One of the challenges with solar and wind energy and some other alternative energies is that we don’t have access to them all the time. For instance, hydro-electric electricity in some places may not be available in the summer months, rather more readily available with the run-off of spring when the ice melts in the mountains or during the rainy seasons when the water cycle is doing its main business.
For solar, it’s a similar issue, as “The Sun notoriously doesn’t shine at night,” and although that sounds hilarious and obvious, I heard that quote from a Nobel Lariat giving a speech on alternative energy at a local university in 2011. Wind power is similar in this regard because when the wind is not blowing you cannot collect energy. If the wind blows more steadily at night, but humans need the draw down in energy during the day, then we have a problem don’t we?
The answer of course is to find a way to store the energy created and then use it at a later date. Some ideas have been to pump pressure underground in giant tanks, which would take the energy being created at the time, and that pressure would blow out during the day turning an energy generation device. That could work.
There was an article in Discover Magazine in September of 2012 titled; “Tornado Tech – Excess Heat from Power Plants or Seawater Could be Twisted into a Renewable Energy Source,” which brings up a very interesting topic of vortex flows and efficiency of heat engines, propulsion and energy generation.
Such a scheme obviously makes sense, but what will the next step be in energy storage? Remember every time we collect energy from one place and convert it into electricity for something else we lose a little bit of energy, we never get 100% efficiency. In the case of wind power and then creating pressure, we lose a little bit of energy in the pumps which pump up the pressure, and we lose a little bit of energy from the friction of the device which turns to generate electricity. Not to mention the energy loss from the friction of the blades turning, and the system itself.
We also lose energy in transmission lines. The trick is to prevent inefficiency. And as long as were talking about inefficiency, then we need to be honest with ourselves that when we convert sunlight from solar cells and energy, they aren’t very efficient, in the future they may be, but right now they are not. We need to work on efficiency, energy storage, and we need to use the laws of physics without trying to be so politically correct that we fail in these large projects.
It does no good to set up a very large energy generation system, give out all sorts of tax credits to help it compete in the free market, when it isn’t as efficient as what we already have producing our energy. That just wouldn’t be smart business, nor does it stick with the conservation of energy or laws of physics in this domain. Please consider all this and think on it.