Research Proposal: Capturing and Storing Energy

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[. . .] "Single small turbines, below 100 kilowatts, are used for homes, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping. Small turbines are sometimes used in connection with diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems. These systems are called hybrid wind systems and are typically used in remote, off-grid locations, where a connection to the utility grid is not available" (U.S. Department of Energy, 2014). The research questions associated with wind power focus largely on the fact that wind flow patterns and speeds vary tremendously across the globe. Is wind power a viable solution, or partial solution, in areas without traditional high winds? Do offshore and on land wind turbines produce similar results? Is there a practical way to store wind energy or does the energy need to be used once captured and transformed into electricity?

Solar Power

As the name implies, solar power involves converting energy from the sun, which comes in the form of heat and light, into electricity. Solar power employs the use of various types of crystals, including silicon and copper-indium-gallium-selinide to turn light into energy. These crystals are capable of producing electric currents when struck by light. This electricity is then used, generally in localized, small-settings, to provide electricity. Furthermore, although solar power has generally been limited to sunny-day usage, the advent of lithium ion battery storage systems to capture electricity in residential solar systems means that solar power can be stored for use during rainy days or nighttime periods. Clearly, solar power has tremendous potential because of the widespread availability and renewable nature of solar power. However,

"Right now, solar energy only accounts for a tiny portion of the U.S.'s total electricity generation, because it is more expensive than alternatives like cheap but highly polluting coal. Solar power is about five times as expensive as what people pay for the current that comes out of the outlets" (Locke, 2008). This expense may one of the most significant barriers to widespread adoption of solar technology. In addition, it is important to understand that the crystals required to utilize solar cells are developed through very advanced technology. Emerging nations may be able to utilize wind and water power relatively easily through basic mechanical generators, but may not have the technology to grow crystals for use in solar cells. What this suggests is that solar power may come with its own political and social implications, despite the ubiquitous availability of sunlight. The questions associated with solar power are as follows. Can cheaper crystals be utilized to convert light into electricity? Can solar power be stored in an effective an efficient manner? Would larger lithium ion battery storage systems be viable storage solutions in large-scale applications? If storage systems can be effective, can solar power be used effectively as a power supplement in traditionally cloudy or rainy areas? What are the barriers to crystal growth that emerging nations face, and would it be more effective for them to purchase crystals from foreign companies or to establish fab units for the crystals?

Geothermal Power

One of the more promising uses of renewable energy, which, at least theoretically is accessible regardless of location, is geothermal energy. However, because the heat under the earth's surface varies widely by region, geothermal energy is more practical in some areas than others; for example, in the United States, the southwest region has far greater geothermal energy stores than many parts of the central south region. Like other forms of electricity production, geothermal energy uses heat to convert energy to electricity.

"The most common current way of capturing the energy from geothermal sources is to tap into naturally occurring "hydrothermal convection" systems where cooler water seeps into Earth's crust, is heated up, and then rises to the surface. When heated water is forced to the surface, it is a relatively simple matter to capture that steam and use it to drive electric generators. Geothermal power plants drill their own holes into the rock to more effectively capture the steam" (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009). Geothermal power plants have three basic designs. The first design sends steam from the earth directly to a turbine. The second design pressurizes very hot water to turn it into steam, and then sends it to a turbine. The third approach uses hot water to heat a liquid with a lower boiling point and then uses that steam to send to the turbine (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009).

While there is a tremendous amount of potential geothermal energy, there are special concerns related to its use. Seismically active areas provide the greatest potential energy. The primary question is whether using those resources can trigger additional seismic activity. Is air pollution a significant concern with some types of geothermal energy? Is direct use of geothermal heat a practical solution to energy concerns? It appears to be, given that Iceland already uses geothermal heat to heat most of its buildings.

Biomass Power

Finally, biomass power provides an intriguing energy alternative. Biomass is basically waste, and this waste is burned to create heat. It not only is renewable, but it can also deal with some of the pollution problems associated with waste by destroying the waste. For industrial use, biomass energy comes from wood, crops, agricultural residue, food waste, and industrial waste (Renewable Living, 2012). Biomass can also be used in homes or small business and is fueled by wood pellets, which are composed of by-products of wood manufacture that cannot be used elsewhere. Biomass is considered carbon lean, producing heat with much less pollution than burning fossil fuels. It can be used anywhere and is readily accessible. The questions associated with biomass concern pollution and waste storage. In order to be a successful means of energy on an industrial scale, what types of changes need to occur in the way that waste is processed, ensuring the availability of biomass without risking the burning and usage of caustic substances that would create air pollution? What are the unique storage opportunities linked to biomass?

References

CPS Energy. (2014). How is electricity made from natural gas? Retrieved February 17, 2014

from: http://www.cpsenergy.com/services/natural_gas/natgas_generation.asp

Duke Energy. (2014). How do coal-fired plants work? Retrieved February 17, 2014 from http://www.duke-energy.com/about-energy/generating-electricity/coal-fired-how.asp

Institute for Energy Research. (2014). Fossil fuels. Retrieved February 17, 2014 from http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/energy-overview/fossil-fuels/

Locke, S. (2008, October 20). How does solar power work? Retrieved February 17, 2014 from Scientific American website: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-solar-power-work/

Pace Energy and Climate Center. (2000). Electricity from: Oil. Retrieved February 17, 2014

from Pace University Website: http://www.powerscorecard.org/tech_detail.cfm?resource_id=8

Renewable Living. (2012, July 24). How does biomass work, and why do I want it? Retrieved

February 17, 2014 from: http://www.renewable-living.com/how-does-biomass-work-and-why-do-i-want-it/

Rosenthal, E. (2013, March 29). Life after oil and gas. Retrieved February 17, 2014 from the New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/sunday-review/life-after-oil-and-gas.html?_r=0

Union of Concerned Scientists. (2009, December 16). How geothermal energy works.

Retrieved February 17, 2014 from: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/how-geothermal-energy-works.html

U.S. Department of Energy. (2014). How do wind turbines work? Retrieved February 17, 2014

from Energy.gov website: http://energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work

U.S. Geological Survey. (2013, March 6). Hydroelectic power: How it works. Retrieved February 17, 2014 from USGS website: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/hyhowworks.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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Capturing and Storing Energy.  (2014, February 18).  Retrieved June 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/capturing-storing-energy/7215569

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"Capturing and Storing Energy."  18 February 2014.  Web.  20 June 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/capturing-storing-energy/7215569>.

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"Capturing and Storing Energy."  Essaytown.com.  February 18, 2014.  Accessed June 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/capturing-storing-energy/7215569.