The Ergosphere
Friday, January 14, 2005
 

Getting it done

My hat's off to Primary Energy (hat tip:  Knowledge Problem).  Years ago they took almost all of the concepts for generation-side efficiency improvment and cogeneration that I outlined in Where to go from here? and are promoting, commercializing and installing them on the industrial side.  I am a latecomer to this party.  I should have discovered them early on during what I was calling research.  They slipped under my radar despite their field being exactly in my area of focus.  (I have wondered out loud why so many seemingly-obvious opportunities for savings seem to have gone unrecognized and unused.  Primary Energy has recognized them and is doing something about it.)

I could take this as a personal failing on my part, or as an indication that Primary Energy is not getting nearly enough press.  That press just got a whole lot broader with an article in "Skeptical Inquirer" (a magazine not typically noted for commentary on energy matters), and notices in other blogs.  Here's a bit more press for them; I hope it helps.

The SI article is newly available on-line, and all of the salient points (and more) are contained between this Distributed Energy article and this presentation.  (I can console myself with the fact that many of these articles and presentations appeared after I did the majority of my research.)  The interested reader should take time out and read at least one of those pieces before continuing.  Go ahead, take your time; this page isn't going to be impatient with you.

Done?  Good.

Primary Energy estimates that industrial energy recycling could yield between 40 GW and 100 GW (page 10), of which only 2.2 GW are currently being used.  My own estimate of the cogeneration potential of natural-gas fired residential and commercial space- and water-heating requirements is 50 GW average; this potential is almost completely unused.  This adds up to between 88 and 148 GW of untouched electric generation potential which can be obtained with zero (flare gas, heat recycling, pressure drop) to minimal (residential and commercial cogeneration) additional fuel use.  This could meet 1/3 to 1/2 the additional electric demand created by a complete conversion to plug-in hybrids.

Of course, the road to this destination is full of potholes.  Primary Energy mentions that law in all states forbids transmission of non-utility electricity across public streets, forcing distributed generators to deal with their competition from a disadvantageous position.  Anti-competitive rules and laws will have to be removed to make way for advances.  The alternative is that we will wind up where we're headed.  
Monday, January 10, 2005
 

News briefs

I haven't got any essays ready, but two updates couldn't wait:

In the three-way race between conventional semiconductor PV, dye-activated titanium dioxide and organic polymers, the organics may have just found a performance-enhancing drug:  semiconductor nanoparticles (Hat tip:  Slashdot).  Peter Peumans is quoted as saying that conversion efficiency may reach 30%, compared to today's 6%.  (If even 15% is achieved, the ~500 quads of sunlight falling on the impermeable area of the USA could potentially yield ~75 quads of electricity.  I believe that most of the work currently done in the USA with oil, coal and natural gas could be replaced by 75 quads of electricity with plenty left over.)


In an e-mail communication from R.Martin Roscheisen of Nanosolar, I was informed that the numbers I posted in Out of left field were "not quite correct".  I responded with a request for more accurate data to post.  I've not yet heard back from anyone, but I will attempt to update everything affected when I get a response. 

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