The Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels: 6 Factors You Need to Consider

Solar panels are sliding into mainstream consumerism—and it’s posing a challenge. For instance, when you want to buy a car, there is a surge of first-hand information from friends and family who can walk you through the ins and outs of buying a vehicle.

Putting up solar panels on your roof, on the other hand, doesn’t carry the same level of hype from the people around you. What’s worse, they cost the same as a brand new car. To make matters dicier, the number of homeowners who’ve adapted to solar infrastructure isn’t all that many, too.

That aside, the stakes are high. You are, after all, going to install this on your roof. It’s also an adaptation you can’t easily shrug off as, “I’ll do better the next time if I make a mistake now.” Present figures tell us that solar installations are rising and the costs are becoming more feasible. But how much do we know about the said technology and are we personally ready to switch to natural energy?

Here are a few factors you can consider when it comes to solar panels:

Have you tried working on energy efficiency before turning to solar panels?

The whole point of using solar panels is for you to be able to store and conserve natural energy. But apart from that, have you started doing the little things to help better your energy consumption, like turning off the lights when they’re not in use or unplug the television cord when you’re not watching?

The extent of solar energy you need to come up with equates to how much you need. That said, it’s wiser for you to begin consuming your energy much more efficiently before turning to solar panels. You can begin by looking at efficiency upgrades starting with an energy audit before whipping up a blueprint.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

This can make or break your solar panel situation. Additionally, if, for most of the day, your roof is covered in shade, then having to splurge a hefty amount for solar panels might not be worth it. You should consider that condition before marching onward.

Also, how sturdy is your roof? Even the lightest panels can be heavy for a decaying house covering. Make sure your roof is in structurally good shape. The usual warranty for solar installations can last up to 25 years and if your roof will need renovation in the next couple of months, you might want to rethink your strategy. Having it renovated first is often the smartest route versus putting up these panels straight away.

Moving forward, another factor is ownership. Many times, house dwellers can’t call the shots because they simply rent the place. A good solution to this is resorting to a community solar. This alternative lets more clients buy a stake in these installations and receive electricity bill credits.

Do you trust your installer?

Advertising comes easy nowadays. Don’t trust the first installer who hands you a flyer or presents you an ad. You have to remember that solar projects are a combination of electrical work and home improvement. References, credentials, and certifications are important. For instance, do they have accreditation under the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t hire an electrician to come to your home and shake things around when they don’t have sufficient experience. Consider an expert’s number of years in the industry.

It also comes as no surprise that these installations call for big checks. Shop around for installers and get as many quotes as you can before inking a deal. This can be challenging, but try looking for a company that will be available for you throughout your installation. While solar cells are stationary, you’re going to want to work with an installer who will emphatically extend their services even after your warranty period is over.

Which solar-type should you go for?

There are two prevailing solar sciences: the first one is photovoltaic. This technology produces electricity sourced from sunlight. Thermal, the second one makes use of sunlight to heat air or water for your everyday needs. At the end of the day, your context and living conditions help determine what you need the most. Despite that, those who use solar thermal are rare and qualified installers for this aren’t that many.

Buy or lease?

Before diving right into the world of solar panel usage, run a cost-benefit analysis. Is buying your own solar infrastructure the wisest decision you can make? Purchasing your costs more in the beginning, but you’ll have more evident benefits in the long run. On the other hand, renting grants you access to more affordable electricity bills. On top of that, you spend little to no money upfront in this arrangement. The tradeoff, however, is that there are limited monetary benefits for you.

When you rent your system, the company who you ink a deal with owns the infrastructure and you only shell out a certain fee for the electricity. When your rental period is over, they can either take the solar infrastructure back or sell it to you. But if you own your infrastructure, you can reap its advantages long after you’ve bought it. To snag a better deal, weight the lifecycle cost of both arrangements to see where you benefit the most. Factor in how much you earn at present and how much you see yourself earning in the near future. You have to put in a lot of research before you make a decision.

What should your contract contain?

As with any other contract, your welfare should be upheld as these last for long periods. The deal you ink should break down ownership, financing, and performance expectations. You should also factor in data-collecting technology if your infrastructure contains web-enabled devices. Determine who has access to it, if this applies. When there are things or contract segments you’re unsure of, it’s best to consult a legal advisor.

After everything’s been said and done, you’re not only cutting back on costs, you’re also contributing to a healthier planet.

