ISIS Report 30/09/09
Announcing ISIS/TWN Special Report
Green Energies 100% Renewables by 2050
By Mae-Wan Ho, Brett Cherry, Sam Burcher
& Peter Saunders
“A must-read for saving the climate”
A PDF PREVIEW IS NOW AVAILABLE
What Green Energies says
The world can be 100 percent renewable by 2050
· A variety of truly green and
affordable options already exist, and more innovations are on the way
· Policies that promote innovations
and stimulate internal market for decentralised distributed generation are
In 2008, for the first time, more renewable
energies capacity was added globally than conventional energies, and the trend
Wind energy alone can supply 40 times the world’s electricity
or 5 times its total energy consumption. PV technologies
are improving by leaps and bounds, and electricity from solar panels is already
as cheap as electricity from the grid. Biogas from wastes has transformed
rural China, and waste-incinerating community cookers poised to do the same
in Africa. Air condition and energy from deep water, saline agriculture for
food and fuel, and estuarine reef for tapping tidal energy are further options
in addition to well established micro-hydroelectric and geothermal energies.
Promising developments on the horizon include thermoelectrics for recycling waste heat into electricity,
artificial photosynthesis for harvesting and storing solar energy, and the
potential for solving our nuclear waste problem by low temperature transmutation.
These are exciting times. All we need to save the planet
is for our leaders to follow the way of nature and the will and wisdom of
350 PPM THE NEW TARGET
Global warming is happening much faster than the IPPC (Intergovernment Panel
on Climate Change) predicted in its latest 2007 report. For one thing, its
climate models failed to account for the rapid summer melting of the polar
ice caps that’s been making headlines several years in a row.
The IPCC helped set the target of 450 ppm maximum of atmospheric CO2,
which they thought would limit the global temperature rise to below 2 ˚C, and prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference
with the climate system.”
But top climate scientists Jim Hansen and colleagues, using more realistic
climate models and key data from the remote history of the earth, showed that
450 ppm is well beyond the danger zone, and we must even reduce the current
385 ppm atmospheric CO2 down to 350 ppm, or else face “irreversible
catastrophic effects” . And the head of IPCC Rajendra Pachauri now agrees
The good news is that we can still do it. It is not too late. All it takes
is to stop burning fossil fuels
in order to bring 385 ppm back down to 350 ppm within the next decades.
But we must act now, because 385 ppm is already within the danger zone, and
we cannot afford to let it remain there for too long, or we push the planet
past the point of no return.
That is why we need to commit ourselves to truly green energies as a matter
WHAT’S TRULY GREEN?
‘Green’ is environmentally friendly, healthy, safe, non-polluting, renewable,
Renewable energy, as defined by British Petroleum (BP) , is derived from
natural processes that do not involve the consumption of exhaustible resources
such as fossil fuels and uranium. But it could include industrial scale biomass,
biofuels, or hydroelectric from large dams, none of which is sustainable.
‘Sustainable’ is the key to being truly green. But the word ‘sustainable’
has been hi-jacked so often to mean just the opposite that it needs to be
To be sustainable is to endure like a natural biodiverse ecosystem for hundreds
if not thousands of years, thanks to a circular economy of cooperation and
reciprocity that regenerates and renews the whole . For the human species,
it is the capacity to use natural resources responsibly and equitably,
to meet the needs of all in the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs. We have updated the usual Bruntland
definition of sustainability  to incorporate the overriding lesson from
nature that cooperation and reciprocity between the biodiverse inhabitants
of the ecosystem are necessary for the survival of the whole; and this applies
all the more so to ecosystem Earth.
Unfortunately, our policy-makers are by and large still engaged in confrontational
politics, being misled by the Darwinian myth of competition and the survival
of the fittest that will surely take us beyond the point of no return. History
has taught us why civilisations collapse in the past when faced with ecological
crises , simply through the failure to
take the political decisions necessary for survival. Are we going to repeat
history in the present global ecological crisis that has the survival of the
entire human species at stake? Or will our political leaders in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change learn to cooperate and adopt the most appropriate green energy policies
for us to meet the 350 ppm target.
As Germany has demonstrated
so well within the past decade, the appropriate policies can trigger a dramatic
growth in new renewable energies, with industry offering a variety of distributed,
decentralized options that also give people autonomy and independence from
big centralised power stations. The global shift to renewable energies is
happening, and many politicians and energy experts see no difficulty in achieving
a 100 percent of
our energy from renewable sources by 2050, which is what Germany intends to
achieve , as the world’s first major renewable economy.
Green Energies is a follow up on Which Energy?, the
first in the series of ISIS’ Sustainable World Initiative reports, and an
elaboration of the theme of local food and energy systems presented in Food
Futures Now, Organic, Sustainable, Fossil Fuel Free, the second report
in the series.
Green Energies provides the public and policy-makers with
the evidence for making the right decisions that will enable us to meet the
350 ppm target and 100 percent renewable energies by 2050. Time is running
out, as are remaining resources. That’s why it is important at the outset
to recognize and reject options that are not renewable or sustainable and dangerous, notably nuclear, carbon capture
and storage, and biochar. Our capacity for truly sustainable and renewable
energies is growing every day. It is neither necessary nor acceptable to export
the burden of cutting carbon emissions to poor developing countries via carbon
trading schemes. The developed nations must take responsibility for reducing
their own emissions at home, while providing genuine
financial and technological assistance to poor nations that have to cope with
the worst effects of climate change.
Renewable energy is inexhaustible energy. Wind energy
alone can supply 40 times the world’s electricity use or its total energy
consumption five times over. An enormous potential
also exists for solar energy, and electricity from locally installed solar
panels is already as cheap as electricity from the grid. People everywhere
are innovating and switching to renewables to
save on fuel bills and saving communities as they are saving the planet.
In 2008, for the first time, more renewable energies capacity has been added
than conventional energies and the trend continues. Local small scale and micro-generation are booming in the
developed countries wherever feed-in tariffs have been introduced, giving
people independence and autonomy, plus the flexibilities for upgrading as
At the same time, appropriate science at the frontiers has opened up new
possibilities for recycling waste heat as electricity, harvesting and storing
sunlight by artificial photosynthesis, and solving our nuclear waste problem
by low temperature transmutation after we give up nuclear energy for good.
