University Research into Alternative Energy

University Research into Alternative Energy

Decades of tree and biomass research jointly conducted by Florida Statue University and Shell Energy have resulted in the planting of the largest single “Energy Crop Plantation” in the entire United States. This Plantation spans approximately 130 acres and is home to over 250,000 planted trees including cottonwoods (native to the area) and eucalyptus (which are non-invasive) along with various row crops such as soybeans.
This organization of “super trees” was brought into being as a result of the University's joint research with other agencies including Shell, the US Department of Energy, the Common Purpose Institute, and groups of various individuals who are working to develop alternative energy sources (those not dependent on fossil fuels) for the future.
This research is focused on the planting and processing of biomass energy supplies from fast-growing crops known as “closed loop biomass” or simply “energy crops”. The project seeks to develop “power plants”  such as wood-pulp or wood-fiber providing plants; clean biogas to be used by industries; plants such as surgarcane which can be used for ethanol development; and crops such as soybeans for biodiesel fuel production.

University involvement in alternative energy research is also going on at Penn State University. At Penn State, special research is focused on the development of hydrogen power as a practical alternative energy source. The researchers involved are convinced that mankind is moving toward a hydrogen-fueled economy due to the needs for us to reduce air pollution and find other sources of energy besides petroleum to power up the United States. Hydrogen energy burns clean and can be endlessly renewed, as it can be drawn from water and crop plants. Hydrogen power would thus be a sustainable energy resource to be found within the US' own infrastructure while the world's supply of (affordable) oil peaks and begins to decline. The University seeks to help with the commercial development of hydrogen powered fuel cells, which would be usable in place of or in tandem with combustion engines for all of our motor vehicles.

When President Bush recently announced his alternative energy initiative, he determined that the government would develop five “Sun Grant” centers for concentrated research. Oregon State University has the honor of having been selected as one of these centers, and has been allocated government grants of $20 million for each of the next four years in order to carry out its mission. OSU will lead the way in researching alternative energy as it represents the interests of the Pacific Islands, the US' Pacific Territories, and nine western states. OSU President Edward Ray says, the research being conducted through OSU’s Sun Grant center will contribute directly to our meeting President Bush’s challenge for energy independence. Specific research into alternative energy being conducted at OSU by varios teams of scientists right now include a project to figure out how to efficiently convert such products as straw into a source of renewable biomass fuel, and another one aimed at studying how to efficiently convert wood fibers into liquid fuel.
What is Alternative Energy

What is Alternative Energy

There is a lot of energy that we can  harness if we only seek to research and develop the technologies needed to do so. We can get away from the fossil fuels and the old electrical grids by turning to alternatives to these energy sources.

One of these alternative energy resources is wind power. Wind turbines continue to be developed that are progressively more energy efficient and less costly. “Wind farms” have been springing up in many nations, and they have even become more strategically placed over time so that they are not jeopardizing birds as former wind turbines did.

Another alternative energy resource is the one that is most well known: solar energy. This involves the manufacturing of solar cells which gather and focus the energy given off directly by the sun, and translate it into electricity or, in some cases, hot water. As with wind energy, solar energy creates absolutely zero pollution.

Ocean wave energy is seen by governments and investors as having enormous energy generating potential. A generator in France has been in operation for many years now and is considered to be a great success, and the Irish and Scots are running experimental facilities.

Hydroelectric power has been with us for a while and where it is set up, it is a powerful generator of electricity and cleaner than a grid. However, there are certain limitations to the availability of the right places to set up a large dam. Many run-of-the-river, or small and localized, hydroelectric generators have been set up in recent times due to this limitation.

Geothermal energy is extremely abundant, since it lies directly beneath our feet, just a few miles below the earth's surface. This energy is produced by the heating of water through the actions of earth's fantastically hot molten core. The water turns to steam, which can be harnessed and used to drive turbine engines which in turn generate electricity. Great amounts of research and development should be put into geothermal energy tapping.


Waste gas energies, which are essentially methane, reverse the usual energy-pollution relationship by creating energy from waste that lies in the dumps and from some air pollutants. This gas is used in fuel cells and can be used in standard gasoline generators.