Bioenergy in the Middle East

The Middle East region offers tremendous renewable energy potential in the form of solar, wind and bioenergy which has remained unexplored to a great extent. The major biomass producing Middle East countries are Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the Middle East. Since most of the region is arid/semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and agro-industrial wastes.

Municipal solid wastes represent the best bioenergy resource in the Middle East. The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the region is not only accelerating consumption rates but also accelerating the generation of municipal waste. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually.

In Middle East countries, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year. According to estimates from the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Dubai Municipality, sewage generation in the Dubai increased from 50,000 m3 per day in 1981 to 400,000 m3 per day in 2006.

The food processing industry in Middle East produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as source of bioenergy. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the Middle East.

Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. There are many technologically-advanced dairy products, bakery and oil processing plants in the region.

date-wastes

Date palm biomass is found in large quantities across the Middle East

Agriculture plays an important role in the economies of most of the countries in the Middle East.  The contribution of the agricultural sector to the overall economy varies significantly among countries in the region, ranging, for example, from about 3.2 percent in Saudi Arabia to 13.4 percent in Egypt. Cotton, dates, olives, wheat are some of the prominent crops in the Middle East

Large quantities of crop residues are produced annually in the region, and are vastly underutilised. Current farming practice is usually to plough these residues back into the soil, or they are burnt, left to decompose, or grazed by cattle. These residues could be processed into liquid fuels or thermochemically processed to produce electricity and heat in rural areas.

Energy crops, such as Jatropha, can be successfully grown in arid regions for biodiesel production. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

The Middle Eastern countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of the Middle East countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported into the Middle Eastern countries each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.

European Electricity Prices Drop 19% in Two Days Because of Wind Power

Americans are spending over $100 a month on electricity, leading to many poorer people having to go without when cash is running low. Anything that can be done to reduce costs will help people to live comfortably and meet their basic electricity needs. One way to do this is by increasing the production of wind energy. Fortunately, this is exactly what is happening across the European Union and latest figures confirm this.

renewable-energy-germany

AleaSoft is a forecaster of energy production and usage. They regularly do in depth analysis into the energy sector, so that governments and businesses can determine which source of energy is most effective at lowering costs and creating a cleaner atmosphere. Consistently, research from AleaSoft has shown that as wind power production increases, the overall price of electricity goes down. In the two days between October 7 and October 10 2019, the cost of the average electric bill fell by 19% and further analysis showed that this was as a direct result of investment in wind energy.

Change Between October 7 and October 10

There has been a general trend across the European continent suggesting a fall in prices. However, during the weekdays between Monday October 7 and Thursday October 10, the decline in costs was most significant. The average fall in the price of electricity markets was 19%, although there was significant variation between countries.

Most strikingly, Belgium was able to slash prices by 32%, cutting the cost of the average Belgian’s electricity bill by a third. Other electricity markets showed less of a price fall, such as in Spain and Germany were costs fell by just 7%. Wherever you happen to live in Europe, however, the news is hugely positive. Any drop in prices helps ordinary and low income people to power their homes without feeling restricted.

What is Driving the Fall in Price?

A fall in electricity costs can be for many reasons, so AleaSoft’s research delved into the possible causes of such a significant decline in the energy markets. The sudden drop in prices came at the same time that wind energy production has been ramped up. When wind turbine usage fell, electricity market prices increased. The correlation is so close that this is the only reasonable explanation for the fluctuations in price. 

14% of energy provided in the European Union is produced by wind farms, but 95% of new energy source investments are put towards renewables. This suggests that the overall percentage of electricity from wind will rise exponentially. The UK, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark are the main countries where wind farms are located.

Improved Maintenance Techniques

One of the reasons that European countries are so capable of building new wind farms is improved maintenance techniques. The aerial platform is the easiest way to clean and repair wind turbines, so a dedication to the aerial life has helped to provide turbines which function more efficiently. New generations of aerial lift equipment, skylifts and other aerial platforms are making it easier and cheaper to produce wind power consistently and over long periods of time.

Wind turbines have a reputation of being inefficient. Many believe that their construction is harmful to the environment and that they spend most of their lives switched off and inactive. This is no longer the case, however, and the spike in wind energy production detected by AleaSoft supports the view that maintenance is improving and so too are the capabilities of wind farms.

