Pros _ Cons of Alternative Energy by RG

VIEWS: 353 PAGES: 72

									  Pros & Cons of
Alternative Energy
The facts about what goes into
making alternative energies, and
 how beneficial they really are.

                                               Image from

According to “Our Solar Power Future,” recent studies of policy options for
growing solar markets shows that half of all U.S. electricity generation could
come from solar by the year 2025 .
                   Solar Power History
► 1767-Horace  de Saussure invented the first solar
  collector…an oven (Berinstein, 5).

Diagram of a Solar Collector Oven, though not the first, this model is still in use.
Image from
                      Solar History Continued…
► 1876-William   Grylls Adams, and his student Richard
  Day, discovered that when selenium was exposed to
  light it produced electricity (Fuel From the Sun, np).
► 1877-Homes are heated by circulating air over a
  sun-heated iron (Solar History, np).
► 1891-Clarence Kemp, considered the father of solar
  energy in the U.S., invented the first commercial
  solar water heater (Berinstein, 5).
                                                  The first solar
  NOW                                             water heaters                                            THEN
                                                  were metal
                                                  tanks painted
                                                  black, filled
                                                  with water.
                                                  They were
                                                  oriented to   face the sun.
            Solar History Continued…
► Early  1950‟s-Development of the Czochralski meter
  for producing very pure crystalline silicon
  (Berinstein, 5).
► In 1953-Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson, and Daryl
  Chapin discovered the silicon solar cell. This cell
  actually produced enough electricity and was
  efficient enough to run small electrical devices
  (Fuel From the Sun, np).
► 1954-Bell Telephone Laboratories set the bar first
  by producing a silicon photovoltaic cell that was
  4% efficient (Berinstein, 5).
► 1956-The first solar cells became available
  commercially (Fuel From the Sun, np).
         Solar History Continued…

► In 1958, the U.S.
  Vanguard satellite
  employed a solar array
  to power its radio
  (Berinstein, 5).

          Solar History Continued…
► 1973-The   U.S. Department of Energy funded the
  Federal Photovoltaic Utilization Program in
  response to the Arab oil embargo (Berinstein, 6).
► 1978- The National Energy Act is passed that
  attempted to reduce our dependence on foreign
  oil through restructuring our system and
  encouraging the development of alternative
  energies (Berinstein, 31).
► In 1982-A serious solar effort was put forth by the
  US government when the experimental solar
  central receiver system dubbed “Solar One” was
  built outside of Barstow, California (Berinstein, 6).
  Solar One: Baristow CA 1982-1988
          Solar History Continued…
► Between   1982 and 1986 shipments of U.S.
  photovoltaic cells increased over 500 percent,
  despite the fact that coal produced the majority of
  domestic energy (Berinstein, 6).
► Early 1990‟s- when the Gratzel solar cells were
  developed (Berinstein, 7). Cheap to make, with
  high light to energy efficiencies.
► Since 1971, the generating costs for photovoltaic
  power has decreased by an average of 15 percent
  annually (Berinstein, 7). In 1996 the cost of a
  photovoltaic cell was about one-tenth of what they
  were in 1975. The cost of electricity from utility
  scale photovoltaic systems in 1995 was estimated
  by the NREL to be about 21.8 cents per Kw hour
  (Berinstein, 8).
►   With solar energy on the
    rise again, refurbished
    parts from „Solar One‟
    were used to construct
    „Solar 2‟ in 1996 outside of   Solar Two: Daggett, CA 1996
    Daggett, California
    (Berinstein, 8).
►   Incentives were offered by
    30 states at this time for
    investment in solar
    collectors and photovoltaic
    cells and modules
    (Berinstein, 8). Even with
    incentives and increased
    affordability, solar energy
    only accounted for 1
    percent of the US
    renewable energy      

    (Berinstein, 8).
          Solar History Continued…
► 1997-President   Clinton signed Kyoto protocol to
  set guidelines for reducing green house gas
  emissions (Berinstein, 8).
► At the same time President Clinton announced the
  Million Solar Roofs initiative, to put solar systems
  on a million buildings by 2010 (Solar Energy
  Technologies Program, np). This was not an
  original idea, Japan already had implemented a
  successful initiative to put 70,000 systems on roofs
  in 1994 (SEIA, 5 ).
► In 1999- A thin-film solar photovoltaic cell
  composed of copper indium gallium diselenide was
  made at the NREL with an efficiency that was
  record breaking for polycrystalline thin films, at a
  whopping 18.8 percent efficiency (Berinstein, 8).
Future of Photovoltaic Technologies

