Free energy

Dotini

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I read a dumb post on Imgur about EPA lobbying renewable energy sources. The crux of the arguement was a bumper sticker-level strapline:
Wind stops. The sky goes dark. This is why we need clean coal.
Even acknowledging the crumb of an argument about wind and solar power, it just left me completely dumbfounded.
Yes, the wind does stop.
Yes, the sky does go dark.
But coal? Coal definitely lasts forever...

I think that if nature follows its course, then yes, coal will always be around. This is since coal is formed largely from dead plant matter, carbon recycled from organisms. Surface life recycles itself as coal. Assuming the future is like the past in cosmic terms.


This is the response most people gave to the idiot post I referred to originally.
For me, I don't see why tidal power isn't better utilised or further researched. Even Bill O'Reilly sees how the tide works. So:
The wind stops.
The sky goes dark.
Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can't explain that.
It, at least, doesn't stop. Unless some sort of cosmic disaster affects the moon.

In geologic time, cosmic disasters do occur. Sometimes on what might seem to a cyclical basis, and sometimes random or arbitrary. The Younger Dryas (12,900 - 11,600 BP), saw major portions of the world remade by various disasters including truly massive flooding, and may have been initiated by a comet.

As a denizen of the saltwater shoreline for over 50 years, I can vouch that little of what man puts into the sea lasts for very long, at least not without serious maintenance. Previous experiments with tidal generating devices have sometimes seen the infrastructure simply swept away, a total loss.

But I'm not a defender of coal in terms of its terrible polluting effects. I simply acknowledge it was indispensable to building the civilization we know through the Bronze, Iron and Steel ages. Today, vast numbers of people around the globe rely on coal for heat and electricity; for a bearable life. The sheer increase of numbers of humans on the planet drives urgent need for ever more resources, not fewer. Someday a new Ice Age will cycle through, the Earth will be made anew (aside from a few decaying nuclear piles) and civilization start all over again with a new Stone Age.
 
12,239
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GTP_Imari
For me, I don't see why tidal power isn't better utilised or further researched. Even Bill O'Reilly sees how the tide works.

Because it's not baseline either. Think about how the tide works. You're generating power proportional to the flow rate, which means that your power generated is constantly fluctuating between a maximum and zero. It's more predictable than wind, but it's not a baseline source without massive storage to back it. Which is doable, without batteries even, but it makes the plants much, much more complicated than something like hydro.

Tidal is interesting, but it has it's own challenges and drawbacks. It's not a slam dunk over other forms.

I absolutely see the benefits of nuclear power but I am still skeptical about the use of hazardous materials and disposal of said waste.

We deal with bigger problems than nuclear waste regularly. The main problem is the fact that there hasn't been proper facilities or regulation put into containing it. It's not that it can't be done, more that it hasn't been and that there's now a massive backlog of waste dating back to the Manhattan Project.

All power plants are NIMBYs. Nuclear perhaps more so, but few people want a massive dam, or huge tide pools along the coast, or a coal fired smoke machine in their backyard either. Nuclear's major problem is reputation.

Realistically, Fukushima was a fifty year old design with known issues, and almost stood up to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and 15m tsunami. A modern plant, properly funded, built and managed, is almost certainly safe against any reasonable disaster scenario. But people don't respond emotionally to statistical safety figures, they go straight to worst case scenarios no matter how unlikely they might be. And the fear of radiation that was drilled into the population during the Cold War still exists.

If you look up hydroelectric disasters, there are a number of pretty big ones. They can cause significant fatalities and environmental damage, and they're not as rare as you might think. But hydro is seen as safe and environmentally friendly, because it's not radiation which is scary and hard to understand.
 

Joey D

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I agree, nuclear is the way to go and I'd say supplement it with solar and wind power in desert areas. We have vast tracts of hot, dry desert here in the western US that really can't support any kind of settlement. These would be perfect areas to build wind and solar complexes. I mean look at Nevada. No one really lives outside of Vegas or Carson-Tahoe. That state is prime to have power plants built in it to supply California, Arizona, Utah, and the other surrounding states.

As for nuclear waste, those big empty spaces are a good place to put it. As long as the containment is built appropriately, the danger of radioactive leakage is pretty small.