Even if the environment isn’t a priority, all homeowners long for cheaper electricity. This new report showing the direct link between wind power and lower costs is a great sign. It should boost investment in the technology and ensure a long term and consistent decline in energy costs, as well as a cleaner environment.

Biodiesel Program in India – An Analysis

The Government of India approved the National Policy on Biofuels in December 2009. The biofuel policy encouraged the use of renewable energy resources as alternate fuels to supplement transport fuels (petrol and diesel for vehicles) and proposed a target of 20 percent biofuel blending (both biodiesel and bioethanol) by 2017. The government launched the National Biodiesel Mission (NBM) identifying Jatropha curcas as the most suitable tree-borne oilseed for biodiesel production.

The Planning Commission of India had set an ambitious target covering 11.2 to 13.4 million hectares of land under Jatropha cultivation by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan. The central government and several state governments are providing fiscal incentives for supporting plantations of Jatropha and other non-edible oilseeds. Several public institutions, state biofuel boards, state agricultural universities and cooperative sectors are also supporting the biofuel mission in different capacities.

State of the Affairs

The biodiesel industry in India is still in infancy despite the fact that demand for diesel is five times higher than that for petrol. The government’s ambitious plan of producing sufficient biodiesel to meet its mandate of 20 percent diesel blending by 2012 was not realized due to a lack of sufficient Jatropha seeds to produce biodiesel.

Currently, Jatropha occupies only around 0.5 million hectares of low-quality wastelands across the country, of which 65-70 percent are new plantations of less than three years. Several corporations, petroleum companies and private companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding with state governments to establish and promote Jatropha plantations on government-owned wastelands or contract farming with small and medium farmers. However, only a few states have been able to actively promote Jatropha plantations despite government incentives.

Key Hurdles

The unavailability of sufficient feedstock and lack of R&D to evolve high-yielding drought tolerant Jatropha seeds have been major stumbling blocks. In addition, smaller land holdings, ownership issues with government or community-owned wastelands, lackluster progress by state governments and negligible commercial production of biodiesel have hampered the efforts and investments made by both private and public sector companies.

The non-availability of sufficient feedstock and lack of R&D to evolve high-yielding drought tolerant Jatropha seeds have been major stumbling blocks in biodiesel program in India. In addition, smaller land holdings, ownership issues with government or community-owned wastelands, lackluster progress by state governments and negligible commercial production of biodiesel have hampered the efforts and investments made by both private and public sector companies.

Another major obstacle in implementing the biodiesel programme has been the difficulty in initiating large-scale cultivation of Jatropha. The Jatropha production program was started without any planned varietal improvement program, and use of low-yielding cultivars made things difficult for smallholders. The higher gestation period of biodiesel crops (3–5 years for Jatropha and 6–8 years for Pongamia) results in a longer payback period and creates additional problems for farmers where state support is not readily available.

The Jatropha seed distribution channels are currently underdeveloped as sufficient numbers of processing industries are not operating. There are no specific markets for Jatropha seed supply and hence the middlemen play a major role in taking the seeds to the processing centres and this inflates the marketing margin.

Biodiesel distribution channels are virtually non-existent as most of the biofuel produced is used either by the producing companies for self-use or by certain transport companies on a trial basis. Further, the cost of biodiesel depends substantially on the cost of seeds and the economy of scale at which the processing plant is operating.

The lack of assured supplies of feedstock supply has hampered efforts by the private sector to set up biodiesel plants in India. In the absence of seed collection and oil extraction infrastructure, it becomes difficult to persuade entrepreneurs to install trans-esterification plants.

How An Increase in Demand of Epoxy Resin Can Fuel the Need for Clean Energy

Epoxy resin is a kind of reactive prepolymer and polymer that contains epoxide groups. It is important to note that epoxy resin is different from other polyester resins in terms of curing. Unlike other resins, instead of using a catalyst as a curing agent, it is cured by an agent known as the hardener. It possesses many desirable properties such as high tensile strength, high adhesive strength, high corrosion resistance, and excellent moisture & chemical resistance. It is also resistant to fatigue, has a long shelf life, and has good electrical and insulating properties. The ability of epoxy resins to be used in various combinations and reinforcements makes it the foundation of a plethora of industries, including clean energy systems.

