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 Post subject: A more positive look at surviving the upcoming energy crunch PostPosted: 2007-07-28 02:16pm
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I got tired of the negativity in the latest Peak Oil thread. So let's try something different.

Let's talk about some positives, even if they're only a little positive. For example - solar powered driveway lighting instead of driveway lighting on the grid. It won't save the world, but it's not sucking down dinofuels either. Yay! See, that wasn't so bad, was it? Of course, there's nothing wrong with pointing out that if the light housing is plastic then yes, it probably does use some dino-stuff, and then there's manufacturing... but since that would apply to all driveway/landscape lights this is still a (small) net positive because at least these won't be powered by fossil fuel derieved energy.

And we could try discussing the merits of urban living versus setting up a self-sufficient rural homestead, among other things.

What say you guys? Wanna try it?



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 04:03pm
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Energy conversation would actually be very easy if we could install geothermal-tap heating/cooling units in all houses in America, which is entirely possible. These units can not only replace your internal heat and your air conditioning but also replace your water heater. Almost all of the energy is provided by the Earth itself by circulating water into the ground to heat it in winter and cool it in the summer. They're called geothermal exchange heat pumps, and they can reduce the amount of outside energy that has to be put into the heating/cooling systems by 72%. Furthermore, they all operate on electricity rather than nasty and limited oil and gas, which means switching to them enmasse (about 40,000 are installed each year in the United States today) would eliminate all consumption of oil for oil heating in private homes and corporate buildings alike, as there's not a particularly hard scale limit for this. The end result is that you're using electric instead of some fossil fuel directly, which at least means some of the energy being used is clean/nuclear/renewable, and you're using 72% less--because that energy is coming from the Earth itself.


The systems are more extensive than those of the standard type, but the indoor components can last for 25 years, and the underground components for 50 years or more, which results in a potential for substantial savings (along with the smaller number of moving parts), especially when factored in with reducing your energy costs by more than 70%. Overall, full installation across the country would see dramatic savings not only in oil and gas but in existing electricity usage itself, and it's one thing that can be done without major infrastructure enhancement.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 04:23pm
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Of course, you end up pulling that energy out of the Earth, and that heat doesn't find its way back very easily. I imagine it's a comically small effect compared to the overall heat capacity of the Earth, but I'd want to punch a couple of numbers before I advocated geothermal for everyone and their brother.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 04:31pm
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Howedar wrote:
Of course, you end up pulling that energy out of the Earth, and that heat doesn't find its way back very easily. I imagine it's a comically small effect compared to the overall heat capacity of the Earth, but I'd want to punch a couple of numbers before I advocated geothermal for everyone and their brother.


The figures I've seen suggest there's several orders of magnitude of energy more than is needed to power our entire world-civilization for centuries reasonably close to the surface, and that's discounting what's deeper. Also there's some areas that if we could tap them on a grand scale it would have further benefits--do you think we could find some way to draw enough energy from the Yellowstone Caldera to keep it from ever erupting, for instance?

But that's far more speculative than the purpose of this thread, I think.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 04:38pm
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The Duchess of Zeon wrote:
Howedar wrote:
Of course, you end up pulling that energy out of the Earth, and that heat doesn't find its way back very easily. I imagine it's a comically small effect compared to the overall heat capacity of the Earth, but I'd want to punch a couple of numbers before I advocated geothermal for everyone and their brother.


The figures I've seen suggest there's several orders of magnitude of energy more than is needed to power our entire world-civilization for centuries reasonably close to the surface, and that's discounting what's deeper.
I don't doubt it, I just wanted to make sure.

As a back-of-the-envelope level calculation, if we suppose that there are a billion homes in the world, each running a 20kw furnace 24hrs/day for six months out of the year, we'd be pulling about 3.2e11 J/house-year out of the Earth, or 3.15e20 J/yr overall. Assuming Earth is 100% granite, it would thus take about 15 million years to drop Earth's overall internal temperature by one Kelvin.

That's probably not a huge deal.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 06:22pm
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Around here there is at least one company promoting and installing these systems. They are clearly pushing the monetary savings to the consumer angle, which is all to the good - the more people who voluntarially switch to these systems the better.