Ethanol is a gasoline substitute and is created from such things as wheat, sugarcane, grapes, strawberries, corn, and even wood chips and wood cellulose. There is controversy over this fuel with regards to its ever becoming truly economical or practical except in very localized areas, but technologies for its extraction and admixturing are continuously being refined.

Biodiesel energy is created out of the oils contained in plants. So far, the commercial stores of biodiesel have been created using soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower oils. At the time of this writing, biodiesel is typically produced by entrepreneurial minded individuals or those who want to experiment with alternative energy, but commercial interest from companies is on the rise. It burns much cleaner than oil-based diesel.

Atomic energy is created in atomic energy plants using the process of nuclear fission. This energy is extremely efficient and can generate huge amounts of power. There is concern from some people about what to do with the relatively small amount of waste product atomic energy gives off, since it is radioactive and takes hundreds of years to decay into harmlessness.
Alternative Energy Development in Japan

Alternative Energy Development in Japan

Japan is a densely populated country, and that makes the Japanese market more difficult compared with other markets. If we utilize the possibilities of near-shore installations or even offshore installations in the future, that will give us the possibility of continued use of wind energy. If we go offshore, it's more expensive because the construction of foundations is expensive.

But often the wind is stronger offshore, and that can offset the higher costs. We're getting more and more competitive with our equipment.
The price—if you measure it per kilowatt-hour produced—is going lower, due to the fact that turbines are getting more efficient. So we're creating increased interest in wind energy.

If you compare it to other renewable energy sources, wind is by far the most competitive today.
If we're able to utilize sites close to the sea or at sea with good wind machines, then the price per kilowatt-hour is competitive against other sources of energy, go the words of Svend Sigaard, who happens to be president and CEO of the world's largest wind turbine maker, Vestas wind systems out of Denmark. Vestas is heavily involved in investments of capital into helping Japan expand its wind turbine power generating capacity.

It is seeking to get offshore installations put into place in a nation that it says is ready for the fruits of investment into alternative energy research and development.
The Japanese know that they cannot become subservient to the energy supply dictates of foreign nations—World War II taught them that, as the US decimated their oil supply lines and crippled their military machine.
They need to produce energy of their own, and they being an isolated island nation with few natural resources that are conducive to energy production as it is defined now are very open to foreign investment and foreign development as well as the prospect of technological innovation that can make them independent.
Allowing corporations such as Vestas to get the nation running on more wind-produced energy is a step in the right direction for the Japanese people.
The production of energy through what is known as microhydoelectric power plants has also been catching on in Japan.
Japan has a myriad rivers and mountain streams, and these are ideally suited places for the putting up of microhydroelectric power plants, which are defined by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization as power plants run by water which have a maximum output of 100 kilowatts or less.
By comparison, “minihydroelectric” power plants can put out up to 1000 kilowatts of electrical energy.
In Japan, the small-scaled mini- and micro-hydroelectric power plants have been regarded for a considerable time as being suitable for creating electricity in mountainous regions, but they have through refinement come to be regarded as excellent for Japanese cities as well.

Kawasaki City Waterworks, Japan Natural Energy Company, and Tokyo Electric Power Company have all been involved in the development of small-scale hydroelectric power plants within Japanese cities.

Alternative Energy for the Home

Alternative Energy for the Home

The trend toward homes that are powered by alternative energy sources, ranging from wind turbines and solar collection cells to hydrogen fuel cells and biomass gases, is one that needs to continue into the 21st century and beyond.

We have great need of becoming more energy independent, and not having to rely on the supplying of fossil fuels from unstable nations who are often hostile to us and our interests. But even beyond this factor, we as individuals need to get “off the grid” and also stop having to be so reliant on government-lobbying giant oil corporations who, while they are not really involved in any covert conspiracy, nevertheless have a stranglehold on people when it comes to heating their  homes (and if not through oil, then heat usually supplied by grid-driven electricity, another stranglehold).

As Remi Wilkinson, Senior Analyst with Carbon Free, puts it, inevitably, the growth of distributed generation will lead to the restructuring of the retail electricity market and the generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.

