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Information on future heating sources

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by by_the_fireside, Sep 18, 2008.

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  1. by_the_fireside

    by_the_fireside New Member

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    Hi all,

    Just wondered if anyone knew of any good research sites relating to future heating sources?

    Cheers ;)

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  2. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    www.hearth.com ;-P
  3. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    I'll go out on a limb and suggest that virtually all future energy will come directly or indirectly from nuclear sources. Here's my thoughts:

    While there are some wild-eyed folks out there who claim that the best source is tapping directly into raw nuclear radiation and turning it into electricity, many studies have shown that exposing humans to this radiation is extremely dangerous and causes cancer. Despite that, I expect that solar photovoltaic systems will continue to be used.

    Of course, you could use the heat energy from nuclear radiation to heat gases and then drive turbines situated in the path of the high pressure gas. The same caution about human exposure applies, but I expect wind turbines will also continue to be used.

    It has been discovered that radiation from nuclear sources can be used to drive chemical reactions that result in chemical energy that can be stored, transported, and released as needed. While this is a relatively inefficient process, I expect that we'll be burning wood, coal, oil, and natural gas for some time to come.

    In addition to the sun, we could use uranium and other fissionables in fourth-generation reactors to produce useful energy with far higher efficiency and far lower risk that current nuclear plants, which are already far safer in lives per kwh than virtually any other energy source. We just have to get over our panic reaction to the word 'nuclear'.
  4. Jim K in PA

    Jim K in PA Minister of Fire

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    Nofossil - I have not seen a better expression of the above anywhere. Kudos.

    Nuke baby nuke.

    :coolsmile:
  5. WoodNotOil

    WoodNotOil Minister of Fire

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    Nofossil - Do any of the new nuclear technologies you mention produce less waste? If we build more nuclear facilities, where is the waste stored? It reduces CO2, but at a cost.

    I would much rather see energy produced regionally or locally in a means that is compatible with each area. For instance, Vermont could utilize small scale wind (in locations that make sense), hydro (in our own rivers not imported), and nuclear (smaller and safer than Yankee). Some solar may even make sense. Arizona might for instance produce electricity from steam heated by the sun.

    Energy issues are unfortunately about making money, not about the environment, low cost, or safety. We have the technology to solve the energy problems of the world several times over, it just isn't profitable enough for anyone to be willing to do it. Yet.
  6. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    I think we are going to reach a critical threshold on solar PV technology where it will become cheap and efficient enough that it will be our primary source. Of course solar is just another form of nuclear, just that the harmful parts are many many miles away (unless you spend too much time on the beach).
  7. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Fourth generation reactors can in some cases use what is now regarded as high-level nuclear waste as fuel. They also capture a vastly higher percentage of the available energy in the fuel that they consume. They are intrinsically safe in terms of meltdown.

    Unfortunately, they are being developed in South Africa, France, India, and other places around the world. Very little research is happening here, as both our corporations and politicians are not willing to take the PR risk involved in educating a public that has been mislead by hype and hysteria for decades.

    Here's an interesting one for you: Did you know that there was a huge study that looked at the correlation between radon levels and lung cancer by zip code for the entire country? The result might surprise you as it did me: There's a strong and clear negative correlation. The higher the radon levels, the lower the incidence of lung cancer. Here's the graphs from the paper (Bernard Cohen was the author). The dotted lines show the expected mortality based on the model currently used to calculate radiation risk.Interesting that the highest mortality occurs in the zip codes with the lowest radiation. It's tempting to assume that effective radon reduction would put you squarely in that part of the graph....

    Perhaps we all have a bit more to learn....

    Attached Files:

  8. 90durham

    90durham New Member

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    I saw something recently about an extremely developmental deep well geo thermal system being developed in Australia, can't remember any details but if they go deep enough and can capute the energy it may be a future source.
  9. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    [quote author="nofossil" date="1221782322
    Fourth generation reactors can in some cases use what is now regarded as high-level nuclear waste as fuel. They also capture a vastly higher percentage of the available energy in the fuel that they consume. They are intrinsically safe in terms of meltdown.
    Here's an interesting one for you: Did you know that there was a huge study that looked at the correlation between radon levels and lung cancer by zip code for the entire country? The result might surprise you as it did me: There's a strong and clear negative correlation. The higher the radon levels, the lower the incidence of lung cancer. Here's the graphs from the paper (Bernard Cohen was the author). The dotted lines show the expected mortality based on the model currently used to calculate radiation risk.Interesting that the highest mortality occurs in the zip codes with the lowest radiation. It's tempting to assume that effective radon reduction would put you squarely in that part of the graph....