Applications of Epoxy Resins

Because of the versatile properties of epoxy resins, it is used widely in adhesives, potting, encapsulating electronics, and printed circuit boards. It is also used in the form of matrices for composites in the aerospace industries. Epoxy composite laminates are commonly used for repairing both composite as well as steel structures in marine applications.

Due to its high reactivity, epoxy resin is preferred in repairing boats that have been damaged by impact. Its low shrinking properties and ease of fabrication make it well suited for many tooling applications such as metal-shaping molds, vacuum-forming molds, jigs, patterns etc.

Use of Epoxy Resins in Clean Energy

A variety of industries have been actively trying to find a path that’s moving towards a society that puts less load on the the environment and also contributes towards reducing the carbon footprint. The accelerated use of epoxy resins in generating renewable energy has lead to a rise in its production demand. This is why the epoxy resin market is projected to witness a high demand and growth rate by 2022. Here are some of the sectors contributing to the production of clean energy and how they utilize epoxy resin for their functioning:

  • Solar Energy

The harnessing of solar energy dates back to 700 B.C, when people used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays to produce fire. Today solar power is a vigorously developing energy source around the globe. It not only caters to the rising energy requirements but also the need to protect the environment from the exploitation of exhaustible energy resources.

A piece of average solar equipment endures intense environmental conditions such as scorching heat, UV radiations, bitter cold,  pouring rain, hail, storms, and turbulent winds. To withstand such conditions, the sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment.

With their high mechanical strength, impressive dimensional stability and excellent adhesion properties, they are used to protect the solar panels from a wide range of temperatures. Epoxies are cheap, less labor-intensive and easy to apply.

  • Wind Energy

The global wind industry has quickly emerged as one of the largest sources of renewable energy around the world. The wind energy in the U.S. alone grew by 9% in 2017 and today is the largest source for generating clean energy in the country. With such a tremendous demand for wind power, the need for fabricating bigger and better wind turbine blades is also rising. The industry is in a dearth of long-lasting blades, that endure the harsh climatic conditions and wear tear and are able to collect more wind energy at a time.

Sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment

Epoxy thermosets are used for making the blades more durable because of their high tensile strength and high creep resistance. Mixing of epoxy resins with various toughening agents and using them on the blades have shown positive results towards making the blades corrosion resistant and fatigue-proof.

  • Hydropower

Hydropower is an essential source of renewable and clean energy. As the hydropower industry is developing rapidly, the solution for protecting the hydropower concrete surfaces against low temperatures and lashing water flow has also been looked into.

As a solution to this issue, epoxy mortar, a mixture of epoxy resins, binder, solvent, mineral fillers, and some additives has proven to be the most effective material used for surface protection. Owing to the properties like non-permeability, adhesive strength, anti-erosive nature, and non-abrasiveness, epoxy mortar paste has been used as a repairing paste in the hydropower industry.

Over the last few decades, epoxy resins have contributed immensely in the maintenance and protection of clean energy sources, helping them to become more efficient and productive.

Final Thoughts

While many argue that factors like a relatively high cost when compared to petroleum-based resins and conventional cement-mortar alternatives has affected the epoxy resin market growth, the fact remains that epoxy resin never fails to deliver top-notch and unmatchable results in the areas of application.

Major Considerations in Biopower Projects

In recent years, biopower (or biomass power) projects are getting increasing traction worldwide, however there are major issues to be tackled before setting up a biopower project. There are three important steps involved in the conversion of biomass wastes into useful energy. In the first step, the biomass must be prepared for the energy conversion process. While this step is highly dependent on the waste stream and approach, drying, grinding, separating, and similar operations are common.

In addition, the host facility will need material handling systems, storage, metering, and prep-yard systems and biomass handling equipment. In the second step, the biomass waste stream must be converted into a useful fuel or steam. Finally, the fuel or steam is fed into a prime mover to generate useful electricity and heat.

One of the most important factors in the efficient utilization of biomass resource is its availability in close proximity to a biomass power project. An in-depth evaluation of the available quantity of a given agricultural resource should be conducted to determine initial feasibility of a project, as well as subsequent fuel availability issues. The primary reasons for failure of biomass power projects are changes in biomass fuel supply or demand and changes in fuel quality.

