31 Aug 2008
A fresh look at developments that are bringing cleaner technologies closer to home.
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New Renewable Energy Tool for Farmers
TheGovernment of Canada has unveiled a new resource to help farmers reducetheir dependence on conventional energy sources and improve farmsustainability. The Integration of Renewable Energy on the Farm (IREF)Web site is a complete repository of technical information and onlinetools for analyzing the potential for integrating renewable energysources onto individual farms.
The announcement was made byJoe Preston, Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ontario,Canada on behalf of the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of NaturalResources at the Growing the Margins Conference. “We’ve taken the bestinformation available on renewable energy technology for theagricultural sector and made it easily accessible through theInternet,” said Mr. Preston. “The IREF Web site also provides onlinetools that will help farmers assess viable options for using renewableenergy and determine the exact return on their investment.”
IREFis the result of a four-year partnership between Natural ResourcesCanada (NRCan), Agriculture Canada and more than 20 agricultural andenergy organizations across Canada, and represents a significantinvestment by the Government of Canada.
“Great things happenwhen industry and government work together in partnership to developtools that meet the needs of farmers. The IREF Web site is a perfectexample of that,” said Ron Bonnett, 2nd Vice-President, CanadianFederation of Agriculture (CFA). “The CFA is pleased to assume theadministration of this tool that will help Canadian farmers take partin the renewable energy revolution, making their operations moresustainable both environmentally and economically.”
TheGovernment of Canada’s ecoACTION plan is investing more than $3.6billion through its ecoENERGY initiatives to make clean energy readilyavailable and more affordable for Canadians.
This new IREF Website will include links to the ecoENERGY for Renewable Heat andecoENERGY for Biofuels programs. It is expected that some farms willbenefit from these programs and use renewable energy technologies tosave energy and possibly produce surplus energy that they can sell topower utilities.
“This initiative reflects our government’sapproach to tackling climate change and air pollution ñ a balancedapproach in partnership with Canadians to put new technologies andinnovation to work for our environment and our economy,” said Mr.Preston. “We’re taking action to ensure that Canada is on the leadingedge of clean technologies to reduce emissions and adapt toenvironmental change.”
The IREF project was led by researchersat NRCan’s CANMET Energy Technology Centre ñ Canada’s largest scienceand technology research organization dedicated to clean energyresearch, development, demonstration and deployment. If successful thiscould be an effective model that other countries could adopt. Thiswould ensure their agriculture has the very best access to newer andcleaner technologies, readily available at the fingertips of hardworking farmers.
The IREF Web site can be found at www.farm-energy.ca.
The Best Use For Booze?
Whisky producer Diageo has announced a project to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the site of its largest distillery by about 56,000 tonnes per year, This is equivalent to taking 44,000 cars off the road. In partnership with Dalkia, an energy management company, Diageo is planning to install a £65 million bio- energy system at its Cameronbridge plant, near Leven in Fife.
‘Spent wash’ made up of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water produced during distillation, will be turned into bioenergy in the form of electricity and steam to power the distillery. Through anaerobic digestion and biomass conversion, around 90,000 tonnes of the spent materials will generate about 98 per cent of the steam needed at the distillery and about 80 per cent of the electricity. The ‘spent wash’ would normally be transported off-site by road. The facility, which is subject to planning approval, will also recover almost a third of the site’s water requirements.
Normally, tequila and cars should not mix. However, it is possible to use the Agave cactus from which tequila is distilled as source for biofuel.
Varieties of agave tequila weber yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre. If their cellulose is included, that rises up to 18,000 gallons per acre. Agave cactus also has a better ratio of energy yield per energy used in its production than existing biofuel crops. These figures out-perform those for plants that are dominating biofuels’ research and investment today.
Agave, a native plant of Mexico, needs no watering or agrochemicals, requires very little field labor and grows well on steep terrains and in any type of soil, including semi-arid areas that are unsuitable for many other crops.
Says Professor Remigio Madrigal Lugo of the Autonomous University of Chapingo, Mexico:
‘Agave can bring in the new era of bio-economics giving the world enough clean energy for a peaceful and secure world.’
Professor Remigio Madrigal Lugo, Ph.D., Agricultural Biotechnology, the Autonomous University of Chapingo.
Alternative Energy Hits the Road
Research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA has been exploring turning highways and car parks into solar collectors
Anyone who has walked barefoot across a piece of tarmac on a hot summer day knows that it is exceptionally good at soaking up the sun’s warmth. Now, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute has found a way to use that heat-soaking property for an alternative energy source. Through asphalt, the researchers are developing a solar collector that could turn roads and car parks into widespread and inexpensive sources of electricity and hot water.
The research project, undertaken at the request of Michael Hulen, president of Novotech Inc. in Massachusetts, is being directed by Rajib Mallick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Team member Bao-Liang Chen, a PhD candidate at WPI presented the results of research aimed at evaluating the potential for transforming stretches of asphalt into a cost-effective energy source at the annual symposium of the International Society for Asphalt Pavements in Zurich, Switzerland. Studies looked at not only, how well asphalt can collect solar energy, but at the best way to construct roads and car parks to maximize their heat-absorbing qualities.
‘Asphalt has a lot of advantages as a solar collector,’ Mallick says. ‘For one, blacktop (tarmac) stays hot and could continue to generate energy after the sun goes down, unlike traditional solar-electric cells. In addition, there is already a massive acreage of installed roads and car parks that could be retrofitted for energy generation, so there is no need to find additional land for solar farms. Roads and car parks are typically resurfaced every 10 to 12 years and the retrofit could be built into that cycle. Extracting heat from asphalt could cool it, reducing the urban heat island’ effect. Finally, unlike roof-top solar arrays, which some find unattractive, the solar collectors in roads and car parks would be invisible.’
Mallick and his research team studied the energy-generating potential of asphalt using computer models and by conducting small- and large-scale tests. The tests were conducted on slabs of asphalt in which were imbedded thermocouples, to measure heat penetration, and copper pipes, to gauge how well that heat could be transferred to flowing water. Hot water flowin
g from an asphalt energy system could be used ‘as is’ for heating buildings or in industrial processes, or could be passed through a thermoelectric generator to produce electricity.
In the lab, small slabs were exposed to halogen lamps, simulating sunlight. Larger slabs were set up outdoors and exposed to more realistic environmental conditions, including direct sunlight and wind. The tests showed that asphalt absorbs a considerable amount of heat and that the highest temperatures are found a few centimetres below the surface. This is where a heat exchanger would be located to extract the maximum amount of energy. Experimenting with various asphalt compositions, they found that the addition of highly conductive aggregates, like quartzite, can significantly increase heat absorption, as can the application of a special paint that reduces reflection.
Finally, Mallick says the team concluded that the key to successfully turning asphalt into an effective energy generator will replacing the copper pipes used in the tests with a specially designed, highly efficient heat exchanger that soaks up the maximum amount of the heat absorbed by asphalt. ‘Our preliminary results provide a promising proof of concept for what could be a very important future source of renewable, pollution-free energy for our nation. And it has been there all along, right under our feet.’
Information from Worcester Polytechnic Institute USA
Contact: Michael Dorsey, Director of Research Communications, +1-508-831-5609, email@example.com
Eileen Brangan Mell, Director of Public Relations, +1-508-831-6785, firstname.lastname@example.org
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