (~7% of total electricity production). On a separate note, in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's $1.2B 2006 budget the Department of Energy is closing out the Hydropower Technologies Program. Maybe that's why this technology is missing from our National Energy Policy?" Until it reaches maturity, though, U.S. readers can pay for other forms of green energy.
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Green Energy Now, And On The Tide

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  • by isometrick (817436) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:12AM (#11675075)
    nothing for you to "sea" here?
    • by MikeCapone (693319) <{skelterhell} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:56AM (#11675247) Homepage Journal
      For those who want more, the best links on for intelligent green reading:

      WorldChanging.com [worldchanging.com] -- which also has an article about wave power [worldchanging.com].

      TreeHugger [treehugger.com], which is already linked in the story.

      Dave Pollard [salon.com], which writes very insightfully about lots of things including environmental philosophy.

      Green Car Congress [greencarcongress.com], where you can get the best news about green mobility, cool cars & industrial developments.

      IDFuel [idefuel.com], which is more about design but covers some of the same ground as TreeHugger.com

      FuelCellWorks [fuelcellsworks.com] for all the latest news about fuel cells.

      Grist Magazine [grist.org], for news and a touch of humor, plus lots of interviews.
      • At one point I thought to myself that will all the progress in green energy surely some day soon we will hit that critical point where it is cheaper to take the plung and leave the grid. That day is not yet here, and I don't know when or if it will be.

        The reason I believe this is because electronics in peoples homes are growing at a faster rate than "green technology" (like solar power) is improving.
        The amount of solar panels required to power the 3 computers, 4 TV's, 2 PlayStations, DVRs, cordless phones,

        • by Aggrazel (13616) <aggrazel@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @07:38AM (#11676102) Journal
          Well if you're going "green", you won't use 4 televisions and 3 computers and 2 playstations and all that at the same time. Plus you'll buy things like LCD flatpanel monitors which require a lot less power than the CRTs.

          Also, in theory if you are generating the electricity on premesis, you could power a lot of things with DC directly, instead of needing to convert it at the outlet. That would help some too, I imagine.
          • Not really, the thing about AC is that it's very easy to adjust it's voltage with a transformer. It's also safer than DC of the same voltage, so unless you really want to run heavy lines, we're better off with AC for the moment.

            Though I do agree with you that doing little things like turning off the TV, lights, playstations, etc will help. Not only in saving electricity directly, but also likely the need for air conditioning.

            Sure, we could power the services/appliances that homes had in the 1950's home
        • by mikael (484) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:13AM (#11676390)
          The reason I believe this is because electronics in peoples homes are growing at a faster rate than "green technology" (like solar power) is improving.
          The amount of solar panels required to power the 3 computers, 4 TV's, 2 PlayStations, DVRs, cordless phones, etc. in my house in cloudy/rainy NY would be crushing.

          It's not your home computer equipment that sucking up all those kilowatts, it's the electrical appliances you take for granted. We once stayed in a rural cottage with a 5 kilowatt trip switch - any time the energy demands exceeded this limit, the main fuse would cut off.

          Our morning would begin with putting the laundry into the washing machine(3 kW/h), switching on the kettle (2kW/h). By lunchtime, the cooker would be on (3kW/h), and the washing machine would now be in spin mode (2kW/h). Not forgetting the television (300 watts), refrigerator (500 watts), and a computer (120 watts), and maybe a couple of light bulbs (100 watts x 2).

          Needless to say, our power supply was tripping out more often than hippies at a summer festival. A short term measure was that we had to switch off all lights and appliances whenever the cooker or washing machine was on. The long term solution was that the trip switch was upgraded to 9 kilowatts.

          For 3 computers, 4 TV's, 2 playstations, DVR, the power demand would be an additional:

          3 x computer . .= 3 x 200 watts = 600
          4 x TV . . . . .= 4 x 80 watts = 320
          2 x playstation = 2 x 80 watts = 160
          2 x DVR. . . . .= 2 x 120 watts = 240
          3 x cordless phones = 3 x 5 watts = 15
          Total = 600 + 320 + 160 + 240 + 15 = 1335 kilowatts

          Sources: Energy Efficiency Guide [consumereducation.org.uk], Energy Whiz [energywhiz.com] and Saving Electricity [michaelbluejay.com]
  • by momerath2003 (606823) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:12AM (#11675076) Journal
    Don't forget nuclear power [entergy-nuclear.com]!
    • I cant wait for someone to start a silly flame war about nuclear waste.

      To head it off at the pass: Nuclear power: it came from the ground, we're extracting energy from it, and we put it back in the ground. Fundamentally, that's the same as oil. Except, with oil we put the excess into the air we breathe. Now which is better?
      • by britneys 9th husband (741556) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:28AM (#11675147) Homepage Journal
        ...we put it back in the ground. Fundamentally, that's the same as oil.

