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Alternative Energies
Alternative Energy is one of the primary research areas that AuraQuest is committed to. We are exploring new and innovative ways to harness the power of the earth, including adapting current technologies with new innovations. Some of the areas we research include Alternative Fuels (Biodiesel, Hydrogen, Ethanol), Solar Power, Wind Power, Geothermal Energy, and Fuel Cells, just to name a few. Check out our on-going blog for more info on research and development activities.

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Energy Calculations PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 14 February 2008 20:45

So how much energy can you produce from various forms of organic supply and waste? A lot depends on the supply, but here's some generic rules of thumb that I've run across while doing research.

Ethanol Production

Ethanol can be produced from a variety of resources, including sugar cane, corn, sugar beets, and potatoes, just to name few. Each has it's distinct advantages and disadvantages from a production standpoint, primarily related to sugar content and production quantity per acre. Below is a chart that summarizes some various Ethanol production crops , their potential ethanol (99.5%) production, and how much is required. Also included is the temperate area that the crop will grow, as this is important in consideration of location for production.

Crop Climate Lbs. / Acre
Gallons / Acre
Gallons / ton
Energy (Btu) / Gallon Energy / Acre (Btu)
Sugar Cane (Hawaii)
Hot 128,758
889.015.2
75,700 67,297,300
Corn
Temperate
5,605
214.084.0
75,700
16,199,800
Sugar Beets
Cool
41,014
412.0 22.1
75,700 31,188,400
Potatoes
Temperate28,725
299.0 22.9
75,700 22,634,300

So it's obviously a tradeoff. My question is why are so many Ethanol processors looking at using Corn, when both Sugar Beets and Potatoes provide a much higher energy production per acre?

Methane Production

Methane production has some different issues than Ethanol. Since it's primary input is waste products, the potential supply provides for much more variety. Below is an overview:

Livestock VS Production per animal (lbs/day) Power Potential (kWh/animal/day)
Dairy Cows 6.2 1.24
Swine 1.64 0.328
Poultry layers 0.048 0.0096
Poultry broilers 0.034 0.0068
Turkeys 0.091 0.0182
Sheep and lambs 0.92 0.184
Total

And here's some links to some other fuel comparison websites:

http://www.pelletheat.org/3/residential/compareFuel.cfm
http://www.pelletboiler.com/mh_fuel_price_comparison.asp
http://www.greenwoodfurnace.com/Heating_with_Wood.htm

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2008 07:48
 
Methane Generation for Electricity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 09 February 2008 21:44

How do you go about creating a viable Methane generator for generating electricity? Well, the concept is fairly simple, but there are a number of implementations.

I began researching this topic recently, specifically looking at the use of seaweed for Methane generation. In the area I live, seaweed is abundant. It also is smelly and an unsightly mess when it's left to rot on the beaches. So why not take that decaying resource and use it to generate power? Well, it actually is a feasible concept, but the ROI just doesn't make it feasible. Here's the analysis:

To develop a simple Methane digester (or Anaerobic Digester), I looked at a model that appears to making money: the farming industry. Dairy farmers today are taking manure and using it to fuel anaerobic digesters on a scale that allows them to produce between 4.0-5.5 kWh of energy per cow every day. That adds up when you look at farms that have between 500 and 1000 heads of cattle! Below is a diagram of how this system might be set up:

Simple Methane Diagram

In a simplified view, there's really two main components:

  • The anaerobic digester tank
  • The generator

So how can this be applied to the seaweed digester? Well, there are a few things to consider.  Japan did a study in late 2006 on just how much energy you could produce with such a system. There conclusions were that approx. 2200 lbs of seaweed yields about 777 ft3 of methane. Methane generates about 1,000 BTU per ft3. If you look at one the best microturbine generators on the market today, it uses about 394,000 BTU/hr to generate 30 kWh of electricity. That means we can generate for about 2 hours on our 2200 lbs. of seaweed, or make about 60 kWh of energy per day. Not bad, but here's where reality kicks in. 2200 lbs. of seaweed costs about $66 at current market prices, but we only generate (at $0.12 per kWh) about $7.20 worth of electricity. That's where the economics of it breaks down.

So what's the conclusion of all of this? Well, in order to make Methane generation with seaweed feasible, you need to generate enough electricity to offset the cost of the raw material, plus make a profit. The break-even point for 2200 lbs. of seaweed is therefore 550 kWh of power generated, which translates to 7,223,333 BTU of energy. In raw Methane means 7,223 ft3. So the production needs to be increased by an order of magnitude in order to even consider it.

Of course, the alternative is to find another source of raw material that either costs less and/or produces more Methane.

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 February 2008 22:24
 
Long Term Alternate Energy Solutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 07 February 2008 20:48

As I've stated previously, short term we've got lots of possible solutions for lessening our dependency on fossil fuels... Biodiesel, Ethanol, Methanol, etc.  But what about long term.  Those are just stop-gap solutions which are incremental research and development.  Where is the paradigm shift away from fossil fuels?  What solutions are going to be the next life changing events like combustion engines were at the beginning of the 20th century?

Well, let's take a step back and look at scientific achievements in the world during the last 100 years.  There have been more scientific breakthroughs in the last 100 years than all of previous history before that.  And if you look at energy research specifically, the last major breakthrough we had was nuclear energy.  The first artificial nuclear reactor was constructed at the University of Chicago in 1942.  So what has been accomplished in the 66 years since then? 