► There is many products in the research
 phase of photovoltaic technologies. One
 such product is a dye-sensitized cell. This
 type of cell uses a dye impregnated layer of
 titanium-dioxide to generate a voltage,
 verses using the previously discussed
 semiconductors. This would drastically
 lower the cost of solar cells (EERE, np).
       Future of Photovoltaic Cells
►   Some researchers believe
    that soon laptops and
    small electronics will be
    powered by bendable solar
    cells. These new cells are
    organic made from
    pentacene, which are
    sheets made of rings of
    hydrogen and carbon that
    occur naturally. Since the
    manufacturing process is

    not as complicated as
    silicon panels, the organic
    cells are less expensive
    (Personal Power, np).
         SOLAR CELLS
Types of Photovoltaic Technologies:
► Single-crystal   silicon
   This is the most efficient except for thin-film
    gallium arsenide, but very difficult to produce.
► Polycrystalline   silicon
   This cell is less efficient than single-crystal type,
    but less expensive to manufacture.
► Noncrystaline,    or amorphous, silicon
   This type is considered a thin-film type, absorbs
    light easily, but cannot be reliably or easily
    mass produced.
 Photovoltaic Technologies Cont.
     film materials like gallium-arsenide,
► Thin
 copper-indium-diselenide, cadmium-telluride
   These types are easy to manufacture. Gallium-
    arsenide is the most efficient. The others are
    less efficient than gallium-arsenide, single-
    crystal and polycrystalline, but more efficient
    than amorphous silicon and cheaper to produce
    than crystalline silicon. These thin film
    technologies cost less because they only use a
    small amount of semiconductor material, only a
    few micrometers thick, attached to an
    inexpensive backing.
  What‟s so special about Gallium-
► Group   III-V Technologies
   These photovoltaic technologies are based on
    Group III and V elements of the Periodic Table.
    They show very high efficiencies under both
    normal and concentrated sunlight. Single
    crystal cells of this type are usually made of
    gallium arsenide (GaAs). Gallium arsenide can
    be alloyed with different elements such as
    indium, phosphorous, and aluminum to produce
    semiconductors that respond to different
    energies of sunlight. (EERE)
        Gallium-arsenide Cont.
► High-Efficiency   Multijunctional Cells
   The idea of alloying gallium-arsenide with other
    elements to capture different energies of light is
    applied in High-Efficiency Multijuction Devices,
    which employ multiple solar cells on top of each
    other to increase the capture of energy. The
    top layer captures the highest-energy light,
    allowing the rest of the light to be passed
    through and absorbed by the lower layers
    (EERE, np).
           Pros of Solar Power
► Green   house Gas Reduction
   For every residential system, green house gas
    emissions are reduced by the equivalent of
    taking one car off of the road (SEIA, 11).
► Inexhaustible   Fuel
   Over 1016 kWh of energy from the sun reaches
    the Continental United States, this is over 4000
    times the amount of energy we use per year
    (Berinstein, 64).
   Pros of Solar Power Continued…
► Modular
   Multiple solar cells are combined to make a solar panel.
    A solar array is made of multiple solar panels. They are
    easily worked into a site, because they can be easily
    transported and installed. This makes them ideal for
    rural and urban locations.
► Low-Maintenance,      Simple
   Solar power is simple because there are no moving
    parts, no emissions, and no water required. Power can
    be stored directly into batteries, or fed into the grid,
    making management of the energy created (Direct
    Current) very simple.
► No   water Required
   Solar technologies require no water to make energy,