These are exciting times. All we need to save the planet is for our leaders
follow the way of nature and the will and wisdom of the people.
Mae-Wan Ho and Peter Saunders
Brett Cherry wrote Chapters 15, 16 and 17, and contributed to Chapters 1 and 13. Sam Burcher wrote Chapters 19, 20 and 23, and contributed to Chapter 22. Prof. Peter Saunders wrote most of Chapter 1, co-wrote Chapter 2 with Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, and co-edited the volume. Lewis Larsen of Lattice Energy LLC wrote Chapters 34 and 35. Prof. Joe Cummins wrote Chapter 24 and co-wrote Chapter 26 with Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Peter Bunyard wrote Chapter 25. Prof. Li Kangmin co-wrote Chapter 21 with Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. The rest were written by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, who also edited the volume with Prof. Peter Saunders.
All except Chapters 1, 2, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20 and 23 (which are
new) are based on articles that have appeared in past issues of Science
in Society and updated, and revised to varying degrees, having benefited
from feedback from our readers.
- Executive Summary and Recommendations
- Transition to Low Carbon Economy
- 1. UK’s Lacklustre Low Carbon Transition Plan
- 2. Germany 100 Percent Renewable by 2050
- How Not to be Green
- 3. Nuclear Renaissance Unravels
- 4. Spot-light on Nuclear Safety
- 5. Nuclear Industry’s Financial and Safety Nightmare
- 6. Old Nuclear Cash Cows Exacerbates Safety
- 7. The Nuclear Black Hole
- 8. Beware the Biochar Initiative
- 9. Carbon Capture and Storage A False Solution
- 10. Renewables vs CCS
- Renewable & Sustainable Now
- 11. World Shifting to Renewables Now, 100 Percent by 2050
- 12. Which Renewables?
- 13. Solar Power to the People
- 14. Solar Power Getting Cleaner Fast
- 15. Quantum Well Solar Cells
- 16. Very High Efficiency Solar Cells
- 17. Third Generation Solar Cells
- 18. Wind Could Electrify the World 40 Times Over
- 19. Harnessing the Wind with Scrap
- 20. Kenya to Build Africa’s Largest Wind Farm
- 21. Biogas Powers China’s Eco-economy
- 22. The Biogas Economy Arriving
- 23. The Community Cooker
- 24. Air Condition and Energy from Deep Water
- 25. Reef for Barrage to Tap the Tide
- 26. Saline Agriculture to Feed and Fuel the World
- New Frontiers
- 27. Harvesting Sunlight with Artificial Photosynthesis
- 28. Making Fuel from Water
- 29. Splitting Water with Ease
- 30. Harvesting Waste Heat
- 31. Cold Fusion to Condensed Matter Nuclear Science
- 32. Transmutation, the Alchemist Dream Come True
- 33. How Cold Fusion Works
- 34. Nuclear Energy on Tap?
- 35. Nuclear Waste Disposal?
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY & RECOMMENATIONS
GREEN ENERGY OPTIONS FOR ALL
The world is shifting to renewable energy in the wake of
peak oil and accelerating global warming. Contrary to the exhausting supplies
of fossil and nuclear fuels, renewable energy is inexhaustible.
But being renewable is not enough. It must also be environmentally
friendly, healthy, safe, non-polluting and sustainable. ‘Green’ energy encapsulates
all of these qualities, of which the most important perhaps is ‘sustainable’.
‘Sustainable’ needs to be redefined at the outset to counter its widespread
misuse to mean just the opposite.
To be sustainable is to endure like a natural biodiverse ecosystem
for hundreds and thousands of years through a circular economy of cooperation
and reciprocity that regenerates and renews the whole. For the human species,
it is the capacity to use natural resources responsibly and equitably,
to meet the needs of all in the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs. The overriding lesson from
nature is that cooperation and reciprocity between the biodiverse inhabitants
of the ecosystem are necessary for the survival of the whole; and this applies
all the more so to ecosystem Earth.
Our report shows that a wide variety of truly green and affordable energy
options already exist for all nations to become energy self-sufficient and
100 percent renewable within decades. Policies and legislations that promote
innovations and internal market, and decentralised distributed small to micro-generation
are the key.
100 PERCENT RENEWABLE BY 2050
TRANSITION TO LOW CARBON AN OPPORTUNITY
Transition to a low carbon or zero carbon economy is a matter of urgency
especially for the developed nations that are also the major emitters of greenhouse
It is generally assumed that transition to low carbon is an economic hardship
that should be avoided as far as possible. But as Germany has so admirably
demonstrated, it can be an unprecedented opportunity for technological innovations,
for creating new jobs and new markets, and delivering health and wealth to
Germany has stolen a march on the rest of the world in research and development
of renewable energies since the last oil crisis of 1974. Within the past two
decades, the government has provided subsidies and important legislations
to create an internal market, the most important of which is the Feed-in Law,
first introduced in 1991, and in a modified form in 2000, which
obliges national utilities to buy electricity generated from renewable sources
at above-market rates set by the government.
As a result, Germany now generates 7.3 percent of its primary energy from renewable
sources: 29 GW of wind energy, 13.5 GW in photovoltaic (PV), 7.3 GW in solar
thermal, the rest in hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass, as appropriate
to resources available in the country. The government is committed to increasing
the proportion of renewable energy to 50 percent by 2050, but its renewable
industry claims it can do three times as well to reach 100 percent renewable
by that date.
There is no provision for nuclear energy in Germany’s low/zero carbon
future; it is to be phased out completely by 2022. Carbon capture and storage
does not figure up to 2020, as even its supporters do not expect it to be
commercially available by then.
Germany is also to reduce
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent from their 1990 levels by 2020.
And it is not counting on carbon trading to export its GHG emissions to developing
countries and increase their burden.