I think that if nature follows its course, then yes, coal will always be around. This is since coal is formed largely from dead plant matter, carbon recycled from organisms. Surface life recycles itself as coal. Assuming the future is like the past in cosmic terms.

Doesn't it take millions of years for coal to form? And are we even sure if the conditions on Earth currently can even produce it? Even if it doesn't take millions of years, it's at least in the thousands of years. For all intents and purposes, coal is a finite resource, even if it replenishes itself at some point in the distant future.
 

Johnnypenso

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I agree, nuclear is the way to go and I'd say supplement it with solar and wind power in desert areas. We have vast tracts of hot, dry desert here in the western US that really can't support any kind of settlement. These would be perfect areas to build wind and solar complexes. I mean look at Nevada. No one really lives outside of Vegas or Carson-Tahoe. That state is prime to have power plants built in it to supply California, Arizona, Utah, and the other surrounding states.

As for nuclear waste, those big empty spaces are a good place to put it. As long as the containment is built appropriately, the danger of radioactive leakage is pretty small.



Doesn't it take millions of years for coal to form? And are we even sure if the conditions on Earth currently can even produce it? Even if it doesn't take millions of years, it's at least in the thousands of years. For all intents and purposes, coal is a finite resource, even if it replenishes itself at some point in the distant future.
Why would you supplement nuclear energy infrastructure with more money spent on infrastructure that does exactly the same thing and thus could not even come close to passing any kind of cost-benefit analysis?
 

Joey D

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Why would you supplement nuclear energy infrastructure with more money spent on infrastructure that does exactly the same thing and thus could not even come close to passing any kind of cost-benefit analysis?

Nuclear power plants need a ton of water to work, not everywhere has access to that, especially in the western US. Yes, we have rivers but in most places where they flow, it's not possible to build anything. Solar plants can function without water and wind power doesn't need it at all.
 

Johnnypenso

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Nuclear power plants need a ton of water to work, not everywhere has access to that, especially in the western US. Yes, we have rivers but in most places where they flow, it's not possible to build anything. Solar plants can function without water and wind power doesn't need it at all.
In that case you'd supplement with clean coal, natural gas, hydro-electric or some other cost effective way of generating power that works 100% of the time. Unless they've found a way to cost efficiently store solar or wind power I'm not aware of, it isn't cost effective as a "supplement" to your main power source.
 

Joey D

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In that case you'd supplement with clean coal, natural gas, hydro-electric or some other cost effective way of generating power that works 100% of the time. Unless they've found a way to cost efficiently store solar or wind power I'm not aware of, it isn't cost effective as a "supplement" to your main power source.

In terms of storage, we already do that with wind and solar power. Using capacitors or batteries you can store quite a bit of power to use during non-peak producing times. With solar, those non-peak producing times also coincide with non-peak energy use times since it's at night. With wind, you'd probably be producing fairly consistent energy. In the western US, especially at elevation, it's almost always windy to a point. While it might not produce the peak amount of energy, it's still producing.

However, like I said, this is supplemental to nuclear power. This means it's only used in areas where it's not advantageous to build a nuclear power station or run long expanses of wires. For example, here in Salt Lake City we couldn't build a nuclear power plant due to the lack of usable water. While we have the Salt Lake, it's not really usable. The salt content of it would corrode the plant much quicker than a reactor on the ocean. All the other sources of water are stored for drinking. We do have a huge salt flat though that's really only good for testing missiles and driving really fast. Build a solar or wind plant out there, and it'd provide the city with energy. It'd also not contribute to the insane air pollution issue we have here due to the way the valley is.

I'm not a fan of coal, it's not clean and contributes to air pollution. I don't want to live near one, nor do I think most people do. I'd rather live near a nuclear power plant since the likelihood of anything happening is so small that there's virtually no risk. A solar or wind plant is essentially the same thing. Sure wind turbines can be a little noisy, but I think I'd rather deal with a low hum than smog.