        My car's about due for an oil change. I take it you wouldn't mind me dumping out the old oil into the ground? After all, it came from the ground, so I can put it back there, right?

        No? How about if I wait until next time I go to Nevada and dump it out there, in the middle of nowhere where no one (and nothing) lives? What if everyone did this?

        If we're using a lot of the stuff, we need a good place to put the waste, or a way to recycle it. Not saying it can't be done, but there aren't too many good places to put spent nuclear fuel rods.
      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:41AM (#11675545)
        To head it off at the pass: Nuclear power: it came from the ground, we're extracting energy from it, and we put it back in the ground. Fundamentally, that's the same as oil. Except, with oil we put the excess into the air we breathe. Now which is better?

        Point 2, that oil may be even more polluting, worth considering.
        Point 1, bullshit. U238 with some U235 impurity is mined; 238 has a half life of 4.5 billion years; so it's not terribly radioactive, though not healthy either, mainly from the radon it breaks down to (as accumulates in cellars in some locations with granite containing some uranium). After fission we have a whole lot of short half-life, very active, highly poisonous isotopes. The activity goes down rapidly, but some, like plutonium has a half-life of about 250,000 years, so it will be a problem forever, in human terms. Not to mention the huge amount of low-level waste, from contaminated building materials, etc. Nuclear waste may be manageable, but it's not a trivial problem

        • The real problem with nuclear energy is not the actual energy production and waste management as most people seem to believe. We can make safe reactors, and we can make safe waste-storage systems. The real proplem, from an ecological perspective is the mining of uranium.
          You have the proportions of fissionable Uranium to inert Uranium backwards. Fissionable Uranium is the much less common isotope, and must be concentrated, through gas-diffusion, or other methods to achieve the concentration necessary to
          • Most mines now replace the tailings into the mine once they're done with the mine. So while they do have to do some work to safely store the tailings in the short term, it ends up more or less neutral. Especially in areas where they have multiple shafts, and they put the tailings from the new mine shaft down the old mine shaft. Due to processing, they should be able to stuff a little more into each mine than just the tailings from that mine, given that they are removing material.

            Also, the tailings issue
        • You are missing a key relationship: the longer a half life is, the less radioactive the substance is. So while plutonium will stick around for a long time, its radioactivity is relatively low in comparison to some of the other nuclear wastes. In addition, the plutonium can be reprocessed and broken down again and again. But the most important thing is that the radioactivity is well understood, and can therefore be diluted and safely stored in a specially designed facility. Of course we don't have such
    • Let us not forget about the Green Lantern's green power ring!!
    • Fusion (Score:4, Insightful)

      by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:31AM (#11675164)
      We know it's the future. We know with adequate research spending it can be achieved and will make any talk of green or nuclear power pointless. It can be both done before going to Mars, for comparable price, and will help greatly with achieving that goal. It will eradicate global warming by letting us produce cheap hydrogen. So what are we waiting for?
      • Re:Fusion (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Renegade Lisp (315687) *
        I think it's pointless. We do have a working fusion reactor right at our doorstep. It's got a perfect security distance (150 Mio. km). We've got a perfect radiation shield (the Van-Allen-Belt). And it produces billions and billions of times more energy than we could ever use. Even just the energy from it that hits the tiny spot called earth is several million times more than our total energy consumption, second by second. We really just need to find efficient means to harvest that energy, right down h
      • Re:Fusion (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fnj (64210) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:43AM (#11676258)
        We know it's the future.

        A lot of us certainly hope it is.

        We know with adequate research spending it can be achieved ...

        Ahem. We know no such thing. Not in an engineering and economic sense. Certainly we have proven we can achieve fusion reactions in the lab; this has been done for many years now; but we just don't know if we'll ever be able to make sustained and safe reactions which have a high enough energy return to be worth doing. And yes, cost matters. If it bankrupts the entire world to make enough energy to run one town for a year, that would not help anyone, even the one town, because it would be the planetary end of civilization.

        It can be ... done before going to Mars, for comparable price ...

        Oh really. And you know this ... how? Guesswork?

        I am a big proponent of trying A LOT harder and more urgently to perfect fusion power, but let's have a little realism here.
      • Re:Fusion (Score:3, Insightful)

        by danharan (714822)
        I disagree. Nuclear was supposed to be "too cheap to meter" and it's more expensive than coal or natural gas.

        So after spending billions on old nuclear, we spend billions more on fusion- the same people make the same promises and we're just supposed to believe it?

        Solar and wind have been going down in price in predictable ways. Every new tech- cars, tvs, computers ends up offering better value for consumers as competition and economies of scale work their magic. Spending billions on those technologies guar
        • Re:Fusion (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dun Malg (230075)
          I disagree. Nuclear was supposed to be "too cheap to meter" and it's more expensive than coal or natural gas. So after spending billions on old nuclear, we spend billions more on fusion- the same people make the same promises and we're just supposed to believe it?

