Expert answer:Energy Resources and Electric Power Production Que

  

Solved by verified expert:part1 Energy_Resources questions 1. Next time you are out driving around, look around and notice ALL the forms of energy that are around you that are so available to us, if only we would or could capture them. List and describe a at least 3 of these.2. Why do you have to continually fill up the gas tank on your vehicle? Where does all the MASS in that gas GO? Determine how much gas or diesel you consume in your vehicle each year. (# of miles driven / average miles per gallon) Now multiply the # of gallons per year x 2.24 kg, which is the mass of carbon that is emitted per gallon of gas. For every 50 kg of carbon emitted from your tailpipe, you’d have to plant one tree PER YEAR to take up that CO2 and lock it back into biomass. HOW MANY TREES PER YEAR would YOU need to plant to offset your carbon emissions from your car? Write out your calculation in words.3. What are some of Amory Lovins BIG ideas for integrating our energy systems? What is his plan for weaning us off of all fossil fuels without relying on nuclear energy, and still saving tons of money?———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–part 2 discussion questions & 2 replies to friends discussiondiscussion questions:Assuming we are at or beyond “Peak Oil”, why are we not investing more resources into developing alternative ways to capture renewable energy? What would it take to enhance those investments?From Amory Lovins’s TED Talk, consider how electric power production and transportation can be linked to promote a shift to a mostly wind and solar-driven electric energy future. Can you see it happening?find friends discussion in attached files ted talkhttps://www.ted.com/talks/amory_lovins_a_50_year_plan_for_energy?language=enfriend 1 discussion found in attached filesfriend 2 still waiting for the discussion
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We have alluded to energy throughout the course: energy flow through
ecosystems, food as energy for us, crops as biofuels, the energy generated in
hydroelectric power, the energy it takes to mine metals, and mining (and drilling)
as a way of extracting coal, oil, and natural gas. So, what IS energy? Most simply,
the pure physics definition of energy is the ability to do work, and work is the
ability to move matter from point A to point B. So, work can mean moving a car
and your body from your house to the grocery store, or to move your fingers from
key to key to type on your computer, or to move the ions and electrons across the
membranes of your cells to metabolize and to allow your neural synapses to fire as
you read this.
States and Types of Energy
Energy can be either stored (potential) or activated (kinetic). Energy is stored in
several different forms and can be released from any of those forms. Forms of
energy include:
Light (the wave and particle nature of photos)
Heat (just a lower form of “light” on the electromagnetic spectrum)
Chemical (electron forces that hold atoms together in compounds
Mechanical (ability to move objects)
Electrical (moving electrons down a conducting wire)
Nuclear (the forces that hold protons and neutrons together inside the nucleus of
an atom)
The laws of the conservation of energy and matter state that energy and matter
can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form, including changing
from matter to energy and back. This is particularly easy to understand when
thinking about light energy transforming to heat energy when sunlight transmits
through your car windows, converts to heat, and then gets trapped inside your car
if your windows are not cracked. This happens in greenhouses, too! (Next week,
weʼll also see that this happens in our atmosphere.) We can also easily think about
the energy from the sun converted into plant biomass through PHOTOSYNTHESIS
where the energy then becomes stored as “chemical energy” (the stored energy is
the mass of the plant). The respiration or combustion of that plant biomass then
releases the energy to be used for something—metabolism, light, heat, electricity,
mechanical force.
Carbon Cycle again (now with a focus on chemical energy)
Now would be a good time to reach back to our Week 2 topic of ecosystems and
remember the Carbon Cycle and the importance of Photosynthesis and
Respiration/Combustion. Photosynthesis (CO₂ + H₂0
C₆H₁₂O₆ + O₂) takes
inorganic carbon dioxide out of the air and converts it into a more complex
molecule called sugar. The ENERGY that gets stored is actually the electrons in
the HYDROGEN that CO₂ stole from H₂O. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT. You need
to know this—that HYDROGEN is the key to understanding chemical energy in this
ecosystem context. Just follow the Hydrogens around to see where the energy is
stored. Now, of course, respiration, decomposition and combustion have a
chemical equation that is the same as photosynthesis but IN REVERSE. (C₆H₁₂O₆ +
O₂
CO₂ + H₂O). The sugar breaks down, and gives the Hydrogens back to
oxygen—thus releasing the stored energy to do some work—in the case of
respiration and decomposition, thatʼs cellular metabolism. In the case of
combustion, thatʼs generating heat and light.