In contrast, the UK Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan
is a lacklustre, business-as-usual paper exercise, consistent with its consistent
failure to stimulate and support renewable energy options over the years.
energy contribution is currently about 1.8 percent, third from bottom in the
European Union league table, ahead of Malta and Luxembourg. The government has also opted to depend on a nuclear industry
that has already become a financial and safety nightmare, and on carbon capture
and storage, an untried technology that will entrench the nation in fossil
fuels. Worse yet, it will rely on carbon trading to export GHG emission to
THE NUCLEAR BLACK HOLE
The much touted “nuclear renaissance” promoted
by Ppresident George W Bush and other governments is unravelling. Across the
USA, the nuclear power industry has so far failed in its efforts
to overturn any state ban on building more reactors. The Obama administration
has put a freeze on Yucca Mountain as a long-term nuclear waste deposit in February 2009 amid
new evidence of runaway construction costs.
The nuclear industry is notorious for
cost overruns during construction of power plants. But that is nothing compared
to the downstream costs of decommissioning, waste management and disposal.
It is considered a bad investment for private industry. Consequently, the
UK taxpayer has had to take over all liabilities and costs of
running the dirtiest, loss-making parts of the industry at Sellafield, now
£3 billion a year and rising. Meanwhile the cost of clean-up and decommissioning
has ballooned to over £73 billion. Sellafield has become the world’s nuclear
waste dump with no end in sight, its reprocessing plants non-functional and
there is as yet no designated final waste repository as more spent nuclear
wastes pile up.
As one commentator remarked of the
US industry: “rarely has so much money, scientific know-how
and raw state power been marshalled to achieve so little.” Several hundred
billion dollars of investment resulted in 104 operating plants, about a quarter
of the global total that produces just 19 percent of electricity in the country.
The cost of nuclear waste disposal was last estimated at US$96.2 billion.
The US taxpayer too, was left with
enormous burdens in “stranded costs”, while the nuclear industry in both countries
continue to milk the old reactors for sheer profit, well past their decommissioning
dates, and often their safety limits.
Adding to the hundreds of billions
already squandered are an estimated US$1 trillion in research and development
that governments around the world have spent on ‘safer’, ‘cleaner’ reactors
that have proven fruitless so far.
Safety is a major issue. It turns out that none of the existing
reactors or even ‘generation 3’ reactors under construction are proof against
malfunction or sabotage. In addition, a main source of hazard is the spent
fuel sitting in overcrowded cooling ponds on site that can easily catch fire
and cause explosions.
The fallout from Chernobyl was 30 to 40 times that released by the atom bombs
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World
War II. A 2005 report estimated it was responsible for 56 direct deaths, and
an estimated 4 000 extra cancer cases among the approximately 600 000 most
highly exposed, and 5 000 among the 6 million living nearby.
There is also strong new evidence from Germany linking childhood
leukemia to proximity to nuclear power stations, which gives a hint of the
health burden of accumulating toxic and radioactive wastes to present and
Globally, nuclear power contributed to14.8 percent of electricity
and a mere 2.1 percent of energy consumed in 2006, and falling since; in the
meantime, the world’s new renewable energy contribution has risen from 0.4
to 6.2 percent. To put nuclear power in perspective, Germany in a single year
of 2007 increased its renewable energy output by 15 TWh, the equivalent of
two nuclear reactors.
High grade uranium ore is fast depleting, and mining and extracting
uranium is energy intensive as well as environmentally destructive. Lifecycle
assessments show that when uranium ore grade falls below 0.02 percent in the
next 50 or 60 years, it would consume more energy to build uranium fuel reactors
than the energy they could ever produce.
It is obvious that we must abandon the nuclear option as quickly
as possible and concentrate on installing renewable energy generators. It
takes only a few days to install wind turbines or solar generators, while
a nuclear power plant takes an average of 10 years or more.
Meanwhile, as part of global nuclear disarmament, high weapons
grade uranium could be burnt up in the remaining nuclear reactors. At the
same time, serious investments should be made into condensed matter nuclear
science that could transmute toxic and radioactive nuclear wastes into safer
elements while generating more energy (see later).
BEWARE THE BIOCHAR INITIATIVE
We have warned against biofuels from ‘bioenergy’
crops and plantations in our 2006 Which Energy? report and predicted
the increased deforestation, land grab and food price hykes that have come
to pass. Calls for moratorium on biofuel plantations have now come from Africa, the United Nations, the US, and the UK government’s Environment Audit Committee.
The International Biochar Initiative (IBI) is similar in that
it proposes is to grow crops and trees on hundreds of millions of hectares
of illusory ‘spare land’ in Africa, South America South Asia, and other developing countries.
But instead of making biofuels from the harvested biomass, it will be turned
into biochar (charcoal) to be buried in the soil, where it will remain stable
for thousands of years and increase crop yields. Biochar is therefore promoted
as a “carbon negative” initiative that could save the climate – by sequestering
stable carbon in the soil - and boost food production. The industrial ‘pyrolysis’
process that produces biochar could also recover some low grade fuels as by-products.
IBI is strongly criticised as a “new threat to people, land
and ecosystem” in a declaration signed by more than 155 non-profit organisations
The IBI was inspired by the discovery of ‘terra preta’ (black
earth) in the Amazonian basin at sites of pre-Columbian settlements (between
450BC and 950 AD), made by adding charcoal, bone, and manure to the soil over
many, many years. According to local farmers in the Amazon, productivity on
the terra preta is much higher than surrounding soils.