    Perhaps we all have a bit more to learn....[/quote]

    Nofo, I was OK with nukes when I was very young, but over the years, seeing the way that people and institutions (both gov't and business) can readily, rapidly, totally, and catastrophically botch up handling and maintenance of even far simpler technologies (and lose things... like laptops and firearms) with far smaller-reaching/ shorter lasting consequences, have come to think that regardless of the merits of the technology in the abstract, people are too likely to- even if inadvertently- do something that'll really leave long term regrets for generations to come. but i'd be interested in learning more about the 4th gens you refer to, just out of interest.

    also, although the radon item you mention is interesting, we all know that both positive or negative correlations may or may not really be usefully or reliably indicative of causation. one of my favorite send-ups of that disconnect, and also a send-up of fear-hyping in general, is
    http://www.dhmo.org/truth/Dihydrogen-Monoxide.html
    and
    http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html
  10. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    Just Google "fourth generation nuclear reactors" - all you could ever want to know.

    I, like you, distrust organizations in general and the government in particular. In my mind, the proper and most beneficial role that government can play is establishing and enforcing commonsense ground rules that ensure that people and companies don't do things that are dangerous to others.

    Having worked for years in aerospace, I can assure you that it's possible to establish a VERY effective tension between for-profit corporations and government regulators, even when vastly complex technologies are involved. Commercial aviation is a great example. There are thousands of planes in the air all the time, many of them 30 years old or more. The cost-effectiveness and safety record is utterly remarkable, and they are much more complex than nuclear reactors.

    There's another couple of threads on OWB legislation. It's obvious that the 'commonsense ground rules' that I mentioned above are something we can't take for granted, and there are plenty of examples of corruption and malfeasance in the press every day. Still, it can work as long as neither side gets too much power and the boundaries are clearly defined.

    I'm hoping that on the OWB front we can work in the direction of educating both users and regulators on the available technology so that regulations prevent harmful behavior without getting in the way of creative solutions.
  11. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    hahahaha, that is probably the funniest thing I have ever read.
  12. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Yeah I see the tension between the SEC, Treasury et al with the Wall Street crowd. Thats working real well and it isn't really rocket science. I thought it was spelled nukleer.

    I have been following a company called Valcent. They grow algae and extract fuel from it. Algae also supposedly scavenges C02 while growing. Still in infancy but holds promise IMHO. Also don't count out Hydrogen yet. These fuels have very short half lives.

    I feel as all the people in their mcmansions that have tvs in every room of the house, leave all the lights on to deter would be burglars etc trimmed down their energy requirements we could get by with less generation. Maine has a surplus of power and it is sent out to all the other NE states.
  13. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    I didn't say it always works - I said it can work and work very effectively. We have good examples of what does and what does not work.

    I think it's 'nuculer'.

    Algae and artificial photosynthesis and PV all suffer from the same basic problem - sunlight doesn't have much energy per square meter. You need a LOT of square meters to collect enough energy to be useful. All these things can help, but it's sobering to look at how much collector area you'd need to support all of New York City's energy needs.

    Algae does in fact scavenge CO2, which gets released again when you use the algae for fuel - just like growing and burning wood. It's carbon neutral.

    Hydrogen is not an energy source. It takes more energy (usually electricity) to produce it than you get by burning it. It's a way of storing and transporting energy, but it does not solve the problem of generating energy in the first place.

    Bottom line is that at any given level of conservation, more energy means a higher standard of living, and less energy means a lower standard of living. Energy allows us to travel, to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer, to have light instead of darkness, to produce the products and materials than improve our quality of life, and so on. I'm not against conservation at all - it's a good idea, just not a long-term solution.

    I'd like to make sure that my children and their children have plenty of energy available to them. There's no virtue in huddling in a cold dark house. I participate in this forum because I want to help people learn how to be warm and cozy without polluting the air or wasting non-renewable resources. Technology is what makes life better. Wood gasification and fourth generation reactors are both examples of technologies that, if widely used, would make the world a better place.
  14. WoodNotOil

    WoodNotOil Minister of Fire

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    Nofossil - When gasifying wood, I think it is carbon negative? I think I remember reading that it only releases around 1/3 the carbon the tree took in.
  15. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    As far as I can determine, wood burning is exactly neutral. Every carbon atom in the tree came from the air, and every atom is returned to the air when you burn it. If the tree died and decomposed instead of being burned, the same thing would have happened to the carbon.