The power providers may have to diversify their business to make up for revenues lost through household energy microgeneration. She is referring to the conclusions by a group of UK analysts, herself included among them, who call themselves Carbon Free. Carbon Free has been studying the ever-growing trend toward alternative energy-using homes in England and the West.

This trend is being driven by ever-more government recommendation and sometimes backing of alternative energy research and development, the rising cost of oil and other fossil fuels, concern about environmental degradation, and desires to be energy independent.

Carbon Free concludes that, assuming traditional energy prices remain at their current level or rise, microgeneration (meeting all of one's home's energy needs by installing alternative energy technology such as solar panels or wind turbines) will become to home energy supply what the Internet became to home communications and data gathering, and eventually this will have deep effects on the businesses of the existing energy supply companies.

Carbon Free's analyses also show that energy companies themselves have jumped in on the game  and seek to leverage microgeneration to their own advantage for opening up new markets for themselves. Carbon Free cites the example of electricity companies (in the UK) reporting that they are seriously researching and developing ideas for new geothermal energy facilities, as these companies see geothermal energy production as a highly profitable wave of the future.

Another conclusion of Carbon Free is that solar energy hot water heating technology is an efficient technology for reducing home water heating costs in the long run, although it is initially quite expensive to install.  However, solar power is not yet cost-effective for corporations, as they require too much in the way of specialized plumbing to implement solar energy hot water heating.

Lastly, Carbon Free tells us that installing wind turbines is an efficient way of reducing home electricity costs, while also being more independent. However, again this is initially a very expensive thing to have installed, and companies would do well to begin slashing their prices on these devices or they could find themselves losing market share.
Wind Power as a Viable Solution to Meeting Alternative Energy Needs

Wind Power as a Viable Solution to Meeting Alternative Energy Needs

Although it is much less expensive to initially get hooked into the local electric company's grid than it is to set up and hook into wind turbines, in the long run one saves money by utilizing the wind for one's energy needs—while also becoming more independent.
Not receiving an electric bill while enjoying the advantages of the modern electrically-driven lifestyle is a wondrous feeling.

Electric bills and fuel bills are rising steadily—but the cost of wind turbine energy is zero, and the cost of installing and hooking up a turbine is steadily coming down as demand rises and more commercial success is realized by various companies producing the turbines and researching technologies to make them ever more efficient. In addition, people are moving away from the traditional electric grids and the fossil fuels for personal reasons including desire for greater independence, the desire to live remotely or rurally without having to “go primitive”, political concerns such as fears of terrorist strikes on oil fields or power grids, or concerns about the environment.

 Again, this motivation to get away from the traditional energy sources is the same one that causes people to seek the power of the wind for their energy, giving more business opportunities to profit from wind turbine production and maintenance, which drives their costs down for the consumers. In nearly thirty states at the time of this writing, homeowners who remain on the grid but who still choose to use wind energy (or other alternative forms) are eligible for rebates or tax breaks from the state governments that end up paying for as much as 50% of their total “green” energy systems' costs. In addition, there are 35 states at the time of this writing where these homeowners are allowed to sell their excess energy back to the power company under what are called “net metering laws”. The rates that they are being paid by the local power companies for this energy are standard retail rates—in other words, the homeowners are actually profiting from their own energy production.

Some federal lawmakers are pushing to get the federal government to mandate these tax breaks and other wind power incentives in all 50 states. Japan and Germany already have national incentive programs in place. However, “A lot of this is handled regionally by state law.

There wouldn't really be a role for the federal government,” the Energy Department's Craig Stevens says. And as might be imagined, there are power companies who feel that it's unfair that they should have to pay retail rates to private individuals. “We should [only have to] pay you the wholesale rate for ... your electricity,” according to Bruce Bowen, Pacific Gas & Electric's director of regulatory policy. However, the companies seem to be more worried about losing short term profits than about the benefits, especially in the long run, of the increased use of wind turbines or wind farms. Head of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies of California V. John White points out, “It's quality power that strengthens the grid.”