But biochar produced today is not terra preta, as research
findings have indicated. Furthermore, buried biochar is not stable, and could
also increase the breakdown of humus in the soil. At the same time, its ability
to improve crop yields appears sporadic, short-lived, and dependent on local
Most of all, saving the climate is not just about curbing
the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere that can be achieved by burying
stable carbon in the soil (or CO2 in the ground in case of carbon
capture and storage), it is also about keeping oxygen (O2)
levels up. Keeping O2 levels up is what only green plants on land
and phytoplankton at sea can do, by splitting water to regenerate O2
while fixing CO2 to feed the rest of the biosphere. Climate scientists
have only discovered within the past decade that O2 is depleting
faster than the rise in CO2 both on land and in the sea. The acceleration of deforestation spurred by the biofuels
boom since 2003 appears to coincide with a substantial steepening of the O2
decline. In addition, biochar itself
is an oxygen sink in the course of degrading in the soil; adding to the depletion
of oxygen that cannot be regenerated because trees have been turned into biochar
for burial. If biochar is promoted under the Clean Development Mechanism,
it will almost certainly further accelerate deforestation and destruction
of other natural ecosystems (identified as ‘spare land’) for planting biochar
feedstock. All that will swing the oxygen downtrend that much closer towards
mass extinction. And humans may be among the first to go given their high
CARBON CAPTURE & STORAGE
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is intended to reduce the impact of burning
fossil fuels by capturing CO2 from power stations and storing it
underground in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, disused mines or deep saline
aquifers. CCS has wide support among governments as world oil supply is failing
to meet demand while many countries still have large coal reserves.
CCS is an unproven technology. Its earliest commercial deployment
is not expected before 2030, which would make it too late to be of use. The
International Energy Agency estimates that for CCS to deliver any meaningful
climate mitigating effect by 2050, 6 000 projects each injecting a million
tonnes of CO2 per year into the ground would be required.
CCS uses up between 10 and 40 percent of the energy produced in the power
station, thereby erasing the efficiency gains of the last 50 years and increasing
fuel consumption by one third. Power stations with CCS also require 90 percent
more freshwater than those without. CCS is expensive and could double the
plant costs and increase the price of electricity by 21 to 91 percent. A
recent study commissioned by the German federal government confirmed that
compared with renewable energy options such as wind and solar, CCS will increase
CO2 emissions 10 to 40 fold and raise the cost of electricity by
The efficacy and safety of CO2 storage is very much
in doubt. A 2006 US Geological Survey pilot field experiment in a saline sedimentary
rock formation in Frio, Texas, found that the buried CO2 dissolved
large amounts of the minerals in the rocks responsible for keeping the gas
contained, thereby releasing CO2 into the air. To be viable, the
CO2 captured and stored must leak at a globally averaged rate of
not more than one percent per year over a timescale of centuries; otherwise,
the emitted flux will be greater than or equal to that intended to be mitigated
WORLD SHIFTING TO RENEWABLES
In 2008, for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power
capacity was added in both the European Union and United States, and the trend
is continuing. Global power capacity from new renewable energies (excluding
large hydro) reached at least 280 GW in 2008, a 16 percent rise from the 240
GW in 2007. New renewable energies now account for 6.2 percent of the global
formal power sector capacity. This does not include, for example, the rapidly
growing household generation of biogas in China, estimated to have reached
9 GW at the end of 2008, and is in addition to the traditional renewable of
large hydroelectric that accounts for 6 percent, and fuel wood and other biomass
in poor households, estimated at 12 percent.
Solar tops the new renewable energies. Solar heating capacity
increased by 15 percent to 147 GW. Solar hot water in Germany set record growth
in 2008, with over 200,000 systems installed taking its total capacity to
7.3 GW. Grid-connected solar photovoltaic power continued to be the fastest
growing power generation technology, with a 70 percent increase globally to
reach 13.4 GW.
Global wind power capacity grew by 28 GW in 2008 to 122 GW. This
was the fifth consecutive year of accelerating growth at just over 28 percent
per annum. The US led the growth by 8.4 GW, a 49.5 percent increase
on 2007; while China came second with the fastest growth rate and the second
highest capacity increment at 6.2 GW.
At least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets by the end of
2008, and several more added in 2009.
Feed-in tariffs were adopted in at least five countries for the first time
in 2008 and early 2009: Kenya, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa and Ukraine.
Many politicians and renewable energy experts in Europe see a realistic option
of 100 percent renewable energy supply in a commercial market free of any
subsidy by 2050. The key is decentralised, distributed generation that provides
energy autonomy at the point of use, a model that has proven so successful
WHY & WHICH RENEWABLES?
The electricity industry contributes 37 percent of the world’s carbon emissions,
predominantly from burning fossil fuels. Renewable energies such as solar
and wind do not emit CO2 while generating electricity, and have
the further advantage of improving the efficiency of energy use considerably.
Big power plants are located far away from most users, so the electricity
generated has to be transported long distances over power lines where more
than 7 percent may be lost before it is used. In addition, some 60-70 percent
of the energy is lost as ‘waste’ heat. In contrast, solar panels and wind
turbines are readily installed on or near homes and farms and the electricity
generated as well as the heat can be consumed directly without much loss.
Furthermore, because the capital costs of installation are much lower, they
can be easily be upgraded to take advantage of technological improvements.
A ‘cradle-to-grave’ life-cycle assessment (LCA) gives a clearer idea as to
how much better off we are with renewable electricity generation, and how
different renewable options compare with one another. LCA includes upstream
processes such as mining, refining, transport and plant construction, the
production of the device or equipment, the generation and distribution of
electricity, and downstream processes such as decommissioning and disposal
Convenient measures are energy payback ratio, EPR, the energy produced
during its operational lifetime versus total energy spent in LCA, and
the amount of CO2 produced per unit of energy in g CO2/kWh.
Currently, small hydroelectric power tops the list with EPR 30-267
and 4-18 g CO2/kWh; wind comes next at EPR 18 and 16.4 g
CO2/kWh offshore, and EPR 34 and 9.7 g CO2/kWh
onshore. Photovoltaics (PVs) come third at EPR 6-9-and 44-217 g CO2/kWh.
These performance parameters are clearly far superior to conventional oil
or coal-fired plants.
