Thursday, June 28, 2012

Put pond scum in your tank

Who woulda thought it?

A recent study shows that renewable energy sources could provide 80% of the U.S. with electrical power by 2050.  This comes from The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, so I suppose one could argue that the research might be a bit skewed.  The agency is, however, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Anyway, here are the key findings as taken from the NREW site:

   - Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.
   - Increased electric system flexibility, needed to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, can come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations.
    -The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that result in deep reductions in electric sector greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
   - The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios. Improvement in the cost and performance of renewable technologies is the most impactful [UGH!!!! That is not a fucking word!---Jon] lever for reducing this incremental cost.

I’m glad that the authors of the report acknowledge that much of this is dependent upon an overhaul of the nation’s electrical grid itself.  That’s something that has been needed for a while now.  More than anything, it is encouraging to see steps being taken toward a future with renewable energy.

What are these sources of sustainable power?  The usual suspects; solar, wind, et. al.  There are others in the up and coming, however, including pond scum. 

That’s right.  Pond scum.  Or perhaps a more politically correct moniker would be “algae.”  Has far more pleasant connotations to it.  Anyway, a technical corporation known as Algaeon Inc. is betting that algae will become the sustainable energy source for the future, powering everything from the cars we drive to the buildings we work in.

While the notion of turning pond scum into biofuel is not necessarily a new one, Algaeon claims that it is now an affordable alternative.  The reality has been that generating just one barrel of biofuel from algae has been so arduous and expensive that oil remains the better choice by comparison.  Oil prices have now risen to a level to which Algaeon believes they can be competitive. Could they be among the syndics to bring green energy to the masses?

How much this...any of this...will shake out to be applicable to you, me, and the environment in the long run is not readily known just yet.  Let's just be grateful that someone in the oft times disgusting business world is trying to make our home planet a better place.

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