However, I have some concerns about becoming overly reliant on an electricity distribution grid. Then again, we already are so I suppose, with the reduction in overall power usage, it's a net gain.

In some areas that sort of geothermal heating/cooling may need to be supplemented due to climate extremes, but again, the point is a net reduction in power.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 06:36pm
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Howedar wrote:
Of course, you end up pulling that energy out of the Earth, and that heat doesn't find its way back very easily. I imagine it's a comically small effect compared to the overall heat capacity of the Earth, but I'd want to punch a couple of numbers before I advocated geothermal for everyone and their brother.


I think this also depends on the climate and what mode you're running the system in more often. In Canada for instance we'll probably spend 7-8 months pulling heat out of the ground to heat our homes and maybe 3 months or so dumping heat into the ground to keep cool in the summer. Someone a bit further south will see a different split, maybe 4 months heating & 4 months cooling.

Something else which Toronto is already doing is deep water cooling, a fair number of major office buildings downtown are now cooled by lake water in the summer instead of using megawatts of electricity for AC in each building. The cold water is sucked in from the bottom of Lake Ontario to a central chilling station which cools the buildings, after which the now warmer lake water makes its way to one of our water treatment plants and then into our drinking water supply. Any city on the shores of the Great Lakes or any other large body of water where the water near the bottom stays cool year round can use the same system for cooling. Cities near oceans will have a harder time since they'll have to deal with corrosion from the salt water, plus it has to be desalinated before going to the treatment plant. They might end up pumping seawater in for cooling and then dumping it right back out in the ocean.

On a larger scale, I'd like to see the completion of Phase II of the James Bay Project, which would make it the largest hydroelectric complex in the world. It would be able to supply all of Ontario's electrical needs with a bit left over. Finish James Bay, make some upgrades to the rest of the other hydroelectric projects in Quebec and we can shut down every gas & coal-fired generating station in Ontario & Quebec. While we're at it, we might as well fire up the nuclear units which are currently mothballed.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 09:48pm
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I've heard of places that get alot of snow, enough to fill their parking lots with massive snow drifts that last well into May, which use them periodically as a low temp reservoir which they dump heat into to lower their AC related electric bill.

However, 72% reduction in energy for heating and cooling is impressive, especially when you consider that the system can't be THAT efficient give that the interior that you want to heat/cool and the earth which you are drawing/dumping heat can't be that far apart in temperature. That's worth looking into.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-28 11:17pm
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One thing I'd like to see is a move back towards durable consumer goods, build things well and build them to last. Today, we have toasters, TVs, pots & pans, computers, cell phones, clothes and so forth which are more accurately classed as consumables, they last a couple years or so and then they're sent to the scrap pile. Everything's built cheaply with planned obsolescence in mind, very few things are actually built to last a decade or two. It's so wasteful.

One thing we can all do is look for quality goods which are designed for a long lifetime of use, for instance a good Canadian made leather jacket will last through many years of wear while a cheap Chinese made winter jacket may only last 2-3 years before falling apart. The yak's hair sweater I bought in Nepal will likely last me for decades while the cheap $30 sweater from the discount store is only good for a few years. Same thing with pots & pans, look for well made ones with nice thick bottoms instead of the stamped aluminum junk found in the clearance aisle of the local supermarket.

It will cost a fair bit more up front, but over the long run it's not only cheaper, it also reduces our footprint on the Earth. Less energy & resources are spent on producing an endless stream of junk which ends up in a landfill within a few short years. And on top of all that, the durable high quality goods simply work better and make life easier.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 12:14am
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To add on to what J said, it's also good to learn how to repair your own stuff. If you've got a nice warm Canadian jacket and it tears on a branch or something, you can simply sew it back together, or put buttons back on if they pop off, that sort of thing, instead of tossing the entire item of clothing and buying a shit Chinese coat. If you can repair a desk instead of buying a new one, or if you can mend socks instead of throwing it out and buying new ones, you're set for saving lots of money as well as being prepared for an economic crunch.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 01:13am
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Whatever jobs are left should be good jobs.

I hate capitalism. I believe that a human being should reach his full potential. And that doesn't mean fast food or Wal-Mart or cleaning lady. Sure, society will always need those, but the gap between real careers and part-time work is an unfortunate side effect of the past few decades of economic growth.