Fuel considerations that should be analyzed before embarking on a biomass power project include:

  • Typical moisture content (including the effects of storage options)
  • Typical yield
  • Seasonality of the resource
  • Proximity to the power generation site
  • Alternative uses of the resource that could affect future availability or price
  • Range of fuel quality
  • Weather-related issues
  • Percentage of farmers contracted to sell residues

Accuracy is of great importance in making fuel availability assumptions because miscalculations can greatly impact the successful operation of biomass power projects. If biomass resource is identifies as a bottle-neck in the planning stage, a power generation technology that can handle varying degrees of moisture content and particle size can be selected.

Technologies that can handle several fuels in a broad category, such as agricultural residues, provide security in operation without adversely affecting combustion efficiency, operations and maintenance costs, emissions levels, and reliability.

Consistent and reliable supply of biomass is crucial for any biomass project

Identification of potential sources of biomass fuel can be one of the more challenging aspects of a new biomass energy project. There are two important issues for potential biomass users:

  • Consistent and reliable biomass resource supply to the facility
  • Presence of harvesting, processing and supply infrastructure to provide biomass in a consistent and timely manner

Biomass as an energy source is a system of interdependent components. Economic and technical viability of this system relies on a guaranteed feedstock supply, effective and efficient conversion technologies, guaranteed markets for the energy products, and cost-effective distribution systems.

The biomass system is based on the following steps:

  • Biomass harvesting (or biomass collection of non-agricultural waste)
  • Preparation of biomass as feedstock
  • Conversion of biomass feedstock into intermediate products.
  • Transformation of intermediates into final energy and other bio-based products
  • Distribution and utilization of biofuels, biomass power and bio-based products.

Biogas from Agricultural Wastes

The main problem with anaerobic digestion of agricultural wastes is that most of the agricultural residues are lignocellulosic with low nitrogen content. To obtain biogas from agricultural wastes, pre-treatment methods like size reduction, electron irradiation, heat treatment, enzymatic action etc are necessary. For optimizing the C/N ratio of agricultural residues, co-digestion with sewage sludge, animal manure or poultry litter is recommended.

Types of Agricultural Wastes

Several organic wastes from plants and animals have been exploited for biogas production as reported in the literature. Plant materials include agricultural crops such as sugar cane, cassava, corn etc, agricultural residues like rice straw, cassava rhizome, corn cobs etc, wood and wood residues (saw dust, pulp wastes, and paper mill waste)

Others include molasses and bagasse from sugar refineries, waste streams such as rice husk from rice mills and residues from palm oil extraction and municipal solid wastes, etc. However, plant materials such as crop residues are more difficult to digest than animal wastes (manures) because of difficulty in achieving hydrolysis of cellulosic and lignocellulosic constituents.

Codigestion of Crop Wastes

Crop residues can be digested either alone or in co-digestion with other materials, employing either wet or dry processes. In the agricultural sector one possible solution to processing crop biomass is co-digested together with animal manures, the largest agricultural waste stream.

In addition to the production of renewable energy, controlled anaerobic digestion of animal manures reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, nitrogen and odour from manure management, and intensifies the recycling of nutrients within agriculture.

In co-digestion of plant material and manures, manures provide buffering capacity and a wide range of nutrients, while the addition of plant material with high carbon content balances the carbon to nitrogen (C/N) ratio of the feedstock, thereby decreasing the risk of ammonia inhibition.

The gas production per digester volume can be increased by operating the digesters at a higher solids concentration. Batch high solids reactors, characterized by lower investment costs than those of continuously fed processes, but with comparable operational costs, are currently applied in the agricultural sector to a limited extent.

Codigestion offers good opportunity to farmers to treat their own waste together with other organic substrates. As a result, farmers can treat their own residues properly and also generate additional revenues by treating and managing organic waste from other sources and by selling and/or using the products viz heat, electrical power and stabilised biofertiliser.

More Reasons To Check Out Alternative Energy Sources

In recent years, the world has seen significant economic progress, which greatly relied on energy fueled by coal and petroleum among others. With the continuously growing demand for energy, it is a fact that these energy sources may be depleted in the near future. Apart from this, there are several other reasons why humankind already needs to find alternative energy sources.

Global Warming

It is a known fact that different manufacturing processes and human activities, such as using vehicles, cause pollution in the atmosphere by releasing carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide traps heat in the earth, and this phenomenon is known as global warming. Global warming has several harmful impacts such as stronger and more frequent storms, as well as drought and heat waves. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass to name a few, all generate minimal global warming emissions.