Non-renewable Energy Resources
So photosynthesis is important because it is ultimately responsible for ALL of the
biomass that is and has ever existed on this planet—including animal biomass.
No, animals donʼt photosynthesize (except for a few water fleas that have
symbiotic relationships with algae in their gut linings), but all animal biomass is
ultimately derived from plants and other photosynthetic organisms (algae,
cyanobacteria).
And biomass from the past that never got a chance to decompose, but rather got
buried under sediments in anoxic conditions (remember O₂ is required for
decomposition) converted to “fossil fuels” (COAL, OIL and NATURAL GAS) over
millions of years of being buried and increasingly compressed by the weight of the
sediments pressing down on it. We can think of COAL (solid), OIL (liquid) and
NATURAL GAS (gaseous) as sunlight energy from eons ago that has been stored
as chemical energy for all those millions of years. And, itʼs a whole lot of CARBON
stored, too, down below the surface, that has not been in the short-term carbon
cycle until just the past 200 years since we discovered what a great source of
energy these materials were. (More on this below when we get to climate change!)
Renewable Energy Resources
For most of the history of humans on this planet, we have relied on fresh biomass
—the food we consume—to produce the cellular energy we need for the physical
labor of finding or growing food, and moving ourselves and other objects around.
The discovery of fossil fuels led to our ability to use that OLD, stored form of
energy to substitute for human labor, and thus be able to do a whole lot more work
in a lot less time to build bigger, heavier stuff, and to grow more food faster. The
fossil fuels that powered the industrial and green revolution also powered the
surge in human population growth.
But, photosynthesis-driven sources of energy (biomass and fossil fuels) arenʼt the
only energy source we have figured out how to harness. Weʼve also figured out
how to harness sunlight energy directly and in the form of wind and water. We use
light from the sun to provide natural daylighting of our homes and workplaces
through windows and skylights. We use heat from the sun to passively warm
rooms in the winter in buildings that are designed with south-facing windows and
stone or brick materials that store a dayʼs warmth and release it back at night. We
use the sun to drive electrons back and forth between Phosphorus and Silica
layers, and capture that electron flow in conductive wires and call them
“photovoltaics” (a standard solar panel). And we use the sun to heat water in
black tubes on our roofs for hot water for showers, laundry and dishwashers.
Wind is a form of solar energy, too, that humans have been capturing in sails and
windmills for thousands of years. As the sun warms up some areas of land, the
warm air rises, and cooler air from someplace else (usually a cloudier place)
comes rushing in to replace that warm, risen air. That horizontal movement of air
is WIND. And those molecules of air moving from Point A to Point B is ENERGY,
which can be captured by a wind turbine (converted to mechanical energy), which
turns a generator (converted to electrical energy), which then sends electricity out
to consumers like you and me to power our lights, TVs, computers and air
conditioners (thank goodness!).
Hydroelectric power is also driven by solar energy. Evaporation of water from the
oceans, lakes and streams and through the transpiration of plants is entirely driven
by warmth from the sun. Without evaporation, condensation and precipitation,
there is no water cycle. Itʼs the only way that water ever gets back UPHILL, so it
can flow downhill again. And, in flowing downhill, with or without dams, we can
stick turbines into that flow, which turn as water passes over them (mechanical),
which then turn a generator (electrical), which then sends electricity out… you get
the idea.
There is also tidal energy—again, the movement of water from Point A to Point B—
but in this case, it is caused by the gravitational pulls of the moon and the sun on
the Earth. That pull tends to yank at the liquid oceans more strongly than the solid
continents, so the ocean waters slosh around twice a day (more-or-less) in
response to the revolution of the moon around the earth and the earthʼs revolution
around the sun. As tides come and go, the movement of that water can turn
turbines or push on pistons (mechanical), which turn generators (electrical)…. And
so on.
Geothermal energy comes in two forms. One is SOLAR energy and the other is not
(or not as much). “Low temperature” (warm but not hot) geothermal energy refers
to the upper layers of the earthʼs crust that are warmed by the sunʼs rays. Soil and
rocks can store the warmth of the sun for months or years, and that heat can be
captured, condensed, and used to heat homes. (Thereʼs also a way to use the
earth to cool homes in the summer by dumping excess heat from the air in our
houses back into the earth to be stored until needed in winter.) These types of
systems (also called “ground source heat pumps”) are becoming increasingly
common. They are expensive to install, but reduce utility bills substantially. “High
temperature” geothermal energy taps into the heat that is stored at the core of the
planet. (That heat is generated by the incredible pressure of the mass of the earth
spinning fast in its gravitational relationship to the sun.) As the planet spins but
continually cools, it radiates heat from its core. These zones where the heat
escapes are unevenly distributed, but can be seen where there are volcanoes, hot
springs, geysers and other thermal activity on the surface. There is usually a good
bit of very hot steam associated with these thermal zones (basically, aquifers that
have heated up), and that steam can be captured to turn turbines, which turn
generators, which produce electricity.