If a person is not valuable enough to society to warrant a decent job, then maybe he shouldn't work at all and instead should live subsistence level subsidized by the government until he learns enough to be that valuable. What's exactly wrong with a price floor? Our society is only "overeducated" in the sense that there's a whole bunch of bullshit programs out there, and there's finite resources and an attitude of anti-intellectualism. Hopefully this is the big "reset" button which thrusts brain types to the front.

There's enough resources in our solar system for every man woman and child to live like an emperor. It won't happen in our lifetimes, but one can only hope two hundred years down the line there are six permanent asteroids cycling between Earth and the asteroid belt bringing in the equivalent of all the iron production in the world every two months. Once we reach the point where every single person can live a wealthy, secure life free to pursue intellectual goals, then it won't matter that there's richer people, since every human being will live like a god with little hardship and freedom to explore art, science, philosophy, history and all the things that don't pay the bills right now but are the definition of human.

For this future to happen, capitalism as it is now has to be thoroughly discredited and the corporate model of business seen as a great evil. Once the dust settles, people will feel betrayed by the system, and this is when a new one can take root, free of corporate material interests. I would almost prefer a sweeping religious movement to the insane preoccupation with material wealth in our society, as long as that religion was polytheistic and spiritual rather than monotheistic and organized.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 03:21am
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I was wondering if, out here in dry Utahville (Salt Lake City), we could start building houses out of adobe bricks instead of the cheap wooden frames. They're pretty damn durable if done right, and good for hot, dry climates like mine. I'm not sure exactly what the costs of this are, though; presumably it's not too difficult, seeing as they built forts out of them in the 19th century.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 03:30am
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I know one of my college professors had his hill built in the side of a hill. His house stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter with very little in the way of energy use. Plus it saved him a lot of money in building material.

I also have noticed a large increase in the number of house I see with solar panels here in Germany over the last few years. Even though the climate isn't perfect for solar panels every bit helps.

Plus there has been a lot of advancement in solar panels in the last few years. More durable, lighter, thinner and more efficient than the ones from a few years ago. And they get better all the time.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 07:14am
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Gil Hamilton wrote:
I've heard of places that get alot of snow, enough to fill their parking lots with massive snow drifts that last well into May, which use them periodically as a low temp reservoir which they dump heat into to lower their AC related electric bill.

However, 72% reduction in energy for heating and cooling is impressive, especially when you consider that the system can't be THAT efficient give that the interior that you want to heat/cool and the earth which you are drawing/dumping heat can't be that far apart in temperature. That's worth looking into.


Allow me to clarify: I'm not sure that there is actually an energy usage reduction; rather, the reliance on "human" energy sources, if you well, is cut by 72%. In short if you had an electric water heater, electric heater, and electric AC, you would be using only 28% of the electricity you were using before installing the system. If you fired your heater by oil and so on, you would be using electricity instead--and you would be using substantially less than if you installed a new all-electric system.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 01:37pm
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I don't have time to add my $.02 right now, but I am interested if people are interested in a companion thread, something along the lines of the "Peak Oil and Sustainability Reading List" or the like with material like After Oil, The Revenge of Gaia, and The Long Emergency and other material. I am sure that Marina, aerius, and J have more to contribute than I could muster myself, and we could have an addendum of organic farming/gardening, tool-sharpening, home energy saving, etc. publications that I am sure that Broomstick and others could definitely contribute.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 03:28pm
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Well you know wind power? It really sucks when it can't do something on days when there is low demand and lots of wind. Well when that is the case I think wind power would make great use for hydrogen manufacture.

Even if we can't reliably run cars on it, hydrogen is still usefull for making artificial fertiliziers, they are called petrochemical only because they use fossil fuels to create the hydrogen. From what I've been told anyway.

Stored hydrogen could also be burned in a regular gas-powerplant when there is demand and the wind is low.