          The only reason "old nuclear" has been so expensive is that ever single plant built in the US was designed and built separately. They essentially never got out of the "experimental design" mindset. France has standardized plant design and it's b

    • by dasunt (249686) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:57AM (#11675252)

      The main advantages that nuclear has over solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal:

      • We have the technology now.

      This is a biggie. We know how to build nuclear power plants. Other countries have been doing so for years. Even in the US, nuclear is a proven energy source: IIRC, the US derives 24% of its electricity from nuclear power.

      • The technology can replace full US capacity.

      Look at how much energy the US uses now, and how much the US predicts it will be using. Can solar cells, wind farms, hydroelectric, or tidal replace that? It doesn't seem that wind nor solar can -- it doesn't have the capacity nor the constant power generation. Hydroelectric isn't unlimited either: sooner or later you run out of damnable rivers. Geothermal? It seems location dependent (but I'll admit, I haven't done my homework on this one). Tidal? How much coastline would we need again?

      • Relatively non-disruptive.

      Hydroelectric power creates lakes and turns rivers into streams. It changes aquatic ecosystems. How about tidal? How many shorelines are we going to line with tidal energy power generation? What do you think that will do to the environment? (Wind power is also relatively non-disruptive.)

      • Cost effective.

      Nuclear has been competing with traditional electric generation for decades. We know we can generate nuclear power at a relatively low cost. The same can't be said for many other alternative energy sources.

      Effective at limiting pollution.

      No matter what "green" energy we use, there will be pollution. Check out the byproducts created in the manufacture of solar cells. Yes, nuclear does require some mining, and it requires proper disposal of nuclear waste. Yet, in the end, nuclear is amazingly efficient at eliminating greenhouse gases on a level with other green technologies.

      So, lets sum up - Nuclear is:

      • We have the technology now.
      • The technology can replace full US capacity.
      • Relatively non-disruptive.
      • Cost effective.
      • Effective at limiting pollution.

      Perhaps this is why noted scientists such as James Lovelock also advocate nuclear power.

      The main problem is the public and the greens. They are convinced that nuclear power is unsafe, that radiation will kill us all, and they are playing a NIMBY game with nuclear waste disposal.

      To be honest, nuclear power isn't my first choice for green energy: That would be orbital space platforms harvesting the energy of the sun, or fusion reactors. Perhaps one day, those technologies would be feasible. Right now, they are slightly more of a pipe dream than other green energy. Nuclear exists now, and it works. Conservation goes only so far -- the third world is slowly turning first world, and that will require an enormous consumption of energy.

      We need to be realistic about our energy problem and about what solutions will work. Most alternative energy sources won't work right now. Nuclear will.

      • by Mercedes308 (832423) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:32AM (#11675380)
        Wind power is also relatively non-disruptive
        I used to live near a wind turbine that is on the outskirts of a medium sized wind farm. They are the most disruptive energy producers I can think of to be near in terms of effect on people (and possibly animals).
        The low frequency noise produced by the machine played havoc on sleep (you got none) and can drive you to the point that you think of any stupid excuse not to go home. I had to sell up and move, it had got so bad, due to the fact it was starting to effect every part of my personal and professional life from sleep deprevation and stress. I realise you were referring to the environment, but some of these 'green' solutions to power generation produce an effect to its surrounds other than what is normally addressed when their impact is reviewed. Wind power is often viewed, here at least, to be one of the most cleanest methods of producing energy and I believe that to be true.....as long as you don't live near them.
        • I assume you are reffering to the older, high-rpm, turbine farms such as the ones in southern cali. The newer turbines, such as the Horseheaven Hills Wind Farm near Walla Walla, Wa, turn at a sufficiently low rpm that they make almost no noise at all.
          In fact, having spent a good deal of time studying them, i'd have to say that the entire wind farm was eerily silent. But I wasnt sleeping underneath one, of course...
      • Nuclear is a lot better than oil/coal burning, that much is for sure. Atleast in countrys with enough of a reliable infrastructure that failing safety-mechanisms won't just be disabled to avoid interupting the production. (as in Chernobyl)

        That said, hydroelectric is also *very* well-tested mature technology, wind and solar less so.