This oneʼs actually non-renewable, too, but not a fossil fuel
Finally, nuclear energy has been considered a useful source of energy (although,
like fossil fuels, NOT renewable) and an alternative to fossil fuels for nearly 80
years. The release of nuclear energy occurs when the nuclei of atoms (in most
cases, uranium) are split into smaller atoms. This splitting, or FISSION process,
releases energy as heat and also releases some free neutrons, which then
continue on to split more uranium atoms. It is a self-perpetuating system (as long
as there is more uranium to split) that can get out of control if it starts to happen
too fast or get too hot. When this happens, it is called a nuclear meltdown (think
Chernobyl or the Japanese nuclear plant that got hit by the tsunami). The heat
from the fission is used to generate steam, which turns a turbine, which turns a
generator, which generates electricity. The waste from a nuclear plant, though, is
usually radioactive and unstable and can cause serious health risks to all living
organisms, so disposal of nuclear power plant waste is a complicated issue.
Now—about Climate Change….
The warming of the planet, which is at least partially driven by human actions, is
causing substantial shifts in global and regional climate patterns. Climate change
is an extraordinarily complex topic scientifically, and has become an increasingly
complex issue socially, economically and politically. It is essential that EVERYONE
understand the systems, causes and consequences associated with climate
change because it is, arguably, THE MOST pressing and critical matter facing
humankind now and for the next few centuries.
Climate change—what it is
You have read the basics about climate change in Chapter 9 of your book, so I
wonʼt go over most of them again, except to summarize that the “greenhouse
effect” is generated by an accumulation of various “greenhouse gases” in the
lower level of the atmosphere called the troposphere. These gases trap heat from
the sun and heat radiating back from the surface of the Earth, and hold that heat
within the troposphere. The greenhouse effect itself is naturally occurring, and
allows the surface of the planet to be warm enough for life to exist here. Natural
cycles of climate change caused by greenhouse gases exchanged between the
atmosphere and the ocean or land have occurred numerous times of the history of
life on earth. Those cycles tend to occur at the scales of tens of thousands of
years. What we are experiencing now has been an alarmingly rapid shift within the
past 200 years, and the rate of that shift has been speeding up just within the past
30-40 years.
What has happened within the last 200 years is that we discovered coal, oil and
natural gas—organic carbon that had been stored away deep in the crust of the
earth—and brought it to the surface and combusted it, converting MASSIVE
amounts of stored organic carbon into Carbon Dioxide. Other gases are emitted
by the burning of fossil fuels, including various oxides of nitrogen, methane and
water vapor (also greenhouse gases!) and carbon monoxide (toxic, but not a
greenhouse gas). CO₂ is by far the most ABUNDANT greenhouse gas, but has the
least ability to trap heat. Methane (CH₄) is 23x more powerful in its heat trapping
ability than CO₂, N₂O is 296x more potent, and CFCs (we saw those above in the
context of Ozone Depletion—a different problem caused by the same pollutant)
are 1,300-12,000 more potent than CO₂. Luckily, with the international ban on
CFCs after the discovery of the depletion of the Ozone Layer, its presence in the
troposphere where it has a huge warming effect has become mostly
inconsequential. It is those other 3— CO₂, CH₄ and N₂O that are the problem right
now.
There are other human-induced sources of CO₂, CH₄ and N₂O besides our massive
contribution through the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, transportation,
industrial purposes and agriculture. Widespread deforestation involves removing
photosynthesizing trees, which are providing the ecosystem service of removing
CO₂ from the air, and burning the trees (or at least the branches), particularly if
they are being cut to clear the land for agriculture rather than for building
materials. The burning of those trees rapidly releases all of the stored carbon in
their biomass back into the atmosphere. In addition to deforestation, agricultural
practices that till the soil speed up decomposition of organic carbon stored in
soils, and release amazing amounts of CO₂ and CH₄ into the atmosphere. The
synthetic fertilizers applied to fields can also volatilize into N₂0. Moreover, animal
agriculture is a HUGE source of methane—the burps and farts of cows, and the
decomposition of all animal waste. So, fossil fuels are not the ONLY culprit here.