Interestingly, modern combined cycle fossil fuel plants already perform as
well or better than a conventional boiler plant fitted with carbon capture
PVs are improving rapidly; a 2008 study on 11 types of PV panels gave greenhouse
gas emissions of 26 to 55 g CO2/kWh, with CdTe (cadmium telluride)
thin film PV modules clearly ahead with lowest emissions of GHG as well as
nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. But concerns remain over the high toxicity
of components such as Cd, particularly if large numbers of such panels are
to be fitted in earthquake zones. Effort should be made to substitute safer
alternatives in the fabrication of PVs as these are becoming common household
SOLAR POWER TO THE PEOPLE
It is estimated that with a modest 10 percent efficiency at capturing solar
energy, less than 0.1 percent of the earth’s
surface covered with solar panels would satisfy all the world’s energy
needs. Rapid technological improvements and savings from distributed local
small scale and micro-generation could easily reduce the required area by
an order of magnitude.
By far the greater capacity of solar power is in solar thermal that harnesses
solar energy for heating, cooling, or producing electricity. However, solar
photovoltaic (PV) - capturing sunlight to generate electricity directly -
has undergone exponential growth since 2002, and is now the faster growing
Ease of manufacture and installation, modular design that could make use
of any exposed surface such as roofs and walls, maximum flexibility, and minimum
intrusion and maintenance, all contribute to the success of solar power. Solar
power has topped the world’s renewable energies capacity at least two years
running and is set to grow further as China and India have entered the market
and are offering strong competition to Germany, and stimulating further innovation.
Solar PV is especially improving by leaps and bounds. Thin film technologies
have brought down the price of PV panels and solar electricity is competitive
with electricity from the grid in the highest-priced markets in the developed
world. Although less efficient, thin film PVs more than compensate for that
in being much cheaper and easier to manufacture.
Third generation PVs are boosting efficiency while maintaining
the cheaper manufacturing techniques of thin films. One example is quantum
dots, nanometre size particles that improve efficiency by extending the band
gap of solar cells for harvesting more of the solar spectrum and by generating
more charges (and hence more electricity) from absorption of a single photon.
Using quantum dots mixed with semi-conductor printed onto a highly conductive
metal foil, one company has achieved a module efficiency of about 12 percent
at a cost of US$0.3/watt. The company plans to sell these modules at US$1.0/W
which makes them currently the cheapest solar panels on the market.
Another strategy to increase efficiency is to use light tracking lenses and
non-imaging optics to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells, thereby decreasing
the size of solar cells required. A record efficiency close to 40 percent
has been reached in the laboratory. New light concentrator based on light
absorbing organic dyes could cut costs down substantially.
A third strategy is to use transparent thin films that are also conductors
of electric charge, allowing light to pass through to the light absorbing
material beneath and serving as an electrical contact to transport charge
carriers away from the light absorbing material, thereby increasing the efficiency.
Other current approaches include quantum wells, which trap electrons and
holes (separated charges) in two dimensions, preventing them from recombining,
and effectively increasing the gain and efficiency of solar cells. Organic
solar cells using organic polymers mixed with fullerenes (carbon nanostructures)
have achieved a solar cell efficiency of 6.5 percent. Their main advantage
is being flexible and light weight, and can be made transparent to be used
on windows for urban buildings, for example. Successive layers absorbing in
different parts of the spectrum could be placed one on top of the other by
a printing process, and further improvements in efficiency are on the cards,
though major obstacles remain in the longevity of these solar cells.
WIND ELECTRIFIES THE WORLD 40 TIMES
A study based on state-of-the-art data combined from multiple sources and
computer simulation shows that wind turbines on land restricted to ice-free,
non-forested, non-urban areas operating at as little as 20 percent of their
rated capacity could provide more than 40 times the world’s current electricity
consumption, or over five times its total energy needs.
Wind power is on a steep ascent. It accounted for 42 percent
of all new electrical capacity added to the US in 2008. The Global Wind Energy
Council projected a 17-fold increase in wind-powered electricity globally
The ten biggest CO2 emitting countries in the world
– US, China, Russia, Japan, India, Germany, Canada, UK, S. Korea and Italy
– all have far more than enough potential from wind to power their electricity
needs: 18 times for China (89 percent from land), 23 times for the US (84
percent from land) and 30 times for the UK (41.5 percent from land).
Wind power is coming to Africa. Plans are afoot to build Africa’s
largest wind farm in the desert land around Lake Turkana in Kenya, 70 percent
of the funds, €300 million coming from the African Development Bank. The Lake
Turkana Wind Project consists of 365 wind turbines each 30-40 m high with
a capacity of 850 KW. When complete, it will add about 25 percent to Kenya’s
existing electricity capacity. The Tigray region of neighbouring Ethiopia
recently commissioned a £190 million wind farm, representing 15 percent of
Ethiopia’s current electrical capacity. In Tanzania, 100 MW power will be
produced from two projects in the Central Singida region, which accounts for
more than 10 percent of the current supply. Two further wind projects are underway in Kenya. One is in the popular
tourist town Naivasha and one is in the Ngong Hills near Nairobi where Danish wind
company Vestas have already installed six 50-metre V52 turbines contributing
5.1 MW to the national grid.
Earlier in 2009, South African became the first African country
to announce a feed in tariff for wind power
However, more than 20 percent of Africans do not have access to electricity,
and extending the grid does not help the poorest. What they need is local
Local micro-generation of wind power is eminently feasible. In
the UK, micro wind electricity generation is increasingly popular for households
and commercial buildings. UK’s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory
Reform (BERR) runs a Low Carbon Buildings Programme that provides grants for
micro-generation technologies including wind turbines and solar power for
householders and public building.
The current cost of micro wind generation is still rather high,
but it could come down considerably. William Kamkwamba from a remote village
in Malawi built his first wind turbine from scrap when he was 14 years old,
and Max Robson in the UK has been inspired to produce an Envirocycle Scrap
Wind Turbine prototype at £20 budget that he claims cost £2 000 on the market.
Such low cost micro-generation options are particularly appropriate for developing
A new low cost wind turbine has been invented using an induction
motor as a generator. The high costs of wind turbines are due to custom-built
generators, invertors, storage batteries and complex circuitry in order to
fit in with the 60 cycles alternating current (AC) of the domestic electricity
supply. The electricity generated by using an AC inductor motor is not at
constant voltage or frequency, but hot water tanks heater elements don’t mind
variable voltages or frequencies; so the electricity generated by the wind-turbine
is simply used to heat water. In addition, a patented electronic control
acting like a gearbox ensures that the turbine aerofoils operate at peak performance
at all time, so that all the power is harvested and channelled to the load,
a heat exchanger tank, which heats the domestic hot-water tank and also feeds
surplus heat into the domestic central heating.