Thats essentially one of my ideaa for conserving what would otherwise be lost energy. Not sure if it would pan out to add one to every windmill though, but adding such to major wind farms might be doable. Eventually maybe it'll help farms too to be more self-sufficient, hydrogen can be used in farm machinery and possibly in gas stoves.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 03:41pm
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J wrote:
One thing I'd like to see is a move back towards durable consumer goods, build things well and build them to last. Today, we have toasters, TVs, pots & pans, computers, cell phones, clothes and so forth which are more accurately classed as consumables, they last a couple years or so and then they're sent to the scrap pile. Everything's built cheaply with planned obsolescence in mind, very few things are actually built to last a decade or two. It's so wasteful.


It's wastefull but it's also because our technology is advancing so fast. And much of our technological progress is fueled by the greedy need to want better and better stuff. Eventually I hope technological progress will even out a bit and we can stop planning for obsolence all the time. I'd really like a cellphone made from sturdy metal, heavy and robust is my kinda thing, not these cheap plasticy things that the wind can carry away. But I'd also like to know it'd be usable for 10 years down the line, or more even.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 04:12pm
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Moved by request.

Myself, I'm looking at the immediate effect the crunch will have on American economy, which will be a sudden(Historically speaking) revival. Industry and construction will snap up like crazy as the plateu(sp) continues.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 06:29pm
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His Divine Shadow wrote:
Well you know wind power? It really sucks when it can't do something on days when there is low demand and lots of wind.

It also sucks when there is more wind than the system can handle and you either need an automatic shutdown or risk catastrophic failure. One such instance lead to an amusuing Celtic tune called The Man Who Shot the Windmill, relating the tale of a man who installed a windmill on the Isle of Skye for home power. A big storm came up, overloaded the system, and in a panic over the fiery result the owner/operator apparently resorted to shooting said windmill twice with a shotgun to get it to stop. Clearly, this is not the ideal method of controlling one's electical production.

In the American Midwest we can get winds on clear days - that is, under sunny skies - of 70 mph per hour, around 110-115 kph. Nevermind during a real storm. There are systems that, if generating more than the home/building/whatever requires can put the excess into the local grid, descreasing demand on the big commercial powerplants. Past even that point, where things are going into genuine overload, some sort of governor will come into play and either limit rotor speed or shut the thing down

This link (assuming it works) to CNN recounts a tail of a man who installed a windmill for his home power needs. Of course, it doesn't supply it steadily - some days he does tap into the grid. Other days, he supplies power to the grid. However, some of his neighbors object, calling it an eyesore and claiming noise violations (when I saw the video on TV I didn't think it looked bad at all, kinda neat in fact, but then I'm evil enough to like things like airplanes so nevermind). One of is neighbors is suing to have it removed. Why? Damn if I know - concerns about property values, it's too new and strange, jealousy, he's and asshole, could be most anything.

But that's why I've argued in other threads that it's not just a problem of energy and technology - there are social and cultural issues, too. We need to change minds as well as energy sources.

Installing a home windmill wherever such systems have utility would enormously reduce our dependence on petroluem, even if we left road vehicles alone! Yes, we'd still need the grid for consistent power, and for where/when the wind doesn't blow, but a lot of the time the demand would be much, much lower. We might not need new powerplants. It might buy us more time before a truly serious crash. But only if we can get people to accept windmills the way the accept powerlines - another item frequently described as an eyesore, but it's a price we pay for our extensive power grid.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 06:53pm
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Broomstick wrote:
It also sucks when there is more wind than the system can handle and you either need an automatic shutdown or risk catastrophic failure.


This isn't an issue at all. The only potential problem is mechanical failure due to excessive wind speeds. Otherwise, the voltage output is regulated, and therefore a little extra wind would have no effect on the power distribution system to which the windmill is attached.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 07:11pm
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Wind makes for a good supplemental power source, but there are a lot of areas that would not be able to afford using wind as their primary source. Obviously, it's no good for places that don't get steady wind. Another problem, which is true around where I live, is that there is good wind, but space is at a premium.

Obviously, power solutions in the wake of Peak Oil have to be region based, particularly when considering renewable energy sources. Solar power's gonna work better in Phoenix than in Seattle. Hydroelectric is more feasible in Kentucky than in Montana.

