10 things we ought to know about energy.

energy(1) Wind power works best in tandem with hydro power, using the water basin as the accumulator.

(2) Geothermal is best suited in northern climates, like Canada’s: for warming in winter, and cooling in summer, while the underground mass is restored with heat exchange in the summer. My high school won the Quebec Hydro Prize and economizes a mammoth $135,000 a year in heating oil (College Ste-Anne La Pocatière, Qc). Way to go leaders!

(3) Hydrogen fuel cells offered much hope a decade ago, but no cigar. Hydrogen as a combustible is doomed to remain too costly to produce and too dangerous to transport, and the fuel cells have too short a working life.

(4) But its child, the natural gas fuel cell (Solid oxide fuel cell : see video), can also produce electricity with little to no waste, works pretty well for medium industry needs for power stability, like what eBay and Google use from BloomEnergy, among other makers.  Yes, gas is gas, but the idea here is to combine the best of all worlds. On the topic of natural gas, let me introduce you to (4.5) A nordic home owner’s very elegant solution for heat, hot water and electricity might just be found in the micro-generator designed initially for yatchs in New-Zeeland by Whispergen. This 2 cubic foot unit is based on the sterling engine and is likely a very good candidate for decentralization of energy production.

(5) Solar photovoltaic panels still need improvement but are rather useful to relieve power spikes, particularly in climates such as Sydney’s in Australia, where they are used in enough numbers to alleviate the cost of AC during times of scorching sun exposure. I personally like the type that are made in wave-like forms, similar to the old, terra-cotta roofing tiles, since they go on the roof.

(6) Electric cars have bad batteries (bad, heavy-metal chemistry when put to waste), and they need power from the electrical grid, which is already under stress. But super condenser battery technologies offer some hope. All our computers work with condenser batteries, which is why we do not have to replace the internal battery anymore to keep the clock ticking. Next is to build a super condenser battery for cellulars, then possibly for cars. A condenser battery is somewhat like what we use is in a photo flash to accumulate the power and release it instantly in the form of light.

(7) Nuclear energy, in the form of liquid-fluoride thorium or Fluid Fuel Reactors, offers the best hope for optimizing percentage of fuel use, minimizing radioactive waste and catastrophic failure: read  “Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke” in Wired magazine. Check out Kirk Sorensen, NASA. The old, uranium nuclear plants are time bombs, no matter what the well-paid, nuclear CEOs lead us to believe. Science is derived from experiences, we have experienced it enough, I think. Petroleum disasters are not much better, but the land remains habitable soon after, which is not true for nuclear. That said, petroleum kills more people than nuclear, in car accidents for one… That would be an after effect!

(8) Compact fluorescent bulbs turn out to be not so green: not so durable, not so inexpensive and bad in their waste cycle. Perhaps OK as a stop-gap measure while we wait for the new LED-driven compact bulb. LED fixtures are now produced in powerful and good color light.  LED bulbs are impoving to a point where, in 3 years, they will be the standard household devices. They work because most of the energy consumed produces light versus heat. This means 90% of electricity goes into light versus the other way around in the case of conventional quartz-tungsten bulbs. I just used 5 large 40 watt LEDs in my office to replace my five 150 watt quartz bulbs — what a winner!

(9) Replacement of old, buzzing transformers (ballast) with electronic ballast in conventional fluorescent fixtures, mainly in large office buildings, is a sure improvement on many fronts, the savings are instant, while keeping the old fixtures makes the conversion cost effective.

(10) Rent a bike, make green fun, see the Bixi system in Montreal. Much better than fighting lack of proper transit in Calgary with downtown parking now at $12/h. The minimum salary in Alberta is $8.80/h since January 2011.

Nelson Vigneault
CEO CleanPix Corp.

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