BIOGAS ECONOMY ARRIVING
Biogas is a combustible mixture of gases produced in anaerobic digestion
by micro-organisms of livestock manure and other biological wastes. The
major constituents of biogas are methane (CH4, 60 percent or more
by volume) and carbon dioxide (CO2, about 35 percent), with small
amounts of water vapour, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide
(CO), and nitrogen (N2). Biogas
is used as fuel, like natural gas, for combined heat and power generation,
while the digested mixture of liquids and solids are
mainly used as organic fertiliser for crops. When upgraded and purified, biogas
methane can be used as fuel for cars and farm machinery, producing much less
particulates and other toxic substances in its exhaust than fossil fuels.
Another major advantage of anaerobic digestion is that it prevents at least
90 percent of the environmental pollution from agricultural and industrial
We have been promoting anaerobic digestion since 2005 for
recycling wastes into resources in an integrated food and energy ‘Dream Farm
2’ that, if universally adopted could cut more than 50 percent in energy consumption
and GHG emissions.
We are gratified that anaerobic digestion
has grown substantially since. In China, the original home of anaerobic digestion,
the number of biogas digesters increased from 17 million in 2005 to 26 million
in 2007, and an estimated 31 million at the end of 2008, equivalent to 9 GW
of renewable energy, mostly in small rural households.
Biogas is booming in Germany and has become Europe’s
fastest growing renewable energy sector. Unfortunately, biogas production
in Germany has relied to a large extent on energy crops such as maize. Big
companies are involved in building gigantic biogas digesters and developing
biogas refineries that clean the resulting biogas to produce pure methane
to be fed into the natural gas grid.
Sweden pioneered the use of
biogas methane as vehicle fuel in the 1990s with strong government support.
By 2006, 54 percent of the gas delivered to vehicles was biogas methane. By
June 2007, there were 12 000 vehicles driving on biogas methane and 500 filling
stations and 70 000 vehicles are expected by 2010. In June 2009, a new plant
was announced in Stockholm that will supply the capital with bio-methane both
as vehicle fuel for buses and cars and for the new city gas grid. It will
be the largest bio-methane plant in Sweden, producing 10.5 million m3
bio-methane a year, doubling the production capacity in Stockholm, and constituting
31 percent of the Swedish market in 2008.
A conservative estimate for
the USA indicates that biogas from livestock manure could generate between
68 and 108.8 TWh of electricity a year, or 1.8 to 2.9 percent of the country’s
electricity, at a saving of between 47.2 and 150.4 Mt of CO2,
about 1.9 to 6 percent of the country’s GHG emissions.
There is a danger that the biogas economy will be hijacked by big companies
for centralised power generation from bio-energy crops, which may jeopardise
our food security and prevent its full energy and carbon mitigating potentials
and other benefits of distributed decentralised small scale generation from
A COMMUNITY PROJECT
A project based on a community cooker that
burns rubbish is potentially capable of transforming the slums of Kibera,
Kenya. The special cooker is the technical innovation of local, self-taught
furnace-builder Francis Gwehonah, and is at the heart of a an award-winning
project designed by Nairobi-born architect Jim Archer and implemented with
the help of his Kenyan fellow Director Mumo Musuva and their Planning Systems
The cooker boils water, cooks
vegetables, stews beef, bakes cakes, fries food, and has two ovens each large
enough to grill a whole goat. The slum dwellers have solved several practical
problems themselves. Volunteers from various local youth groups collect, sort
and store the garbage in metal racks next to the cooker where it can dry.
Materials that cannot be burnt such as rubber and glass are put to one side.
Biodegradable scraps that fall through become compost manure. The useful solid
waste material like paper and plastic - bags, drinks bottles and packaging
- as well as food scraps from banana, cassava, maize cob and sugarcane, peel,
sawdust and even the discarded carrier bags of human and animal excrement
colloquially known as ‘flying toilets’ are forked up to the top level of the
racks ready for incineration. All these items would normally be left to rot
in the street, thrown into water courses, or dumped
in local rivers.
The volunteers also suggested how they
could be rewarded: they do the sorting for the public from say 6
am until midnight. But from midnight until 6am they work the cooker for themselves, making bread and buns
and hot water that they sell during the day.
It costs 5 Kenya
shillings or US$0.06 to make a family meal, much cheaper than the kerosene
that would otherwise be needed. The cooker also heats water for communal washing.
On average 50 people a day take hot water into the ‘bafu’ (bathroom) closet
for washing, and as many as 200 people could wash from the rain water stored
in the tanks.
Since the Laini Saba community cooker became operational in
2007, Jim Archer has drawn up plans to increase the number of cookers to one
per every 50-70 households. He is planning to recycle waste water from bafu
closets to flush through the open pit latrines that often block and overflow,
which are to be redesigned as “aqua privies”. The runoff from the “aqua privies”
can then be bio-digested, and the resulting matter and moisture gravity-fed
to support the growth of vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs to create green
spaces within the slum. This project has attracted wide interest from UN agencies,
non-government organisations, as well as private companies
But before that, the temperature of the cooker’s firebox must
be increased from its current 600 ˚C to 800 ˚C, which is the World
Health Organization’s minimum temperature requirement for incinerators in
the developing world. Jim is confident this can be done easily.
Some 91 250 tonnes of charcoal biomass is used for energy
every year in Kenya, Contributing to this are several ‘temporary’ displaced
persons camps, which permanently shelter well over 110 000 people each. Women
and children in these camps travel further and further every day to find wood
and fuel for cooking, denuding the countryside for miles around and creating
health problems for themselves from the smoke of firewood. Recent research findings show that black carbon (BC), the black soot resulting
from the incomplete combustion of burning fossil fuels and biomass contributes
to warming the planet 55 percent as much as CO2, and that reducing
black carbon emissions may be the quickest, cheapest way to save the climate.