    Think about it - if the carbon is not going up the flue, then where is it going? You might get a tiny bit in the ashes, but that's trivial compared to the total mass being burned.
  16. free75degrees

    free75degrees New Member

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    Maybe a lot of the carbon isn't given off in the gasifier because it was in leaves leaves that fell off over the years. Plus the roots and small branches are not burned. All of this extra carbon eventuall gets back in the air though so it is carbon neutral. What we need to do is bury the wood deep in the ground so it turns into oil.

    I heard that while burning wood may be carbon neutral, it actually has a net decreasing effect on greenhouse gases because rotting wood gives of some methane, which is worse than co2 for global warming, and gasification burns up all of the methane.
  17. ISeeDeadBTUs

    ISeeDeadBTUs Guest

    Actually . . . If we kill off half the earths inhabitants, the rest of the poulation could just move from one hemisphere to the other as the seasons change. Combined with sweaters and going naked - don't forget sunscreen - we could eliminate the need for central heat. With all the people walking around naked, we'd no longer need TV for entertainment, nor the Net for naked bodies. Without refridgerators, we would go and hunt/collect our food each day, thus eliminating our need for 'work' and the gasoline we piss away going to and fro.

    The only thing I haven't figured out is how to keep the beer cold.
  18. Redox

    Redox Minister of Fire

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    Brew better beer and you don't need to keep it so cold...

    I think NoFo summed it up pretty well, but I don't think ALL our energy will come from "nukular" energy. So far, I've yet to see a nuclear powered airplane, though I have heard about solar powered airplanes.

    The answer is going to be a mix of sources. Putting all your eggs in a single basket can only lead to problems as they have now with our dependence on oil. PV and wind can take a good chunk out or our demand for oil and lessen the need for those nasty nukes. The future is warming up for biomass and other alternative technologies.

    What we NEED is a sensible energy policy free of partisan politics that goes in different directions. Ethanol in its current form isn't going to pan out, but something similar will. Algae and switchgrass seems a little farfetched, but if enough people put their heads together it could work.

    Anyone notice that Warren Buffet just bought Constellation Energy? It's been lost in the static on the airwaves, but all over the news here.

    Chris
  19. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    All airplanes are powered by nuclear energy.

    The reactor is just located a few tens of millions of miles away. It's a very dirty reactor, spewing radioactive waste throughout the local environment, to the point that it has been known to cause visible glow in the atmosphere when the local containment system fails. Due to a major design "flaw," it eventually will suffer a catastrophic meltdown and destroy all life on Earth. A minuscule fraction of a fraction of its energy output is captured (talk about inefficient!) and converted into chemical bonds for storage. By decomposing those chemical bonds, stored energy is released, and utilized.

    Every bit of energy you have ever used, and most likely every bit of energy you ever will use, is nuclear energy. The only question is how direct or indirect.

    Joe
  20. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

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    although that big reactor in the sky that you mention is a fusion reactor.

    I'd be a lot more comfortable with fusion than fission, if we can someday come up with a way to sustain & contain gradual fusion on a scale that we can harness the energy from. All you end up with for waste, after you put the hydrogen through the fusion reaction, is some extra helium, which, even if inadvertently released en mass, would only make us all go around with funny voices for a while. Or capture it and fly some dirigibles with it...

    I have fewer worries that inevitable recurring human ineptitude of human individuals and institutions could really lead to lasting adverse consequences with the output of fusion (helium) as compared to the long lasting radioactive isotopes from fission that have this nasty habit of throwing off beta and gamma particles and rays for hundreds to tens of thousands of years.
  21. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Unless someone comes up with a feasible way to harness nuclear fusion we are pretty much tied to existing technology and the refinement of it.

    None of the politicos seem to want to really get behind the only thing that will help put immediately and that is conservation. They are all so scared to suggest something that may require a little change in our lifestyle that they wind up promoting things that will ultimately ruin it completely.

    The technology is on the shelf right now that would enable every home in the USA to use at least 1/2 the energy presently consumed for heating, cooling and hot water. It's called a ground source heat pump. Most of the better ones will return a minimum of 3 units of energy for every unit of input and some are crowding 5:1 ratio. Why doesn't the gubmint' get behind something like that. Even GB himself heats and cools his ranch house in Texas with a GSHP system. So why don't they promote it the the American people? If I were president..........
  22. TCaldwell

    TCaldwell Minister of Fire

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    long live the garn!
  23. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    There are lost of other resources besides the energy consumed in heating your house. GSHP systems require wells, compressors, heat exchangers, and so on. Lacking any better yardstick, cost is a reasonable approximation of resources consumed. In situations where GSHP systems (or any other approach) makes economic sense, you don't need a government program. As far as I know, there's no government program encouraging wood gasifiers, but they seem to be doing just fine at both the residential level as well as the commercial level.