    except for possibly a small amount used to clean off the
    array in dusty areas.
   Pros of Solar Power Continued…
► Job   Creation
   For every megawatt of solar power, 32 jobs are
    supported. Of these jobs 8 are located where the
    system will be installed (SEIA, 9).
► Net   Metering
   In areas where net metering is available it is a huge
    bonus. Net metering allows owners to sell their unused
    energy to the power company at retail prices. Dual
    metering requires so much more administrative costs
    that even though the power company purchases the
    produced power at wholesale from the owner, requiring
    the owner to pay retail for their used power, they still
    don‟t break even (Berinstein, 67).
   Pros of Solar Power Continued…
► Regenerates      Energy Used During Production in
 Short Time
   BP claims that one of their solar modules will re-generate the
    energy used in its manufacturing process depending on the
    application and location, in between 1 and 4 years (BP, np).
► Resource    Driven Generating Profile is the Cause of
 the Peak
   Expensive peak hours of power, are caused because the sun
    is out warming buildings, causing them to use air
    conditioning. Since solar power is generated by the same
    source making so any people turn the power up, it can help
    to generate power during crucial times.
► Energy is Still Produced Under Less than Desirable
   Southern orientation is most desirable, although east and west
    facing arrays can still produce up to 80% of the power that a true
    south system does (BP, np).
         Cons of Solar Systems
► Cost
   The cost of a complete residential utility system can
    range from $20,000 to 50,000. Some incentives are
    available for renewable energy; see Appendix A for a
    table of incentives by state.
► Emissions   Released During Production
   A small amount of emissions are released in the
    production of photovoltaic panels. The total amount of
    emissions during production equals approximately 5-
    10% of the amount avoided by using a solar system
    (Berinstein, 66).
► Hazardous   Materials
   Silicon dust can be harmful if inhaled, and
    polycrystalline thin film systems contain the hazardous
    materials arsenic and cadmium (Berinstein, 66). Mass
    disposal could become an issue, or if the products were
    to burn.
              Cons of Solar Power
►   Intermittent Source
    Other negative factors of solar energy is that it is an
    intermittent resource, not always available in all locations.
    In order for solar to be the sole energy source, good
    storage and transmitting systems would be necessary
    (Berinstein, 64). Though not impossible, the transition
    would be costly, and most likely have to occur over a
    number of years. It is because of this intermittent
    resource that solar should be paired with other renewable
    resources such as hydroelectric, or wind, to compensate
    for the deficit during periods of inefficiency.
            History of Hydropower
►   B.C.
     Over 2,000 years ago the Greek used hydropower to turn
      waterwheels for grinding wheat into flower (“History of
      Hydropower,” np)
►   Mid 1770‟s
     Bernard Forest de Bélidor, a French hydraulic and military engineer,
      wrote a four volume work in the mid 1770‟s called Architecture
      Hydraulique, which described in detail using vertical axis machines
      verses horizontal axis machines (“History of Hydropower,” np). It
      was this work that started the evolution of the modern
      hydroelectric turbine.
►   1878
     In 1878, the first U.S. hydroelectric power plant was completed at
      Niagara Falls (Berinstein, 5). Three years later, this plant powered
      the street lamps in the city with direct current hydropower
      (“History of Hydropower,” np).
                        Niagara Falls, 1914