Community cookers will contribute a great deal to that.
AIR CONDITION & ENERGY FROM DEEP WATER
Deep lake and ocean water and even ground water is being exploited for cooling
buildings, providing drinking water, and generating electricity.
The cities of Toronto and Stockholm, and the Cornell University
campus have been using cold deep water to cool large buildings and making
big savings in energy and carbon emissions and cutting other pollution from
energy generating plants.
Toronto, for example, draws cold water from the depths of Lake
Ontario to Toronto Island where the water is filtered and treated with chlorine
as it is delivered to taps in homes and businesses. After treatment, part
of the very cold water flows to a city plant, and via heat exchanger, cools
a closed water loop that circulates to the distribution network where more
heat exchangers cool the water circulating through the air conditioning systems
in the office towers. A total of 46 buildings signed up to the system, saving
85 GWh and reducing 79 000 tonnes CO2
Honolulu has been investigating
the possibility of converting the energy of sun-warmed surface water to electricity
(ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC). OETC systems include the closed-cycle
system that uses a working fluid, such as ammonia, pumped around a closed
loop with three components: a pump, turbine and heat exchanger (evaporator
and condenser). The warm seawater passes through the evaporator and converts
the ammonia liquid into high-pressure ammonia vapour. The high-pressure vapour
is then fed into an expander where it drives a turbine connected to a generator.
Low-pressure ammonia vapour leaving the turbine is passed through a
condenser, where the cold seawater cools the ammonia, returning the ammonia
back into a liquid.. The open-cycle system uses the warm seawater as the working
fluid. The warm seawater passing through the evaporator is converted to steam,
which drives the turbine/generator. After leaving the turbine, the steam is
cooled by the cold seawater to form desalinated water.
The desalinated water is fresh water fit for domestic and commercial use.
The hybrid system uses parts of both open-cycle and closed-cycle systems
to produce electricity and desalinated water. In this arrangement, electricity
is generated in the closed-cycle system, and the warm and cold seawater discharges
are passed through the flash evaporator and condenser of the open-cycle system
(i.e., the original open-cycle system with the turbine/generator removed)
to produce fresh water. The first OTEC was deployed in Hawaii in 1979.
Japan began pumping up deep ocean water in 1979 to support fisheries that
had been depleted by over-grazing of seaweed beds that support fish and marine
Pumping deep ocean water to air condition cities, produce energy and fresh
water, and to fertilize the productive surface waters, appears a promising
approach to mitigating global warming by reducing the consumption of polluting
oil and coal and the impact of overgrazing on marine food production.
But is large-scale pumping of deep ocean water sustainable? The deep ocean
is ventilated through a giant thermohaline circulatory system that moves deep
waters from north to south as salt-laden cooled water sinks into the depths
in the North Atlantic and energizes a global conveyorbelt that sends nutrient
laden deep waters naturally to the surface in the North Pacific, north Indian
Ocean, and south-east Pacific. This circulatory system is already being seriously
disturbed by global warming.
There is a potential threat to deep sea communities as food particles and
organisms are sucked up with the cold water and hence removed from the deep
water environment. Furthermore, the construction and maintenance of the pump
and pipe system could damage the deep sea habitat and its wild life. These
applications, if practised on a large scale could contribute to warming the
oceans, thereby decreasing its net primary production and impacting on all
Many big projects have remained on the drawing board also because the technology
is expensive. Nevertheless, small scale air conditioning projects are definitely
sustainable, and there are increasing examples, including the use of ground
water to cool the tunnels of the London underground in the UK, and deep-mine
flood water for air-conditioning in Springfield, Nova Scotia in Canada, and
Park Hill Missouri in the US.
REEF NOT BARRAGE TO TAP THE TIDES
The Severn estuary has the third highest tidal range in the world, and a
barrage across the estuary to trap the high tide could contribute 0.6 percent
of UK’s primary energy use and 2 percent of its electricity. The barrage,
estimated to cost of £15 billion many decades back, had triggered widespread
environmental concerns as it would lead to the loss of hundreds of square
kilometres of mudflats and salt march, home to waders and other coastal birds
and a host of migratory species. The powerful surge of water over the turbines
when the barrage gates open will profoundly disturb estuarine life, including
fisheries and salmon runs.
A possible solution proposed by Cornish hydraulics engineer Rupert
Armstrong Evans is to build a reef instead of a barrage that would generate
as much electricity and far more steadily than the big barrage. This would
consist of a semi-floating set of box structures housing the turbines and
stretching across the estuary riding over a fixed base on the estuary floor.
By using a moveable ‘crest gate’ to track the tide level and therefore to
maintain a small head difference, irrespective of the stage of the tide, the
turbines would operate for long periods, at least double the generation period
of the proposed big barrage.
The reef would minimise environmental effects, save on construction
and costs and still allow big ships to pass. The UK government announced in
2008 it believes the Severn tidal reef to have merit and would consider it.
In July 2009, however, a row broke out as Evans’ idea, entered in a Department
of Energy and Climate Change competition, was rejected in favour of a similar
design put forward by another engineering firm.
SALINE AGRICULTURE TO FEED & FUEL THE WORLD
Shortage of fresh water is a greater threat to world food supply than shortage
of fossil fuels, and cultivating salt-tolerant crops could solve both problems.
Fresh water constitutes about 1 percent of water on earth, while another
1 percent is brackish and 98 percent is sea water. Half the global supply
of fresh water is now used, and good fresh water is increasingly scarce and
expensive. The problem is compounded by salinization from chronic irrigation,
making land unsuitable for cultivation, and sea level rise flooding coastal
regions that contain a large proportion of agricultural land.
The solution is to cultivate salt-tolerant plants (halophytes)
in coastal areas, marshes, inland lakes, desert regions with subterranean
brackish aquifers, and directly in oceans or seas. Cultivating halophytes
would not compete for land that should be cultivating food, and could provide
more food and feed, as well as protection against shoreline erosion and feeding
areas for birds, fish and animals. Some halophytes may even reclaim the land
for freshwater plants by leaching salt through enhanced percolation, and by
storing salt in their leaves that are harvested and removed from the fields.
