Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Great News on the Energy Front

Many of the things I learned at UCLA are now coming to fruition in the real world. I was a Geography and Economics major, and my best classes were in Economic Geography with visiting professors from Rand Corporation. Scotland is now producing and testing one of the most innovative of possible energy solution.

Scotland is testing two solutions that are reasonably well examined in academia, but unproduced in the real world. Until now.

The First

A "Tidal Turbine". There have been a (very) few tidal energy solutions now, the issue with these is location and impact. Traditional tidal energy is created with essential a damn in front of a tidal inlet. The damn is then used to drive power (like a river damn) as the tide goes in and out. The problem with this solution is: 1) there are very few inlets where the tide is big enough to make a difference, 2) they are not particularly efficient and 3) they tend to screw up the inlet for other uses.

Enter Scotland's tidal turbine. In this case a turbine is setup at areas os tidal changes, but it doesn't include damning the estuary. Instead a turbine sits int eh water, and as water passes through it turns the blades. Now they go slowly, but because water is so dense, they generate electricity at lower speeds! The one illustrated seems to be near the surface, but you can easily attach them below water level and use the tides from deeper in the water.

The Second

Another system being tested in Scotland harnesses kinetic wave energy to create electricity. In this case the waves drive a turbine in kind of the reverse system of how your car engine pistons drive the wheels.

Both have amazing possibilities. First tides (and waves) are more predictable than sun and wind energy systems. Second, there are plenty of islands (think Hawaii) that need energy and now have to import it. The tidal turbines create a LOT of energy. And finally, they don't produce carbon emissions.

The next hurdle is to make them affordable. Scotland thinks that with a few years they can make the cost consistent with nuclear energy. And, the one thing we have learned from solar and wind power is that costs go down quickly once these can be mass produced.

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