Greenhouse gases released by human activities have warmed the planet enough
to set in motion a number of more “natural” processes, which are or will likely very
soon release quantities of greenhouse gases MUCH larger than what we have seen
so far from human activity. First, the melting of polar ice, which has been
substantial in both Antarctica and the Arctic, leads to a loss in albedo—the ability
of the white ice surface to reflect sunlight back into space. Now, sunlight is
absorbed as heat by the darkness of the ocean water or the land, thus leading to
increasing rates of melting of the remaining ice. Also, the thawing of the
permafrost in the polar regions is stimulating the decomposition of an
extraordinary amount of stored carbon and leading to the release of massive
amounts of CO₂, CH₄ and N₂O. (See the article on the thawing of Siberia.) The
oceans, which have been a HUGE buffer taking up a lot of the CO₂ weʼve dumped
into the atmosphere so far, are increasing in acidity and experiencing death of
numerous marine organisms, the decomposition of which releases more CO₂,
CH₄ and N₂O (See The New Yorker article, “The Darkening Sea”.) Warming is also
leading to the expansion of populations of insects that attack forests, such as pine
bark beetles, leading to death and increased fire risk of forests throughout the
world. These examples are all creating “positive feedback cycles” where more
warming leads to more release of greenhouse gases, which leads to more
warming… and so on. There is a VERY serious concern now among scientists that
we are AT the “tipping point” with these human-induced and natural processes
where we will switch into a very different climate for our planet.
Consequences of Climate Change
In addition to warmer average temperatures in MOST areas (although not all),
there will also be, in general, more EXTREME weather, including possibly more
snow and colder winters in some places, more heat waves, more severe and more
frequent storms (think Hurricane Katrina and the Joplin tornado), and a change in
precipitation patterns. The change in the timing and distribution of rainfall is
causing more extended and extreme droughts, destructive flooding, and a major
shift in vegetation and agricultural zones.
In addition to changes in weather events (the accumulation of which we call
“climate”), we are also seeing the rapid melting of much of our land-based ice:
glaciers in mountains and the ice sheets of Greenland, Antarctica and other polar
and subpolar land masses. As that solid water melts and runs into the ocean, it
increases the volume of water in the ocean. In addition, the WARMING of the
temperature of ocean water leads to the thermal expansion of water—the water
molecules bounce around faster (the technical definition of heat is faster moving
molecules) and take up more space in the process. So due to BOTH the addition
of MORE water molecules and the thermal expansion of space that the water
molecules fill, sea levels are on the rise. The risk to coastal zones of continents
and to low-lying islands is severe—not just from land-loss, but also from the
intrusion of salt water into their freshwater aquifers and the risk of storm surges
pushing salt water further inland. All of these consequences are already
happening.
Climate change has become a huge political and social issue. I wonʼt go into it in
all of its complexity here, but there are a few key things to know. First, the
corporations that are in the business of exploring for, drilling/mining, transporting,
and burning coal, oil and natural gas are extremely powerful economic and political
forces. They control governments and economies because many of us 7 billion
humans have become entirely dependent on the energy provided by these
resources to do life like we do. The social paradigm shift required to break that
dependency and to reallocate that economic and political power is massive and
underway. You will see that most of the big oil companies now have a branch that
is investing in renewable energy technologies. They finally see the problems and
the solutions and are willing to shift their emphasis to stay in power. Look for it!
(E.g., BP, British Petroleum, now uses in their ad campaign a new logo that shows
that BP stands for “Beyond Petroleum”.)
Also, climate change will and IS having the greatest negative impact on the poor
and women across the world. In much of the developing world, women are
responsible for collecting firewood for cooking, maintaining water supplies for
their family, and growing food. All of this is becoming increasingly difficult as a
result of deforestation, droughts and floods. As we saw during Hurricane Katrina,
people with fewer means may be unable to get out of harmʼs way during oncoming
storms and are unable to recover economically after all has been lost.
More generally, climate change does and will impact human health through direct
heat-related diseases, through starvation, lack of accessibility to clean, fresh
water, expansion of the ranges of disease-carrying insects, rodents and birds, and
through the impacts on respiratory systems as climate change exacerbates other
air pollution problems. We have also seen how deadly severe storms and floods
can be. These catastrophes and resources limitations will also contribute to
political unrest and conflicts (wars!) within and among nations as populations of
humans migrate away from coastal areas and away from areas where freshwater is
increasingly scarce.
Positive actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change
Two categories of solutions exist: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation means to
actively REDUCE human contributions of greenhouse gases, so as to slow down
the onset of climate …
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