Hydro-electric is also very hard on the environment. You run vast tracts of land when you build one since things dry up in front of it and flood behind it. Dams can work in certain situations, but I feel like there are better alternatives. Not to mention they are expensive to build since they're typically in remote mountainous areas. They also contribute to erosion, deforestation, and other things in the eco-system that I'm not a fan of destroying.
 

Dotini

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Back in the day people cooked and heated their huts with peat and animal dung. Likely some still do. Let's face it, there's no ideal solution to energy shortage other than fewer people and less demand.
 

Danoff

Who is John Galt?
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Back in the day people cooked and heated their huts with peat and animal dung. Likely some still do. Let's face it, there's no ideal solution to energy shortage other than fewer people and less demand.

I dunno, nuclear is pretty perfect. Granted as @Joey D and others have brought up it's not necessarily trivial to build a nuke plant just anywhere. But I'm struggling to think of more perfect solution. Changing the nuclear process from fission to fusion would be more perfect I suppose.

Try to think of this from a big picture perspective, galactic scale... nuclear is the answer. Quite obviously.
 

Dotini

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Maybe the perfect solution would be to remove the need for energy at all. Evolve massive jaws and huge teeth so we could eat uncooked food, evolve long, shaggy cloaks of fur so there is no need for clothing or houses; we could dwell in open nature. And a permanent state of ecstasy and orgasm so there is no need for TV, booze or even civilization itself.
 

Danoff

Who is John Galt?
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Maybe the perfect solution would be to remove the need for energy at all. Evolve massive jaws and huge teeth so we could eat uncooked food, evolve long, shaggy cloaks of fur so there is no need for clothing or houses; we could dwell in open nature. And a permanent state of ecstasy and orgasm so there is no need for TV, booze or even civilization itself.

Cows are the perfect state of civilization? I challenge the notion that it's good or even possible to rid humanity of its desires for things other than self-pleasure - like knowledge and substitutions for immortality.
 

Liquid

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Changing the nuclear process from fission to fusion would be more perfect I suppose.

I don't have it on good authority so take it however you wish but there is, apparently, a pro-fission lobby which does not wish to see the introduction (discovery?) of nuclear fusion power stations.

Lots of investment money involved, just like with Big Alcohol & Tobbaco vs Marijuana. Status quo is god.

Interesting to see how that one might pan out.
 

Rallywagon

what a long strange trip
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Back in the day people cooked and heated their huts with peat and animal dung. Likely some still do. Let's face it, there's no ideal solution to energy shortage other than fewer people and less demand.
Ohhh, I don't know that id put to much stock into that ideology.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencet...-reactor-hits-key-15-million-C-milestone.html
This is by and large the best solution for mass energy needs.
Personally, I feel that the power grid and the way we view it is kinda wank, antiquated, and perpetuated in such a manner as to allow electrical companies to gouge consumers. On a large scale, power plants are absolutely necessary. Powering businesses, high rise urban areas, universities, so on and so forth. As someone somewhere once quipped, try powering an industrial electric arc furnace with solar panels...
But, most houses can be outfitted and run nearly 100% with solar on the roof and a battery wall. With optional wind generator and connection to the grid.
Sure, some areas are better suited than others. LA as opposed to Seattle. Regardless, you can save quite a bit if money on the old electric bill for sure.
I of course also recommend having grid access, as things have a tendency to happen, but I think in most suburban and small commercial areas, solar and batteries could be far better utilized and in fact could and should be the primary source. As a point to that, the electric company's lobbyist sure have been putting on a song and a dance to try and keep things like Tesla's solar roof off the market. So weird how no one actually wants a free market.
Anyway. Fusion, its the future of power. Mark my words, or don't.
 

Famine

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I read a dumb post on Imgur about EPA lobbying renewable energy sources. The crux of the arguement was a bumper sticker-level strapline:

Wind stops. The sky goes dark. This is why we need clean coal.

Even acknowledging the crumb of an argument about wind and solar power, it just left me completely dumbfounded.

Yes, the wind does stop.
Yes, the sky does go dark.
But coal? Coal definitely lasts forever...
It's simply about demand and scale.

Wind and solar power generation require wind and sunshine. They can generate electricity when it's windy and sunny. You can't turn them on if you need electricity in response to (or anticipation of) demand, you can only use what they're making - and at the scale of the national powergrid, you can't store what they make to use later.