Source: "Niagara Falls, General View from Hennepin Point, Winter." Copyright 1914. Taking the Long View: Panoramic
Photographs, 1851-1991, Library of Congress.
  Hydropower History Continued…

► 1880
   Michigan‟s Grand Rapids Electric Light and
    Power Company used a dynamo belted to a
    water turbine to light 16 bush-arc lamps at the
    Wolverine Chair Factory (“History of
    Hydropower,” np).
► 1882
   The worlds first hydroelectric power plant
    opened on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin
    (“History of Hydropower,” np).
The First Hydroelectric Power Plant

       Appelton, Wisconsin. 1882. Fox River Hydroelectric Plant.
History of Hydropower Continued…
►   1886
     In the next four years hydroelectric power plants would sprouted
      up all over the U.S. and Canada with an estimated 45 plants in
      1886 (“History of Hydropower,” np).
►   1889
     An estimated 200 plants used waterpower for some or all of their
      power generation (“History of Hydropower,” np).
►   1901
     The fedearl government joined in on the action by creating the
      Federal Water Power Act (“History of Hydropower,” np).
►   1902
     The Bureau of Reclamation was established (“History of
      Hydropower,” np).
►   1920
     The amount of electrical generation in the U.S. went from 15% in
      1907 to 25% in 1920, spurring the Federal Power Act to establish a
      Federal Power Commission authority to issue licenses for hydro
      development on public lands (“History of Hydropower,” np).
                         Hydro electric plant along the West Canadian creek in 1951.
History of Hydropower Continued…
►   1935
     The authority of the Federal Power Commission extended to all
      hydroelectric projects built by utilities engaged in interstate
      commerce (“History of Hydropower,” np).
►   1937
     The Bonneville Dam was the first Federal dam, and was built on
      the Columbia River in 1937 (“History of Hydropower,” np).
►   1940
     Hydropower provided 40% of all electrical generation (“History of
      Hydropower,” np).
►   1988
     A drought caused a 25% drop in output (Berinstein, 7).
►   2003
     Hydropower only accommodated for 10% of U.S. electricity
      (“History of Hydropower,” np).
First Federal Dam: Bonneville Dam

               Cons of Hydropower
►   No Future Plans
     Due to political and environmental issues, no new hydro
      development is planned in the near future, and a decrease from
      10% to 6% is expected (“Hydropower Resource Potential,” np).
►   Limited Resources
     Potential resources have been developed in the United States ,
      within realistic boundaries, for large plants. There is still potential
      for small plants and re-engineered large ones (Berinstein, 27).
►   Habitat Displacement
     River- Diverting water out or away from the stream can result in
      dried streamside vegetation (“Hydropower Research and
      Development,” np).
     Humans- Reservoirs can possibly cover land and river habitats with
      water, displacing the humans that inhabited the land (“Hydropower
      Reearch and Development,” np).
    Cons of Hydropower Continued…
►   Ecological Issues (“Hydropower Research and
    Development,” np)
     By damming the river water, insufficient flows can result in
      degraded riparian habitats for fish and aquatic organisms that
      reside below the dam.
     Reservoir water is much stiller than flowing water, and can result in
      a cesspool for undesirable insects, algae, an aquatic weeds.
     In some extreme cases, water being dropped from high dams can
      cause gas-bubble disease in aquatic organisms inhabiting the tail
      waters, from water becoming supersaturated with nitrogen.
     Thinking more of the animals, dams can block upstream movement
      of migratory fish, inhibiting them from reproducing. Another
      problem associated with fish is that they may be sucked into the
      intake flow and pass through the turbine, which could result in
      undesirable physiological effects.
                Pros of Hydropower
►   No emissions
►   Inexpensive Power
►   Research to Decrease Impact
     Research is underway teaming fisheries biologists with turbine designers to
      create a more environmentally friendly turbine (“Hydropower Research and
      Development,” np).
►   Research to Accommodate Growing Needs
     The U.S. Department of Energy has currently restructured the research
      and development (R&D) of hydropower in the face of increasing energy
      issues for the rest of the 21st century (“Hydropower Research and
      Development,” np). The R&D is now organized around two focus areas:
      enhancing the viability of hydropower, and expanding the application of
      hydropower (“Hydropower Research and Development,” np). To
      enhance the viability of hydropower the DOE is developing new methods
      which are intended to be more cost effective, with enhanced
      environmental performance and improved energy efficiencies
      (“Hydropower Research and Development,” np). It is believed that with
      the implementation of these new developments, existing hydropower
      plants would be able to produce 10 percent more energy (“Hydropower
      Research and Development,” np).
   Pros of Hydropower Continued…
► Undeveloped    Potential
   A research assessment was completed by the
    Department of Energy for 49 states, excluding Delaware
    due to limited resources (“Hydropower Resource
    Potential,” np). This study showed that there are 5,677
    sites with an undeveloped capacity of approximately
    30,000MW (“Hydropower Resource Potential,” np). In
    comparison there is around 80,000MW of hydroelectric
    generation in plants today (“Hydropower Resource
    Potential,” np).
► Micro-hydro   Alternative
   Micro hydro is a smaller, environmentally friendly
    solution for small scale applications (DuPont, np).
Micro Hydro Power
                       Micro Hydro
►   Acceptable Power Source for Residential Sites Which Fit
    the Following Criteria (DuPont, np):
     Location with a 20ft change in elevation with 100gal/min or 100ft
      head with 20gal/min
     Location of the turbine to the residence is less than a few hundred
►   Installation Cheaper than Solar
     To install a system in a good location, a micro hydro system will
      cost between $2500-$5000 (WWRE, np). The further the residence
      is from the turbine, the more expense is added to the system.
►   Compatible for Off-grid, as ell as Grid Connected
►   No Emissions
                                 Wind Power


