Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Future of Energy May Ride on Unexpected Renewable Sources

By Dominique Otiepka

On The New York Times news site, I came across an article regarding different energy options that are unusual and unprecedented. The article by Brad Plumer, "Kelp Farms and Mammoth Windmills are Just Two of the Government’s Long Shot Energy Bets," discusses ideas by numerous entrepreneurs and inventors who congregated at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy convention near Washington, DC, to share their research and projects regarding different energy systems and devices. Cleaner energy sources were discussed in hopes to mitigate the climate crisis, such as utilizing kelp farms and making room for energy storage in old oil wells.

Utilizing kelp farms for biofuel would not take up excessive crop land, and this method is carbon neutral. This system continues to undergo research and it is hoped that this fuel could be used in the future to power massive vehicles. Different ways of energy storage for the kelp continue to be discussed and means of keeping the kelp alive after being uprooted is undergoing research. Currently, different technologies that are being created and tested are unprecedented, though have great potential. A company at this convention showed a prototype pickup truck that was being constructed to reach up to 37 miles per gallon.

Offshore windmills were also discussed in this article, and new designs have been conjured to reduce the costs for construction up to 50%. Technologies for wind storage include using old oil and gas wells around the Mid-west, for when there are days of excessive wind being produced that can be saved for a time when it is not so windy. Other ideas presented at this conference included transforming excessive wind energy into ammonia to be used as fertilizer or as a fuel source.

The future of this clean energy convention is unknown. The Trump Administration proposed to eliminate the budget for this conference, since the Administration favors a coal- based system. Plumer writes that Congress has rejected these budget cuts and continues to fund the agency, because it is “often impossible to gauge what will prove to be transformational”. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that this convention has made “significant contributions to energy that likely would not take place absent the agency’s activities,” since Congress first authorized ARPA-E in 2007.

Biofuels are readily available, renewable and a reliable source to produce favorable energy yields. They exhibit limited detrimental effects to surrounding ecosystems and environments, and would not release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. I feel that biofuels are the next wave of energy solutions to help fix climate issues and can alleviate the problems that fossil fuels have caused for generations. Kelp biofuels are highly productive and can definitely compete with the efficiency of petroleum. It is a more cost-friendly solution that will intrigue the population into making the switch.

For more information:
Kelp Farms and Mammoth Windmills Are Just Two of the Government’s Long-Shot Energy Bets

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