Wind power, for instance, has the capability to supply energy with a significantly lower emission compared to burning coal for fuel. This is the reason why wind energy is more beneficial compared to carbon-intensive energy sources. Still, the emissions generated by wind power are even lower compared to other renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power sources. This makes a huge potential for wind power to sustain the world’s energy demands, while preserving the environment.

Public Health

It goes without saying that the pollution caused by burning coal and fuel not only has an environmental impact, but it also has a significant effect on public health. Various diseases and ailments can be attributed to pollution, which usually affects the respiratory tract. Contaminated water also causes various bacterial infections. Wind power, solar energy, and hydroelectric systems have the capability to generate electricity without emitting air pollutants. Additionally, wind and solar energy sources do not need water to operate, thereby, eliminating the probability of polluting water resources. Clean air and water that is free from pollutants, will have a significant positive impact on public health.

Constant Energy Source

While coal and fossil fuels are on the threshold of depletion, renewable energy sources are inexhaustible. Wind can be a constant energy source and no matter how high the demand for energy will be, the wind will not be depleted. In the same manner, as long as the sun shines bright on earth, there will always be an abundant solar energy source. Fast-moving water that can be translated into hydroelectric energy, the earth’s heat that can be converted into a geothermal power source, as well as abundant plant matter that can be used as biomass, can all be constantly replenished. These can never be fully exhausted no matter how great the energy demand will be. The utilization of a combination of each of these energy sources will prove to be even more beneficial. Additionally, with its continued use, there will no longer be a need for combustible energy sources.

Lower Energy Costs

The cost of electricity continues to be a burden on the earth’s greater population. The use of renewable energy sources to light up the earth is considerably cheaper and inexpensive compared to the cost of burning fossil fuels for electricity and other energy needs. Apart from a cheaper cost, renewable energy sources can help stabilize to cost of energy in the long run, with an unlimited supply being able to cater to greater demand. While it cannot be denied that setting up clean energy technologies comes with a cost, it can be noted that the cost of its operation is significantly lower. Conversely, the cost of coal and fossil fuels for energy consumption fluctuates over a wide range and is greatly affected by the economic and political conditions of its country of origin.

Economic Benefits

Fossil fuel technologies, often, revolve around the capitalistic market. Hence, the use of combustible fuels is often linked to unfavorable labor conditions, and even child labor and slavery. On the other hand, the use of renewable energy sources provides decent jobs, contributing to several economic benefits. For instance, workers are needed to install and maintain solar panels. In the same manner, wind farms employ technicians for maintenance. Thus, jobs are created directly in parallel with the unit of energy produced. This means that more jobs will be produced if more renewable energy sources are utilized.

Reliability

Clean energy sources, specifically wind and solar power, are less susceptible to large-scale failures. The reason behind this is that both wind and solar power both employ distributed and modular systems. This means that electricity will not be totally cut off in instances of extreme weather conditions because the energy sources powering up the electricity is spread out over a wider geographical area. In the same manner, there will still be a continuous supply of energy even if certain equipment in the entire system is damaged because clean fuel technologies are made up of modules such as a number of individual wind turbines or solar panels.

With all the reasons to check out alternative energy sources, it still holds true that there remain several barriers that hinder the full implementation of renewable energy technologies. Some of these challenges are capital costs because of reliability misconceptions, as well as a difficult market entry due to an unequal playing field. Because renewable energy sources are cheap to operate, the bulk of the expenses in its implementation is building the technology. Thereby, the rate of return for capitalists and investors in the market entails a longer waiting period. Adding to this barrier is the hidden political agenda that most governments need to overcome.

Economic progress and advancement in technology are not at all bad. On the contrary, it has brought forth a lot of benefits such as cures for ailments and diseases, resources for deep-sea or space explorations, as well as meaningful collaboration and communication. However, this progress came with a price, and unfortunately, it’s the world’s energy resources that are on the brink of exhaustion. Hence, mitigation has been already necessary and finding alternative energy sources is just one of the probable solutions.

Why Biofuels Should Be a Key Part in America’s Future

Biofuels are one of the hottest environmental topics, but they aren’t anything new. When discussing these fuels, experts frequently refer to first, second-and third-generation biofuels to differentiate between more efficient and advanced ones currently in development and more traditional biofuels in use for decades.