Wind power is actually a form of solar power, since the sun heats the earth unevenly forming
wind (Berinstein, 99). Wind is not solely created by the sun, because topographical features
influence the speed, density, and direction of the wind ( Berinstein, 99). The United States,
excluding the southeastern and east central states, has generally good conditions for using
wind power (Berinstein, 99).
                   Wind Power History
►   Ancient Syria (around 200 B.C.)
     Windmills were used to grind grain and pump water (Wind Energy, np).
►   17th Century
     The Dutch began using wind turbines when they employed the use of wind
      power to drained the Rhine River delta to recover land. This Dutch design
      would dominate for the next 300 years (DuPont, np).
►   End of 19th Century
     The American Farm Windmill was invented (Dupont, np)
►   1920‟s
     The Darrieus turbine was invented in France (Wind Energy,” np).
►   1930‟s
     Rural Electrification Administration‟s programs introduced inexpensive grid
      power to many rural areas (“History of Wind Energy,” np).
     Wind Power History Continued…
►   1942
     Once again the Dutch made history by connecting a 200 kW wind
      turbine to the electric grid (Berinstein, 5).
►   Early 1980‟s
     California was the first state to implement large wind farms, for the
      generation of municipal electricity (Berinstein, 5).
►   1985
     California had installed 398MW of wind capacity. At this point the
      U.S. had the most wind capacity installed, though by the mid
      1990‟s they were passed up by Germany, Denmark, The
      Netherlands, and India, despite installations in states other than
      California (Berinstein, 6).
►   1992
     A tax incentive was implemented in the U.S. to encourage growth
      in wind power use. The incentive was extended through 2001 for
      the amount of energy actually produced. Even with this incentive
      wind only accounted for less than 0.5% of renewable energy in the
      U.S., but is growing faster than any renewable energy type
      (Berinstein, 7).
   Wind Power History Continued…
► 1997
   The average wind turbine was about 60 meters tall and
    produced enough electricity to power 200-300 average
    homes. This is the equivalent of about 600-750 kW
    (O‟Dell, np).
► Currently
   The turbines employed today are “almost as tall as the
    statue of liberty (93 m), with rotor diameters larger
    than the wingspan of a jumbo jet (64 m), and they
    produce enough electricity to power more than 500
    homes (O‟Dell, np).” The majority of wind turbines are
    used in areas with an average annual wind speed of 8-9
    mph, and at a height of 50m. These are ideal
    conditions, but not all locations have these
    characteristics. For those areas not fitting this
    description, low wind speed technologies are being
    developed (O‟Dell, np).
                 Types of Turbines
►   Vertical
     Darreius Turbines-This turbine looks a lot like an egg beater, and
      has vertical blades that rotate into and out of the wind. The
      turbines are capable of capturing more energy than drag devices
      because of the aerodynamic lift. Variants of this device are the
      Giromill and cycloturbine (Wind Energy, np).
     Savonius Turbines-This turbine was invented in Finland. When
      viewed from above it appears as an S-shape. This is a drag type
      turbine, and turns fairly slow. It is not ideal for generating
      electricity, but works well for grain grinding, or water pumping
      (Wind Energy, np).
►   Horiztonal
     Most commonly used today, these turbines consist of a tall tower
      with a rotor on top which faces the wind, the generator, and the
      controller. The most common horizontal axis turbines today have
      two or three blades, though there are many variations (Wind
      Energy, np).
Types of Turbines
Basic Working Diagram
      Future of Wind Technologies
► Research    and Development (R&D)
     Multi-variable speed turbines
     Low wind Speed turbines
     Low friction, Low maintenance turbines
     Offshore turbines
                     Off Shore Turbines