        Norway, for example, have produced like 98% of the electricity needed (including the humongous amounts needed for large aluminium-plants) by hydroelectric since a century. Tha

      • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:46AM (#11675690)
        Nuclear has been competing with traditional electric generation for decades
        Thanks to help from the taxpayer, it even looks like it breaks even sometimes. The UK, USSR, French, Isreali, South African, Pakistani, Indian, North Korean, Iranian and Indonesian experience is that it is a very complicated and expensive technology which is only worth doing if you are developing weapons. The Canadians appear to be making money selling their technology to others, so they can break even - addicts can make money when they turn pusher. The Japanese had the navies of the USSR and the Chinese to worry about, and an energy supply that only came by sea, so expensive nuclear was an option for strategic reasons. It is still an unproven technology - even pebble bed is still at the prototype stage and it's forerunners are expensive white elephants running on 1950's technology.
        We have the technology now.
        Not after fifty years we don't, but China may surprise us soon.
        To be honest, nuclear power isn't my first choice for green energy: That would be orbital space platforms harvesting the energy of the sun, or fusion reactors
        What can I say? Sometimes it's better to go for a simpler solution instead of complex high tech dreams. Nuclear power is an incredibly complex way to boil water - containment requires exotic materials which do not come cheap. The theory has always been that the incredible capital cost is offset by the low running costs with nuclear power - but this has not yet been the case. Fraud has certainly occurred on a large scale in the US electricity market - now is it that or some strange superiority over the British that has provided the huge disparity in apparent costs between the USA and the UK with respect to nuclear power. Another question to consider, is why Jimmy Carter, the nuclear engineer president, stopped building nuclear power plants? The answer appears that they were no longer economicly viable once the amount of weapons material sold as a by product was reduced. Economic rationalism was the enemy of nuclear power, not some tiny green group of the time.

        Sorry guys, it's still SF - but it may be worth building soon.

        • by TheSync (5291) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @10:39AM (#11677003) Journal
          Just FYI...

          Lithuania gets 86% of electricity from nuclear power. France gets 78%. Belgium gets 57%. Sweden gets 52%. Switzerland and Slovakia get 45%. Ukraine gets 44%. Germany gets 29%. Japan gets 28%. The UK gets 23%.

          The US only gets 20% of electricity from nuclear.
        • by wjwlsn (94460) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:03AM (#11677196) Journal

          The UK, USSR, French, Isreali, South African, Pakistani, Indian, North Korean, Iranian and Indonesian experience is that it is a very complicated and expensive technology which is only worth doing if you are developing weapons.

          You're right, I'm incredibly frightened of what could happen as a result of the burgeoning nuclear weapons arsenals in Finland and Sweden.

          The Canadians appear to be making money selling their technology to others, so they can break even - addicts can make money when they turn pusher.

          Wow, what a fair and balanced analogy.

          The Japanese had the navies of the USSR and the Chinese to worry about, and an energy supply that only came by sea, so expensive nuclear was an option for strategic reasons.

          Expensive compared to what available alternatives? Japan's large and abundant reserves of coal and natural gas? Their mighty rivers? Broad expanses of unpopulated land for wind and solar?

          It is still an unproven technology - even pebble bed is still at the prototype stage and it's forerunners are expensive white elephants running on 1950's technology.

          Unproven compared to what? LWR technology may not be the latest hot, new concept in power generation, but it has a lot of advantages... not the least of which is that it is fairly well proven. Improvements are possible, yes... but look at the improvements over the past twenty years. US plants are now running 90% of the time, unplanned shutdowns are at a very low level, planned outages now take two weeks instead of two months, personnel exposures and radwaste are at all-time lows... what else do you want, free milk and cookies?

          Nuclear power is an incredibly complex way to boil water...

          Complex, but manageable. It also has the benefit of extremely low fuel, operation, and maintenance costs. Oh, and it's reliable baseload.

          containment requires exotic materials which do not come cheap...

          Yeah, concrete and steel are pretty exotic, and so expensive.

          The theory has always been that the incredible capital cost is offset by the low running costs with nuclear power - but this has not yet been the case.

          That depends on where and when the plant was built, and in comparison to the available alternatives at the time. If your benchmark is coal, then nuclear usually doesn't look so great economically. If your benchmark is wind or solar, then nuclear looks much better. Oh yeah, go talk to Finland about how terribly expensive nuclear is compared to the alternatives... maybe they'll decide not to build a new 1600 MWe reactor.

          Fraud has certainly occurred on a large scale in the US electricity market - now is it that or some strange superiority over the British that has provided the huge disparity in apparent costs between the USA and the UK with respect to nuclear power.

          Actually, there is a big difference betweeen US and UK nuclear. In the UK, you have old Magnox plants operating at very high cost relative to average LWR technology used in the US and elsewhere. Magnox was basically the first generation of nuclear power technology, and a lot of its design was dictated by the desire to extract plutonium for weapons production. Then you have AGR, which appears to be very good technologically, but was eventually dropped in favour of LWR technology. So, in the end, the UK has just one fairly modern LWR at Sizewell B, and a bunch of old, expensive plants based on technology that nobody else is using.

          Another question to consider, is why Jimmy Carter, the nuclear engineer president, stopped building nuclear power plants?

          Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer, and he was President, but to say he stopped all building of nuclear power plants in the US is simply false. Old plant orders were

      • by myowntrueself (607117) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:42AM (#11675818)
        I think that underneath it all is the problem of long-term management.

        People who are agin' nucular energy typically distrust the ability of governments or corporation to sucessfuly manage anything over a long term period eg decades or centuries.

        This problem is exacerpated in the democratic world because more people just *know* that 10 years down the track (say) everyone in power is going to have different priorities and different plans and that the effort to change things to suit the latest corporate mission statement or political slogans will screw things up.

        Therefore, ok perhaps a little subconsciously, people protest against nuclear power not because the technology is inherently unsafe but because the ability of modern society to manage long term projects end-to-end is *dismal*.

        Truly *DISMAL*

        Ergo nuclear technology, in the context of modern society, is dangerous.
    • by spencerogden (49254) <spencer@spencerogden.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:43AM (#11675416) Homepage
      Good article on Wired [wired.com] about a safe way to do Nuclear power. Still need to get rid of the waste, but at least meltdowns wouldn't be a problem.

      We've missed out on a lot by not developong nuclear plants over the last 25 years. As other posters have said, its here now, and its the cleanest we have.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:14AM (#11675086)
    24 percent is a lot .. that's basically thousands of miles of coast. For what? 7% of energy? And what about maintenance costs? Effects on marine life .. Imagine dolphins or whales getting caught in this .. ships .. can ships operate safely?
    • 7 percent is a lot. That's a whole boatload of energy you're talking about that doesnt come from fossil fuels and lets us use oil for important things.. like deriving ether for my chemistry experiments.
  • Is when nuclear energy is going to be put back on the agenda. I mean compared to coal it is squeaky clean!
  • Adoption (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:16AM (#11675097)
    As great - or as needed - as green energy may be, we'll never see widespread adoption of it. At least, not so long as the oil industry exists.
  • by LearningHard (612455) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:17AM (#11675098) Journal
    Most likely this will have massive effects on oceanlife and beachlife in the areas they are installed. I view it as a technology with its uses but the greenies have yet again started blabbing about how ecofriendly it is without thinking about the true long term consequences.
  • because we start to really depend on it.

    can these things survive a Tsunami?

    • Seeing as these things tend to be a while outwards in the ocean, where the waves arent really that high yet, I'd guess that they would (I could be dead wrong here).

      Now would their support systems survive and still allow them to produce effective power? That, I'm no so sure about.
  • Low impact system? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by irhtfp (581712) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:17AM (#11675101)
    When you take energy out of a system, you affect that system and all other systems that depend on it.

    In other words, these projects affect the currents, at least locally which in turn *will* affect the biological systems that depend on these currents, to what extent? I don't think we know.

    We need alternate energy, but we need to honestly compare the impact of each energy extraction method we consider. Personally, I think nuclear is the lowest impact energy tech.

    • by mtrisk (770081) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:41AM (#11675206) Journal
      Save the Sun! Stop the use of solar power now! By taking energy out of the solar system, we will affect the local energy structure, causing quantum fluctuations in the time cube [timecube.com]!!!!

      Do YOU want to kill the sun and cause the solar system to collapse into a single point? That's quite un-american! Perhaps you're a terrorist!

      I'm sorry, Valentine's Day got to me pretty hard.
    • Yeah, and wind turbines will suck out all of the wind on earth. *sigh*

      Ever considered that the boats we have sailing around the earth - including massive huge mountain-like things - probably disrupt the ocean a lot more than even 10,000 installations of these wave-generators would?

      Ever thought that tall buildings and forests probably disrupt the wind paterns a lot more than even thousands of wind-turbine farms?

      And even if they did have a negative effect on the ocean and life in general, it would be
      • No, I don't. Nor does he as he stated in his post. That's the point. Unless you have good data to back it up, any argument in any direction is religion and not science. This is not peculiar to this small subthread but to this whole conversation. I see a lot of "religion" and very little math.
      • by plastik55 (218435)
        Well just read the article summary--they propose potentially using 25% of available wave energy (to equal merely 7% of our present electricity usage). That's a huge percentage and it's hard to believe that it wouldn't have a substantial impact.

        Compare this to wind power--100% of the present energy needs of the planet (including heating and transportation, not just electricity) could be met by taking somewhere around 0.02% of the planet's wind energy. (Wind is powered by solar heating causing convection an
  • Side effects (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cyberfunk2 (656339) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:18AM (#11675104)
    Do people know of any serious downsides to wave energy ?

    I hear that you cant put it in densly populated water ways, as it really impeeds boats moving (at least the surface variety, are there deep buried kinds, too ?).

    If anyone could comment on the negatives of this, it'd be nice to see the other side. For instance, wind power is usually cited as an eyesore, and solar as having problems w/ where you are located (same w/ wind to some extent).