There'll always be a need for some turn-off-and-onable power generation to cope with on-the-spot demand. That could be coal, but then it could also be gas, hydroelectric (which is sort-of a storage system for electricity in the form of gravitational potential - pump it uphill when you have spare, let it flow downhill when you need it), or nuclear. Or possibly tidal, but there's questions of current scale over that one.

Not a lot compares to being able to just fire up a 2GW coal power station or a 4GW nuclear power station at the flick of a switch.


And "clean coal" is just technologies to make coal-fired power more efficient or less polluting - usually with desulphurisation, carbon-capture and stuff like gasification. Really it should be "cleaner coal", but if we're going to pull at that thread we'd need to start looking at the costs (and carbon costs) of manufacturing, transporting, piling (and dredging, if offshore) and installing 500ft high, 140-ton wind turbines...
 
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I don't have it on good authority so take it however you wish but there is, apparently, a pro-fission lobby which does not wish to see the introduction (discovery?) of nuclear fusion power stations.

Lots of investment money involved, just like with Big Alcohol & Tobbaco vs Marijuana. Status quo is god.

Interesting to see how that one might pan out.

I'm litterlly less then 5km away from a researchcentre that has been researching nuclear fusion. This does does not discredit your claim at all but at least some research is still be done. If we'd be able to make fusion plants it would 'solve' the energy problem.
 
952
Belgium
Belgium
Fusion is 20 years away.

It's always 20 years away.

That indeed is always the answer :P

I didn't want to say it because I only had it from hearsay but that's always what the researchers say.

Edit: in all faireness it's got a few big hurdles to jump over. Some of which have been solved allready, most we haven't :P
 

Dotini

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Obviously nuclear fusion is a chimera, a scam, a sinecure for a few scientists and engineers. Nuclear fission works well enough, but somehow we've never solved the problem of the waste and its safe storage through ensuing millennia. So it too is compromised, and not the perfect solution.

Liquid fuel is the most practical for real-world human use. Trouble is, there are way too many humans on this planet, 2.2 billion when I was born and going on 8 billion now. That, my friends, is a population explosion, and it has consequences.
 

Danoff

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Obviously nuclear fusion is a chimera, a scam, a sinecure for a few scientists and engineers.

It's not so much a scam as it is reality, you need look no further than your avatar. It turns out we already have 1 working fusion reactor, and pretty much everything on Earth is ultimately powered by it. Here's a quick tutorial.



Ultimately that is how humanity will get power. I don't think there's really any question. It's a matter of time.

Nuclear fission works well enough, but somehow we've never solved the problem of the waste and its safe storage through ensuing millennia. So it too is compromised, and not the perfect solution.

It's not as perfect as fusion. But it's otherwise superior to every alternative. Here's your waste problem summed up:

http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-wastes/radioactive-waste-management.aspx
How much waste is produced?
The volume of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) produced by the civil nuclear industry is small. The IAEA estimates that 370,000 tonnes of heavy metal (tHM) in the form of used fuel have been discharged since the first nuclear power plants commenced operation. Of this, the agency estimates that 120,000 tHM have been reprocessed. The IAEA estimates that the disposal volume of the current solid HLW inventory is approximately 22,000m3.1 For context, this is a volume roughly equivalent to a three metre tall building covering an area the size of a soccer pitch.

I'm unimpressed with the scale of the "problem" associated with this unbelievable power bonanza.

Edit:

You know, I think Aliens would be pretty disappointed with us over what we're doing with power right now.

"So you're telling me they already have fission, and they know how to use it safely, and they know their emissions are having a detrimental effect on their planet, and they're burning COAL?!?! They've already solved their power problem, they should have a general AI workforce by now giving them everything they ever wanted and solving their medical problems. They should have nearly eradicated death by now! Why are they burning COAL?"
 
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Rallywagon

what a long strange trip
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Because on Earth, the people who decide that are a bunch of knee jerking idiots who claim that coal can be clean.

The world could really use a purge.
Sadly, those knee jerk idiots are the same that have the power to also command militaries, if there is a purge, it would end better for them than anyone else I think.