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 07:14pm
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Back in the days of hippies, i.e. the 1960's when folks first started thinking about alternative energy, some people forget the voltage regulator. I realize this seems a very obvious item to you, but the mere fact you are on SD.net is an indication that you are of higher than average intelligence. If we're going to save the world we will need to design systems for the average idiot and/or mechanically ignorant people.

"Mechanical failure" is, in my book, a form of "catastrophic failure". It need not be an electrical emergency that damages your windmill to the point you need a new one.

Windmills on farms are not unusual in the Midwest. Seeing knocked-over windmills after a big storm isn't unknown, either.



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If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

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Last edited by Broomstick on 2007-07-29 09:53pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 09:39pm
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J wrote:
One thing I'd like to see is a move back towards durable consumer goods, build things well and build them to last. Today, we have toasters, TVs, pots & pans, computers, cell phones, clothes and so forth which are more accurately classed as consumables, they last a couple years or so and then they're sent to the scrap pile. Everything's built cheaply with planned obsolescence in mind, very few things are actually built to last a decade or two. It's so wasteful.


Except that this magic funland has never existed, except during the 19th century, and only with basic goods like skillets - it's kind of hard to break a cast iron skillet.

How do you think repairmen were in business in the 1920s and whatnot?

Hell, my grandpa did a pretty decent side business as a TV repairman in the 1950s and 1960s; my mother's family was the first family on the block to have a color TV as a result; all the kids in the neighborhood came over for that. :D

What you're whining at over is large scale integration in the electronics industry; if the 1960s TV broke, it was actually possible for someone with SOME level of experience and intelligence to open it up and find the broken electronic part and replace it.

Now, everything is all massively integrated onto circuit boards; which means you'd have to be an EE to find and fix it, unless you get really lucky and it's just a obvious blown component.

Same thing happened with cars. Used to be in the 1950s and 1960s, when you opened up the hood, you had plenty of free space to move around and work in. Nowadays, with fuel efficiency standards, etc everything is all crammed together to use maximum volume efficiency. Cars last longer, but when they break, you're most likely going to have to disassemble half the engine to get to the broken part.



"If scientists and inventors who develop disease cures and useful technologies don't get lifetime royalties, I'd like to know what fucking rationale you have for some guy getting lifetime royalties for writing an episode of Full House." - Mike Wong

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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-29 10:22pm
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Tipsy Space Birdie
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The Duchess of Zeon wrote:
Allow me to clarify: I'm not sure that there is actually an energy usage reduction; rather, the reliance on "human" energy sources, if you well, is cut by 72%. In short if you had an electric water heater, electric heater, and electric AC, you would be using only 28% of the electricity you were using before installing the system. If you fired your heater by oil and so on, you would be using electricity instead--and you would be using substantially less than if you installed a new all-electric system.

No, I got that part. A 72% efficient system like the one you described would be impressive, to say the least. There wouldn't be an actual energy reduction, as you say, but you'd be nursing a few kilowatt hours out of the ground rather than from the power grid or the natural gas line (which is what my house is heated by) for heating and cooling. Which, of course, is good stuff, since people don't realize just how much energy there is lying around if you are creative enough.

When we were doing thermodynamics in Physics, one of the problems we went over was about a power plant which works on the temperature differential between the surface of the ocean and the bottom of it and the problem was, based on the facts, how efficient was it, how much power could you get out of it, and was it worth (the answers being some, not terribly efficient, and depends). At the end of it, the teacher mentioned he did a feasibility study of the thing during his graduate school days and at the time, they deemed it not worth it because the kilowatt hours that fell out of it, which was completely fuelless as the Sun was the ultimate provider of energy, weren't worth it based on the maintenance costs of keeping the thing running. It was only like 5% maximum theoretical efficient and produced a few megawatts. However, you've got to wonder that if we are really reaching a maximum energy production situation, whether those sorts of schemes, like dotting our coasts with offshore temp differential powerplants that are sucking some megawatts off the oceans per platform, might become seriously looked at.



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 Post subject:  PostPosted: 2007-07-30 12:03am
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It's very easy these days to build a house with superb insulation. If you do this while keeping passive solar heating and cooling in mind, you can get a house which is very efficient to heat and cool. I've been in (small) rooms which could be heated in the winter with a single incandescent lightbulb.

That's cheerful, right?



good slogans from dinosaurs

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