    • Generating energy by tidal friction slows the planet's rotation, which could eventually send the Earth hurtling out of the solar system. Burning coal you lung disease, and nuclear power gives you cancer. Natural gas smells funny. There's no free lunch.
      • Re:Side effects (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cyberfunk2 (656339)
        how bout solar? It's just energy that'd be going to space anyhow.. that looks like a free lunch.

        mmm... lunch..
  • by helioquake (841463) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:23AM (#11675129) Journal
    Both power providers and consumers need to work in harmony: (1) the power companies are to increase the efficiency in generating more power and (2) the consumers are to utilize the available energy in an efficient manner.

    There isn't much I can do for (1). But I can do for (2) by replacing light bulbs with energy saving bulbs (ESBs, or compact fluorescent bulb that fits in an incadescent lamp), turn off the light where not needed, and turn the damned TV when /.ing. You can do a little to cut some energy expenses by following these actions. In reality I am not going to save over $20 a year. But when people start doing the same, it soon becomes a real money.
    • Simple economics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:15AM (#11675620)
      when people start doing the same, it soon becomes a real money.


      People will start doing it when energy prices start going up. No one will do it for $20/year, unless either 1) they are so poor that $20/year means something for them, or 2) they are aware of the hidden environmental costs and care about such things.


      IMHO, the best way would be to put all the costs in the final price. Make people pay for the true cost of energy and you'll see people worry about conservation.

    • by ivrcti (535150) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @09:45AM (#11676530)
      Actually, if you looked at your insulation/windows and replaced that 20 year old hot water heater, you'd probably save a lot more energy than the items you mentioned. Don't get me wrong, I fully support your ideas. As a father of 4 kids, I preach turning of lights/tv's radios, etc every day. But the fact remains that the vast majority of your electric bill comes from heating/cooling your air and your water.
  • by aquarian (134728) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:24AM (#11675132)
    It is interesting to note (table 1 in the report) that the energy density (kW/m^2) that can be achieved is much higher than wind or solar.

    Yeah, but what about what really matters -- kilowatt hour per dollar.
  • No free lunch (Score:2, Insightful)

    There's no such thing as a free lunch. Once we install enough tidal energy collectors, there will be no more big waves. Before long, all the newspapers will be full of stories about sad and lonely surfers:

    "Dude, I heard about a gnarly 1 foot wave off the coast of the Bering Strait."

    "Woah, what are we waiting for? Let's grab our boards and ride!"

    Won't someone please think of the surfers!

  • Wave-Powered Whisky (Score:2, Informative)

    by Geek Yid (798534)
    Interesting how these wave generators wind up at whisky-distilling islands. Orkney has the wonderful Scapa and better known Highland Park, not to mention the Orkney Brewery. Islay, meanwhile, with its seven working distilleries has much of its electricity generated by a 'Limpet' wave generator. (See http://www.fujitaresearch.com/reports/limpet.html for more.) Environmentally friendly power: it's just one more good thing about Scotch Whisky!
  • I want to play Half Life for longer than 30 minutes on my notebook without recharging. Make that possible and all the funding cuts Boosh can think won't be able to stop you.
  • by Lackaff (247537) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:36AM (#11675188)
    Until it reaches maturity, though, U.S. readers can pay for other forms of green energy.
    Hey, if Timothy says green pricing is on-topic for this discussion, who am I to argue? Green pricing programs are not only available in the US. I helped compile this information about international green pricing programs [energy.gov] a few years ago. Looks as if it hasn't been updated in a while, but non-Yankee Slashdotters might find something useful there.
  • Idiocy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Squalish (542159) <Squalish AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:38AM (#11675193) Journal
    Wave power is a total ridiculosity - you want to sacrifice TWENTY FOUR PERCENT of US coastline in order to supply SEVEN PERCENT of the electricity.

    This is our electricity usage BEFORE we tack on the electricity used to power our hydrogen cars, which will raise our consumption an order of magnitude.

    Using algal biodiesel, breeder fission(with development on fusion), and wind where suitable, are the only remotely practical eco-friendly choices that are sustainable - Photovoltaic trumps them all, but to convert even just our current electrical needs to photovoltaic would cost more than we've spent on imported oil since we started importing oil. We could create an infrastructure to supply the entire nation's demand for fuel with algal biodiesel on an amount of money that's similar to what we spend anually on importing oil, which is coincidentally about the same amount of money it would cost to install a single hydrogen pump at every gas station in the US.

    Wave power is and has always been a crock as an energy scheme.

    whoops, forgot to log in :)
    • Re:Idiocy (Score:3, Informative)

      Not 24% of coastline, but 24% of total tidal energy. You can't assume that the waves are equal everywhere along the coastlines.