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles around the world

First-generation biofuels are things like methanol, ethanol, biodiesel and vegetable oil, while second-generation biofuels are produced by transforming crops into liquid fuels using highly advanced chemical processes, such as mixed alcohols and biohydrogen. Third-generation, or “advanced” biofuels, are created using oil that is made from algae or closed reactors and then refined to produce conventional fuels such as ethanol, methane, biodiesel, etc.

Cleaner Air and Less Impact on Climate Change

As biofuels come from renewable materials, they have less of an impact on climate change as compared to gasoline, according to multiple studies. Ethanol in gasoline has been helping to decrease smog in major cities, keeping the air cleaner and safer to breathe. Starch-based biofuels can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 30- to 60-percent, as compared to gasoline, while cellulosic ethanol can lessen emissions even further, as much as 90 percent.

Reduced Danger of Environmental Disaster

Can you imagine buying one of the oceanfront Jacksonville condos in Florida, looking forward to enjoying peaceful beach strolls every morning only to find injured or killed animals and globs of oil all over the sand? Not exactly the vision of paradise you dreamed of.

A major benefit of using biofuels is the risk of environmental disaster is dramatically reduced. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico released millions of gallons of oil. It not only cost BP nearly $62 billion but caused extensive damage to wildlife and the environment. Biofuels are much safer. For example, a corn field won’t poison the ocean.

More Jobs and an Economic Boom

Numerous studies, including one conducted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), have found that biofuels lead to more jobs for Americans. In 2014, the ethanol industry was responsible for nearly 84,000 direct jobs and over 295,000 indirect and induced jobs – all jobs that pay well and are non-exportable. The industry also added nearly $53 billion to the national GDP, $27 billion to the national GDP and over $10 billion in taxes, stimulating local, state and national economies.

Many experts predict that these figures will increase with significant job creation potential in biorefinery construction, operation and biomass collection. If the potential for producing cellulosic ethanol from household waste and forestry residues were utilized at commercial scale, even more jobs are likely to be added.

Energy Independence

When a nation has the land resources to grow biofuel feedstock, it is able to produce its own energy, eliminating dependence on fossil fuel resources. Considering the significant amount of conflict that tends to happen over fuel prices and supplies, this brings a net positive effect.

Biomass Gasification Power Systems

Biomass gasification power systems have followed two divergent pathways, which are a function of the scale of operations. At sizes much less than 1MW, the preferred technology combination today is a moving bed gasifier and ICE combination, while at scales much larger than 10 MW, the combination is of a fluidized bed gasifier and a gas turbine.

Larger scale units than 25 MW would justify the use of a combined cycle, as is the practice with natural gas fired gas turbine stations. In the future it is anticipated that extremely efficient gasification based power systems would be based on a combined cycle that incorporates a fuel cell, gas turbine  and possibly a Rankine bottoming cycle.

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle

The most attractive means of utilising a biomass gasifier for power generation is to integrate the gasification process into a gas turbine combined cycle power plant. This will normally require a gasifier capable of producing a gas with heat content close to 19 MJ/Nm3. A close integration of the two parts of the plant can lead to significant efficiency gains.

The gas from the gasifier must first be cleaned to remove impurities such as alkali metals that might damage the gas turbine. The clean gas is fed into the combustor of the gas turbine where it is burned, generating a flow of hot gas which drives the turbine, generating electricity.

Hot exhaust gases from the turbine are then utilised to generate steam in a heat recovery steam generator. The steam drives a steam turbine, producing more power. Low grade waste heat from the steam generator exhaust can be used within the plant, to dry the biomass fuel before it is fed into the gasifier or to preheat the fuel before entry into the gasifier reactor vessel.

Schematic of integrated biomass gasification combined cycle

The gas-fired combined cycle power plant has become one of the most popular configurations for power generation in regions of the world where natural gas is available. The integration of a combined cycle power plant with a coal gasifier is now considered a potentially attractive means of burning coal cleanly in the future.

Biomass Fuel Cell Power Plant

Another potential use for the combustible gas from a biomass gasification plant is as fuel for a fuel cell power plant. Modern high temperature fuel cells are capable of operating with hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Thus product gas from a biomass gasifier could become a suitable fuel.

As with the integrated biomass gasification combined cycle plant, a fuel cell plant would offer high efficiency. A future high temperature fuel cell burning biomass might be able to achieve greater than 50% efficiency.