            The UK is leading the way in off shore wind turbine development.
 Wind Power is on the Upswing!
► In  2003 businesses around the world invested $9
  billion in wind technologies (O‟Dell, np). The
  director of the National Wind Technology Center,
  Robert Thresher, said that “With the current fuel
  prices, wind is the most cost effective energy
  source out there, and it‟s a clean, domestic,
  renewable resource that can wean the United
  States from its dependence on foreign fuel
  sources. There is enough wind energy resources
  on and offshore to more than meet the electrical
  energy needs of the country (O‟Dell, np).”
           Interesting Factoid:
► According  to the U.S. Department of Energy,
  theoretically the world‟s winds could supply more
  than 15 times the world‟s current energy demand
  (approximately 5,800 BTU‟s). That 5,800
  quadrillion BTU‟s is equivalent to 997.6 billion
  barrels of oil, or 261 billion tons of coal (AWEA,
  np). In the U.S., the AWEA has proposed that
  North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas generate
  enough energy alone to power the entire country
  (Berinstein, 99).
Ideal Conditions for Wind Energy
► Stand      Alone Systems          (Systems Not Connected to the Grid)

      The residence is within an area which receives average
       annual wind speeds of 9 mph
      Connecting to the grid is too costly or unavailable
      The consumer seeks energy independence
      A strong interest in reducing environmental impact
      The user knows that since wind is intermittent they may
       need an alternative power source
►   NOTE: Since wind is an intermittent source, some off grid users may find it
    extremely beneficial to purchase a hybrid systems which couples wind turbines
    with photovoltaic technology. This would allow users to generate electricity
    during times when the wind is not efficient, and during peak summer hours
    (EEE, np).
 Ideal Conditions for Wind Power
► Grid   Connected Applications
   Persons who live in an area with average wind
    speeds of 10 mph
   Supplied utility power is expensive
   The expenses of connecting the turbine to the
    grid are not outrageously expensive
   Wind turbines are allowed on the property
   For persons not worried about making a long-
    term investment
           Pros of Wind Energy
► Abundant   Resource
   An estimated 60% of the nation has enough wind
    resources to make small turbines a good option. This is
    especially emphasized for the 24% of populations still
    living in rural areas. Even small contributions contribute
    to reducing our emissions and our dependence on
    foreign oil (O‟Dell, np).
► Requires   Little Water
   The only water required is used for cleaning the blades
► Produces No Emissions  or Pollution
► Doesn‟t Have Anymore   Toxic or Hazardous
  Substances Than Any Other Large Machine
► Doesn‟t Pose a Threat to the Safety of the Public
► One of the Shortest Energy Payback Periods
   In just a typically a few months the turbine has
    generated the amount of energy required to fabricate,
    install, operate, and retire, the turbine (AWEA, np).
  Pros of Wind Energy Continued…
► CanBe Used on Lands Already Being Used for
 Things Such as Farming
   Wind power generation systems can be applied to lands
    used for other uses such as farming, since it does not
    require the land under the turbines, which sets it apart
    from large generating stations. Wind turbines only
    require 5-10% of the wind farms area for operation
    (Berinstein, 101). It can ideally bring added income to
    farming areas through offsetting electricity charges,
    increasing land value, and doesn‟t interfere with faming
    operations (UCS, np). Wind power plant owners can
    pay the farmers rent for the use of the land,
    substantially contributing to the farmers income
    (“Advantages and Disadvantages…,” np).
► One   of the Lowest Priced Energies
   Wind power costs between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt-
    hour, depending on financing and environmental
    variables (Advantages and Disadvantages…,” np).
           Cons of Wind Energy
► Cost
   The initial cost of a wind system can be detouring for
    private consumers, but wind turbines can be
    competitive with conventional energy sources when you
    account for a lifetime of reduced, and possibly avoided
    utility costs (“Wind and Energy FAQ‟s …,” np).
► Location   and Need Not in the Same Place
   Unfortunately, good wind sites tend to be located in
    rural areas, further away from the dense centers which
    need the electricity, making transmission more costly
    (“Advantages and Disadvantages…,” np).
► Viewed   as Unsightly and Noisy
   Some residents in populated areas put up resistance to
    wind turbines being installed because they view them as
    noisy, or unsightly (UCS, np).
            Cons of Wind Power
► Bird   Worries
   There is also an issue with wind turbines causing the
    death of a number of birds, including endangered
    golden eagles (UCS, np).
► Intermittent     Source
   Since, similar to photovoltaic technologies, wind is an
    intermittent power source. It is most advantageous
    when coupled with other renewable energy sources. A
    renewable source not dependant on weather that can
    be most advantageous for areas needing additional
    energy (Wind Energy FAQs…, np).