  • Nuclear fusion showed promise, and is still not ruled out as a possible source of energy. 
  • There have been thousands of reported inventions of Overunity engines, or those that produce more power than they consume, but no one has been able to commercialize on those. 
  • Solar energy has grown greatly, and is able to produce power efficiently and cleanly, but the cost of production is still too great to be an inexpensive alternative, and it can't be used effectively year round everywhere.
  • Wind power has also grown the accompany Solar.  But again, the cost has been high compared to fossil fuels.
  • Hydroelectric is an excellent alternative, but there are only so many places that it can be effectively used.
  • Fuel cell research has grown tremendously during the last 10 years, and shows great promise, but again it's not cost effective
  • Hydrogen fuel is a great alternative, as it can be readily obtained from an abundant resource... water.  However, an effective means of converting water to hydrogen still needs to be discovered.

There are others I've missed, I'm sure, but the real point I want to make is we are in need of a paradigm shift.  We need to look at ways to obtain energy from the ever abundant source that surrounds us.  Gravity is one good example, always exerting a steady energy.  Magnetics is another, which has been exploited to a small extent in our modern day A/C generators and motors, but there is much more we don't understand about it that may be the answer.

All food for thought... I don't have the answers, yet, but I believe that there are solutions out there that will provide the world with more energy and power than we know what to do with. 

 
Alternative Fuel Comparisons PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 01 February 2008 10:20

What is the solution to getting rid of our dependence on fossil fuels? Well, as I see it, there are the short-term solutions (direct and modified replacements for fossil fuels), and then the long-term solutions. Short-term would be things like Biodiesel, Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO), Ethanol, and Methanol. Long-term are more advanced concepts like Fuel Cells, Overunity engines, and other "Free" energy technologies that tap into the existing abundance of energy that exists around us.

So, for short-term solutions, I see several pros and cons to each. To begin with, check out the tables below which highlight the BTU equivalent energy for various fuel replacements.

Fuel Type comparison of BTUs per Unit

Fuel Type Unit of Measure BTUs per Unit Gallon Equivalent
Gasoline (regular unleaded) Gallon 114,100 1.00 gallon
Gasoline (reformulated, 10% MTBE) Gallon 112,000 1.02 gallons
Diesel (#2) Gallon 129,800 0.88 gallons
Biodiesel (B100) Gallon 118,300 0.96 gallons
Biodiesel (B20) Gallon 129,500 0.88 gallons
Ethanol (E100) Gallon 76,100 1.50 gallons
Ethanol (E85) Gallon 81,800 1.40 gallons
Methanol (M100) Gallon 56,800 2.01 gallons
Methanol (M85) Gallon 65,400 1.74 gallons
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Gallon 75,000 1.52 gallons
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Cubic Foot 900 126.67 cu. ft.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (propane) Gallon 84,300 1.35 gallons
Electricity Kilowatt hour 3,400 33.53 kwhrs

Source: National Association of Fleet Administrators, Inc

As you may be aware, one the biggest issues with replacing gasoline and diesel is their high BTU, i.e. the high energy content. Renewable energy sources developed so far do not come near to the energy content of those. However, that's not necessarily a problem, it just means you use more of the renewable energy than the fossil fuels.

So what other pro's and con's are there associated with each of these technologies?

Biodiesel

Pros

  • Can be made from waste vegetable oil or a variety of seed oils
  • Basic process to make is fairly straight forward
  • No or minor engine maintenance required to use it

Cons

  • Doesn't work well in cold climates (< 23 F)
  • Process requires several additional chemicas (Methane, KOH or NOH)

SVO

Pros

  • Can be made from a variety of seed oils
  • Even easier than Biodiesel (just press the seeds and clean the oil)

Cons

  • Doesn't work well in cold climates, requires tank heaters
  • Requires extensive engine work to use it as an automotive fuel

Ethanol

Pros

  • Make from corn, wheat, barley, potatoes, or Jerusalem artichokes
  • Can sell byproducts from production
  • Easy, well known process to create (stills have been around for a LONG time)

Cons

  • Requires engine modification to use it as an automotive fuel
  • Doesn't work well straight (E100) as a fuel under 59 F

Methane / Methanol

Pros

  • Make for waste products (manure)
  • Can burn gas (Methane) directly to run a gas microturbine

Cons

  • Requires engine modification to use it as an automotive fuel

So which one is the solution? I think one of the biggest driver factors right now with many of these is that they require a food stock source for creation. Methane is one of the best ones for using waste products in manufacturing. My personal preference is for Ethanol, just because it's easy to make.

However, these are all short-term solutions, and don't really address the fundamental issue with burning fuel. It's time for a paradigm shift, and that means providing a new means of person transportation that doesn't rely on an internal combustion engine to do it's work.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2008 21:09
 
Alternative Energy Research PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 17:39

With the wide variety of alternative energy sources available to us, it only makes sense to find other ways to tap into that energy in an cost-effective, clean, and efficient manner.  There are many technologies that are currently being considered world-wide, including:

  • Biodiesel
  • Methan / Methanol
  • Ethanol
  • Geothermal
  • Solar Power
  • Wind Power
  • Hydro-electric
  • Fuel Cells
  • Tidal Power
And many new ones all the time.  Our primary focus is on those technologies that can be implemented to replace our nations (and worlds) dependence on fossil fuels, with their limited availability and eventual depletion.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2008 08:39