      And 7% of total energy demand is nothing to scoff at. Imagine if it was actually realised - a lot of greenhouse gases would be saved. All I hope is that the picture is still rosey after an in-depth environmental assessment.

      ------
      Daily energy news and discussion: http://www.thewatt.com/ [thewatt.com]
    • Re:Idiocy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Leo McGarry (843676)
      Photovoltaic trumps them all, but to convert even just our current electrical needs to photovoltaic would cost more than we've spent on imported oil since we started importing oil.

      Not to mention the fact that we'd basically have to pave over New Mexico. Have you ever been out there? It's a desert, but even a desert is prettier than 40,000 square miles of solar cells.
      • Re:Idiocy (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pclminion (145572)
        New Mexico is a bad location for photovoltaics. It's really hot, and PV efficiency goes down as the temperature increases.

        Here in Oregon, a place most people think of as perpetually overcast and raining, you can actually get about the same amount of energy from a PV cell as you would in New Mexico (averaged over the year), simply because it's cooler here and the efficiencies go up.

        Hint -- if you're in the market for solar cells, try to get the ones which are made from reprocessed semiconductor waste. Se

  • A look at solar. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Malluck (413074) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:47AM (#11675226)
    How viable is solar power? I was asking myself this question and here's the numbers I came up with.

    In 2001 the USA used 96275 trillion BTUs of energy [slashdot.org] that year. This comes to 3.22 trillion watts.

    Now there are about 295 million people [census.gov] in the US, so this comes to about 11Kw per person [google.com] at any given time.

    This means each person uses is responsible for 262 Kwh of power [google.com] per day.

    Now lets say that square meter of sunlight provides 1 kw of energy on average and the average area gets 5 good hours of sunlight per day. Looking at this chart [stirlingenergy.com], you can see that this assumption isn't too far off.

    The typical solar panel is about 30% efficient. This means that for every square meter of solar panel would render 1.5 KwH [google.com] every day.

    This means that each man woman and child would need 174 square meters [google.com] of panel to be responsible for all the energy made and used in their name!

    If every person in the united states of America put up solar panels. We would have over 51 billion square meters [google.com] of panel, that's close to 20,000 square miles [google.com]of panel or the equivalent of covering most of over in panels. [enchantedlearning.com]

    Now these numbers account for all energy used both domestic, industrial, and exported. Also these numbers do not account for the added or lost efficiency of converting systems over to pure electrical power as opposed to other energy processes like those used in the internal combustion engine.

    I left the links to my math in just incase I botched anything.
    • by utexaspunk (527541) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:33AM (#11675389)
      This means that each man woman and child would need 174 square meters of panel to be responsible for all the energy made and used in their name!

      This, of course, sounds like a lot, but consider the amount of roof surface the average suburban home has. The Average US home is 2,300 sq. ft. [housingzone.com], which equals ~214 sq. meters [google.com]. (Okay, so the average 2,300 sq. ft. home is probably 2-story, but humor me) Also consider the amount of roof space there is on office buildings, etc. and consider the reduced amount of line losses there would be in such a distributed grid. It would still likely be prohibitively expensive, and even if it weren't, it probably wouldn't be feasible at 30% efficiency, but there is a pretty good chance that efficiency will continue to increase, and that at some point it could look like a very reasonable option.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:36AM (#11675394)
      I'm not going to bother to check your math, I'll just quote from a January 2005 report of the Solar Energy Industries Association [seia.org]:

      "Solar collectors on a 100-by-100-mile area in the Southwest could generate as much electricity as the United States consumes in a year. Alternatively, solar systems on roofs, parking lots, and other developed land across the nation could generate all the electricity we need--now, in 2030, and 2050--without building on the nation's open spaces."

      I've seen similar figures from Sandia labs.

      I'm really puzzled why people always try to figure out how much space would be taken up by a centralized solar power plant. The appealing thing about solar power (and fuel cells, and wind power) is that it's distributed--generating units are scattered wherever power is necessary. If you think about it that way, the space taken up by solar panels (or whatever) is negligible.

      Go into an urban or suburban area and see how much space is taken up by buildings with flat roofs, parking lots, etc. Imagine that space covered by solar panels. Now realize that you can clad tall office buildings in solar panels that look like glass (and that let light through to the interior). There's an idea--make the buildings generate some of the power that they consume.
    • by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:54AM (#11675440) Homepage
      The typical solar panel is about 30% efficient.

      Why would you build a solar power plant using photovoltaic cells. Mirrored surfaces focussed on a water pipe, generating steam to drive a turbine, is considerably cheaper and far more efficient.

      If every person in the united states of America put up solar panels. We would have over 51 billion square meters of panel, that's close to 20,000 square miles of panel or the equivalent of covering most of over in panels.

      Now find out the total roof space in the USA. The figure should pleasantly surprise you.