    I have a deep and abiding distrust of the government's ability to accomplish anything without creating massive unintended side effects. Ethanol comes to mind....

    Some people don't make the best choices, but I think individuals acting on there own with good information have a much better batting average than any centralized authority.

    So... give us individuals some good information. What's involved in a typical GSHP installation? What are the typical costs? What are the siting requirements?
  24. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    The usual rule of thumb is 25-50% more than a conventional system.

    Installation in areas like NH tends towards the high side, because of the cost of drilling wells.

    Open-loop systems which discharge the water to the surface once used are fine when only a few individuals are doing it, but would cause water table issues if used extensively.

    Closed-loop systems are more expensive to install and less efficient to operate, but they do avoid that problem.

    Houses with existing forced-hot-water systems usually cannot be converted, as maximum water temp on water/water systems is about 120 degrees, and you really want to run lower than max, anyway. Some forced-hot-air systems do not have sufficient ductwork size to handle the airflow requirements.

    Oil-, gas-, pellet-, or wood-fired boiler can operate on a single 15A circuit for the entire heating system, typically. A typical geothermal heat pump requires 70A circuit for a 5-ton unit, producing about 50-55kbtuh on a closed-loop system. Many houses in this area would require two 3.5-ton or two 5-ton systems, giving a total breaker requirement of 120-140 amps. Put too many of those on the grid, and expect to see some major brownouts (and don't expect to operate them on a generator, in case of a power failure)(also don't even contemplate using a PV system, obviously).

    However...

    Systems can be sized for the summer cooling load, up here, which is going to be lower than the heating load. That means a smaller system with less requirement to extend the depth of the existing well, and lower electrical demand. A backup fossil-fuel system kicks in during peak heating load to make up the difference (and can be used on a generator).

    Efficiency will increase with variable-speed drives, just as it has with furnace fans and the like. Spinning up the compressor gradually will reduce starting amps, lowering the circuit ampacity requirements.

    Even with current technology, efficiency is phenomenal, and even with our expensive electricity here in NH we can see good ROI numbers for many houses. The customer just needs to be able to stomach the high up-front cost.

    These are not for do-it-yourselfers, which is a drawback for the few DIY folks who know what they are doing, but ensures better installations for the large number who do not. Most geothermal distributors are careful about making sure that the systems are correctly-designed before selling them to contractors, as they know that a rash of badly-done systems will kill their industry.

    Combination air/water systems (which supply radiant heat, some radiant cooling, and backup forced-air cooling when the radiant isn't enough) will push the efficiency envelope even higher, as well as increasing comfort, for those who are willing to spend the money on the upfront cost.

    Labor-saving technologies will reduce the cost of radiant installations, making these systems more competitive, at least for new construction or major remodels.

    In other words...

    There are no magic bullets, and we certainly can't all switch to geothermal, both due to some house designs which are just not convertible at any vaguely-reasonable cost, and due to the fact that we'd collapse the current electric grid if we did.

    But geothermal will be a component within a larger package of conservation (based upon improving efficiency, not having less - as you note, folks will not put up with lowering their standard of living) and alternative sources for energy production. Biomass-fueled systems will be another part of that package.

    This will happen sooner if the government stops tampering with the market by foisting ridiculous things like ethanol on us all. There are no "one size" solutions, and central planning can never achieve what distributed decision-making can. Without tampering in the oil markets, oil would have increased gradually in price and folks would have developed and installed these technologies over the past couple decades. Thanks to government tampering, we had cheap oil for years and no one wanted to convert to alternatives. Now, they can't force the price to stay low anymore, and folks are going broke trying to heat their houses, or cashing in the kids' college fund to pay for conversion to newer technology. And the government's solution to the problem that they are responsible for causing, is to give them even more power, so they can make an even bigger mess in the future.

    Even with the damage they've caused, if the government were to just step back and let Americans do what they do best, we'd have this close-to-solved within 10 years.

    Joe
  25. sweetheat

    sweetheat Member

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    I worked as an ironworker building a nuke plant, what a gong show. Its is a wonder it has not turned into chernoble. to complicated, to much can go wrong, not enough oversite by people who really really don't care. Im sure it would be the same with a fourth gen nuke plant too. What about tidal power, wind power, hydro power. R&D;in solar PV and solar evacuated tube. Blah,BlahBlah words just gather your wood and shoot a deer and continue living your life. sweetheat
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