Biomass, also termed biopower, is just a fancy way to say „the use of organic matter as a fuel source.‟
Bioenergy includes wood, agricultural crops, crop residues, industrial and municipal organic waste, and
food waste, as well as animal waste (MTC, np).
                     Biomass History
►   Beginning of Human Existence
     Since the beginning of humans, dung, wood, plants, and human excrement
      have been burned as fuel for cooking, light and heat (“Benefits and
      Barriers…,” np).
►   1860‟s
     Wood was the primary energy source for cooking and heating in homes, as
      well as for steam production on boats, trains and in industry (EIA, np).
►   1890‟s
     Steam generation switched from using primarily wood to using coal some
      time in the 1890‟s (EIA, np).
►   1900‟s
     Ironically, ethanol was competing with gasoline to be the fuel for cars
      (EIA, np).
►   1910-
     Although coal was making headway, most homes were still heated with
      wood (EIA, np).
►   1930‟s
     Only urban areas had buildings heated by coal in the 1930‟s, for all other
      areas wood was still the primary fuel (EIA,np).
           Biomass History Continued…
►   1939
     1939 was the first year that the U.S. burned more coal than wood
      (Berinstein, 5).
►   1950‟s
       By the 1950‟s electricity and natural gas had surpassed coal for heating
        most buildings (EIA, np).
►   1974
     In 1974, due to high energy costs, many Americans switched back to
      heating their homes with wood stoves (EIA, np). Industry responded to
      the high energy prices by using wood, and wood waste product for fuel, as
      well as using wood
►   1984
     The first wood-fired electricity plant was built by Burlington Electric in
      Vermont (EIA, np).
►   1990
     190 biomass-fired electricity generating plants, of which 184 were non-
      utility generators, mostly wood and paper (EIA, np).
►   1996
     Biomass gasification tests operations successful, hot gas cleanup was
      identified as a vital part in spreading adoption of biomass technology (EIA,
      np). In 1996 the first fuel cell to run on renewable fuel, converting landfill
      methane to electricity, was dedicated (Berinstein, 8).
     Biomass History Continued..

► 1997
   A year after the fuel cell breakthrough, biomass
    accounted for 38% of the renewable energy
    used in the U.S. (Berinstein, 8).
► Today
   Developing countries still rely heavily on
    biopower, especially wood (MTC, np).
                       Biomass Processes
►   Biomass Gasification
      Biomass is heated in a gasifier to temperatures between 600-800°C. These
       temperatures convert the solid biomass into a gas composed mainly of hydrogen,
       carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane. This gas can then be
       used as a fuel for applications which include gas electricity-generating turbines.
       Gasifiers emit less pollution than other systems that burn biomass, and are more
       efficient requiring less raw material. This is a new technology, not in common use
       (MTC, np).