    • If every person in the united states of America put up solar panels. We would have over 51 billion square meters of panel, that's close to 20,000 square miles of panel or the equivalent of covering most of over in panels.

      Solar panels are what you do if you want a bit of energy now in a spot that is off the grid - like a pocket calculator or marine navigation beacon. If you want power in industrial quantities you use heat - there are plenty of solar thermal solutions out there - some use steam and existin

    • Re:A look at solar. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Renegade Lisp (315687) *
      I think these numbers, and this perspective, are very much mistaken.

      R. Buckminster Fuller, in his 1980 book Critical Path, claims that humanity's energy income from the sun (the amount of energy from the sun that reaches the earth every second) is several million times larger than humanity's total energy consumption, world-wide. Granted, you have to find ways to make use of that energy, but the energy is there, and it's nothing but solar energy.

      How does that relate to your numbers? Well, to begin with

  • Interesting points (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CBob (722532) <crzybob_in_nj&yahoo,com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:47AM (#11675227)
    That even when a totally non-CO2 emitting, non-radioactive power source is found we still get the "OMG!! It's could cause xxx", uproar.

    Living here in the post-industrial wonderland of NJ, I find this amusing in a bad way.

    The other thing that shocked me was the supposedly "higher" costs for "green" energy. Bad news folks, it's lower than what I pay to Conectiv/Pepco.

    And now back to our regular insomnia...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:02AM (#11675273)

    Waves are cool, but don't forget ... OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) [hawaii.gov]

    My father was a primary designer on this, so I had the "real scoop" on what was going on there in real time, it was real exciting stuff back then!

    Mini-OTEC, 1979

    In 1979, the first successful at-sea, closed-cycle OTEC operation in the world was conducted aboard the Mini-OTEC, a converted Navy barge operating in waters off Keahole Point.

    This plant operated for three months, from August-October 1979, and generated approximately 50 kilowatts of gross power with net power ranging from 10-17 kilowatts.

    Its turbine generator produced a gross output of up to 55 kW. About 40 kW were required to pump up 2,700 gallons/min of 42F water from 2200-ft depth through a 24-in diameter polyethylene pipe and an additional 2,700 gallons/min of 79F surface water, leaving a maximum net power output of 15 kW.

    This was a joint effort by the State of Hawaii and a private industrial partner.

    More linkage: NREL's OTEC site [nrel.gov]

    Google [google.com]

    • Otec was a bust (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmichaelg (148257)
      I toured the plant shortly after it shut down. Otec was a bust before the first pipe section was laid. Seawater is terribly corrosive which means upkeep on the plant was a huge expense. The 15 KWH power output you cite cost several million dollars to generate and was worth less than a buck on the wholesale power market.

      The common thread in most green power schemes is "efficiency doesn't matter because the energy is free..." Unfortunately, efficiency does matter because you have to pay for and maintain t

  • by EatingPie (850731) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:36AM (#11675395)
    Aight, I've seen tons of misinformation and bogus speculation here, and I just perused the document!!

    (1) The facility is out to sea. Hawaii is the closest at 2.5KM, while California is at 13 to 20 Km.

    (2) They are in about 40M of water. Waves break in about 1-4M of water, depending on size.

    (3) The things FLOAT on TOP of the water! (The "Pelamis" design does anyway.) They are mored with cable, and are no where near breakers.

    (4) They are not so much "wave" energy as "swell" energy (ie waves = coastal, swell = deep ocean).

    Huge variation in wave height makes near-shore uneconomical when waves are small (often), and SEVERELY dangerous when large. (Name a man made structure that has withstood BREAKING waves or a sustained period of time.)

    Even when waves are small on the coast, deep sea swells still oscillate across the surface unhindered. The point is to harness these oscillations for energy (as far as I can tell).

    The environmental impact will be truly negligable, except for moorings and swell energy depleted before it reaches the coastline.

    The very environmentally-paranoid surfer in me says... Go for it!

    -Pie
  • Silly to dismiss (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:28AM (#11675519) Journal
    It's quite silly to dismiss the power of (ahem) alternative power.

    For example, the Freedom Tower [answers.com] now under construction in NYC, USA will generate a significant amount of its own power. (as much as 20%!)

    I'm a supporter of Nuclear technology, but only if it's open. The current "don't ask, don't tell" nuclear regime is stupid, stupid, stupid, and will never result in an industry that's truly safe. Nuclear technology should, like cryptography, be open, and should only be trusted when it's withstood significant, public, peer review.

    Have you ever heard of Changing world technologies [changingworldtech.com] and their plans to convert garbage into crude oil? I've been following this one for about 2 years, and I think it's the "real deal". It's still in its infancy, but it's viable in many places now, today!

    They're taking their time to refine things, and if I were them, I would, too. When I get the chance to invest in their technology, chances are, I will.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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