                         Biomass Processes
►   Landfill Gas
      Landfill gas however has been
       employed for decades. Landfill gas
       is a byproduct of the decaying
       process that organic matter goes
       though under anaerobic conditions.
       The resulting gas is around 50%
       methane, and can be used in
       applications similar to natural gas,
       which is 90% methane (“Benefits
       and Barriers…,” np). Landfill gas,
       once a collection system is in place,
       can produce a steady flow of fuel to
       power gas applications such as
       turbines for electricity (“Benefits
       and Barriers…,” np). Since there is
       always decaying matter in landfills,
       this is an abundant source of
       energy which can be used, instead
       of wasting those gases. Several
       landfill gas facilities exist, and many
       landfills are being encouraged to         cts/Landfill.jpg
       adapt their systems to
       accommodate energy reclamation
       by either methane or steam
       reclamation systems.
                 Biomass Processes
►   Direct-firing or Direct combustion
     This process oxidizes biomass fuel. The gas which results is hot,
      and produces steam when run though a heat exchanger in a boiler.
      Plants such as these operate like fossil fuel or nuclear plants when
      used commercially. Certain types of biomass foul the heat transfer
      surfaces needed to keep a plant such as this operational, which
      makes these plants less efficient even though the technology is
      mature (Berinstein, 87).
►   Pyrolysis
     Pyrolysis converts biomass into solids (char), liquids (oils and
      methanol), and gases (methane, carbon monoxide, and carbon
      dioxide) through a thermochemical process which makes all of
      these forms burnable to create energy (Berinstein, 87).
►   Liquefaction
     Liquefaction also uses a thermochemical process to transform the
      products of gasification, or pyrolysis, to liquid fuels using catalytic
      reactions (Berinstein, 88).
►   NOTE: Pyrolysis and Liquefaction processes are not yet
    refined enough for commercialization.
      Biomass Potential
                    Pros of Biomass
►   Lower Emissions than Fossil Fuels
     Although these fuels are not emission free when burned, they do
      have considerably less pollution than fossil fuels, and generally are
      waste products (Berinstein, 86). Burning wood releases carbon
      dioxide into the atmosphere, but not more than was absorbed by
      the tree while it was living (MTC, np).
►   An Abundance of Energy
     Waste contains an abundance of energy, and is more economical to
      burn than to dispose of. Some of this waste is generated by
      consumers, and some by industry. Useful industrial waste products
      are black liquor (the waste produced when wood is chemically
      pulped), bark, chipped wood, logging left-overs, and agricultural
      wastes (Berinstein, 87).
►   R&D Making Headway
     Some research and developments in biodeisel (fuel made from
      biological sources as described above) are underway and making
      news, such as the buses which can run on old French fry grease.
      Pros of Biomass Continued…

► Landfills
    Landfills can be an abundant source of energy because
     of the methane produced (Berinstein, 87).
► Additional   Research
    Some research is underway to develop fast growing
     trees and plants to be cultivated for energy production,
     since standing trees are not a beneficial option. Lastly
     energy crops are those which can be refined into oil to
     replace diesel and fuel (“Benefits and Barriers…,” np).
                   Cons of Biomass
►   Produces More Emissions than “Green Energy”
►   Steeling from Peter to Pay Paul
     Although biomass produces less carbon dioxide, it still produces
      methane which is a stronger gas (Berinstein, 91).
►   Harmful Waste Products
     When municipal waste is combusted it can produce toxic metals,
      chlorinated compounds, and plastics which are all harmful
      (Berinstein, 91).
►   VOC‟s Produced
     Thermochemical processes can produce volatile organic compounds
      (VOC‟s) and carbon monoxide, even though it can be controlled
      (Berinstein, 91).
►   Hazardous Wastes
     Pyrolisis and liquefaction, can create hazardous wastes (Berinstein,
        Cons of Biomass Continued…

►   In order for liquefaction and pyrolysis to be used
    commercially, a way to remove noxious compounds from
    the gas must be discovered, and large plants would need
    to be constructed (Berinstein, 88).
►   Energy crops generally reduce water pollution, and are
    needed for refueling the land with vital nutrients
    (Berinstein, 91). By raping soils of their nutrients if there
    is not enough waste left behind, we could potentially
    destroy habitats.
►   Biomass could only be reasonable used as a transitional
    energy while converting from fossil fuels to greener
►   There is no miracle solution
     There is no one energy which is going to save the world from
      global warming.
►   Collaborative Effort
     It is going to take the employment of multiple green energy efforts
      to create a sustainable grid.
►   Return to Our Throne
     Countries like Japan and Germany are leading the way on the
      renewable energy frontier, but at one time the United States was in
      the lead, and it would not take a miracle to put us back in the
► It is going to take government policy, personal interest,
  and a serious look into the grim future of continuing on the
  same path, to get the ball rolling faster on renewable
► Initially it will cost everyone more, but the more we use it,
  the cheaper it will get. Examining the options of
  continuing to be dependant on other countries, a small
  investment in our energy independent future seems
  miniscule in comparison.
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