There are some 10 000 halophytic species of which 250 are potential
staple crops. Various livestock can thrive on halophytes or a combination
of halophytes and conventional feed. Some are oil-producing plants suitable
for edible oils or biodiesel. Micro-algae, in particular are prolific growers.
Currently, an Israeli company maintains a 1 000 m2
site that can produce approximately 23g dry mass /m2/day. This
translates to more than 5 600 gallons/ha/year of algal oil, compared to palm
oil yield at 1 187 gal/ha/y, Brazil ethanol at 1 604 gal/ha/y, and soy oil at 150 gal/ha/y. The
theoretical upper limit of micro-algae yield is 100 g dry mass/m2/day.
An area the size of the Sahara desert (13.6 percent of the world’s arid and semi-arid area)
would be sufficient to produce 16 times the energy used by the world in a
HARVESTING SUNLIGHT WITH ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS
Although we are quite successful in harvesting
solar energy with thermal and PV technologies, storing it is a problem.
The sun shines intermittently, and then only during the day. So it
is necessary to have efficient and cost-effective storage capacity, if solar
is to become a primary energy source for society. Nature has solved that problem
admirably with photosynthesis. The problem with photosynthesis is that it
has not evolved to maximise efficiency in harvesting solar energy because
solar energy is rarely limiting; there’s usually too much of it and plants
have evolved many mechanisms to protect themselves from oxidative damages
that strong sunlight can inflict.
There is much scope for artificial photosynthesis to do better
in harvesting and storing solar energy. One main approach is photo-electrochemical
splitting of water into its elements in an photo-electrochemical cell. This
consists of two half-reactions, one reducing water to produce hydrogen, the
other oxidizing water to produce oxygen, each of which requires its own catalyst
and optimum conditions. Hydrogen can be stored and used as fuel in a fuel
cell, which does the reverse of the photo-electrochemical cell: hydrogen is
recombined with oxygen to generate electricity.
Much current effort is devoted to finding better catalysts for
each of the half reactions in splitting water, but there is also a problem
in fitting the two half reactions together.
An efficient and robust catalyst for oxidizing water has been
found recently in nano-sized crystal clusters of cobalt oxide, which improves
the catalytic activity 1 550 times. Cobalt is also a much more abundant element
thatn the iridium it displaces. The researchers were taking inspiration from
nature, which always uses the most abundant materials that can do the job.
Another team of researchers departed from artificial photosynthesis
substantially in using a single metallo-organic compound to catalyze the two
reactions sequentially and in a cycle that regenerates the catalyst. In the
process, they also discovered reactions new to chemistry.
HARVESTING WASTE HEAT
Harvesting heat is particularly fascinating because heat is normally the
end of the line as far as energy transformation is concerned. Turning it back
into useful energy effectively recycles the waste energy thereby increasing
overall energy efficiency. This is another instance of the circular economy
of living systems and sustainable systems.
Thermoelectric (TE) devices depend on the thermoelectric effect,
the inter-conversion of temperature differences and electricity. A thermoelectric
generator creates an electrical voltage when there is a temperature difference
on each side. Conversely, when a voltage is applied, it creates a temperature
difference. Hence the effect can be used to generate electricity, or as a
heat pump to heat or cool objects and spaces. It depends on special TE solid
state semiconducting materials.
Miniature TE devices are now in mass production for cooling, heating, and
temperature control applications in laser diodes, Polymerase Chain Reaction
systems, and portable beverage and picnic coolers. Personal temperature-control
systems that provide cooling and heating for the office have come onto the
market, as have TE-based cooling systems for computer boards. One main application
is power for remote data communication systems for oil and gas pipelines,
polar weather station power generators, and cathodic protection for oil drilling
platforms. TE generators are chosen for these applications because of their
proven reliability (often maintenance-free for 20 years), durability under
extreme conditions, and very little if any degradation in performance over
their operating life time.
TE generators are being used to harvest waste heat from automobile engine
exhaust to boost fuel economy. Further down the line they could provide heating
and cooling for vehicles, buses, aircraft, trains, and homes, replacing the
refrigerant R-134a that has a greenhouse warming potential 1 430 times that
of CO2. R-134a will be banned in new European cars by 2011; and
the US DoE announced a US$13 million cost-shared programme to develop TE technology
CONDENSED MATTER NUCLEAR REACTIONS
TRANSMUTATION OF TOXIC NUCLEAR WASTES?
Nuclear fusion is a process whereby the nuclei of light chemical elements
fuse together to form heavier ones. As conventionally understood, nuclear
fusion only takes place in our sun and other stars, producing all the chemical
elements starting from the lightest, hydrogen. A lot of energy is needed to
force even the lightest nuclei to fuse. That is because all nuclei have protons
that are positively charged, and as like charges repel, nuclei strongly resist
being too close together. However, should they get beyond this ‘Coulomb barrier’
a strong nuclear attractive force takes over and cause the nuclei to fuse.
This is achieved by accelerating the nuclei to very high speeds by heating
to ‘thermonuclear’ temperatures in excess of 106 ˚K. Only
then would the nuclei get close enough by random collision to fuse together.
Once the fusion starts, it generates so much excess heat that it becomes a
sustained chain reaction. The hydrogen bomb is an uncontrolled fusion chain
In 1989, Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons claimed that atomic
nuclei could be made to fuse at ordinary temperatures with the release of
considerable ‘excess energy’. They were greeted with derision and disbelief;
and ‘cold fusion’ continued to have a bad press for over a decade.
But a small international coterie of scientists became impressed,
especially when Fleishmann and Pons published more substantial results in
1990, documenting the accuracy of their measurements and answering many of
the criticisms made against their preliminary findings published the year
before. These cold fusion enthusiasts managed to keep the research alive.
And at the beginning of 2007, The Royal Society of Chemistry sponsored a symposium.
This resulted in a thorough investigation and a write-up by ISIS, which helped
bring the subject to the attention of the intelligent public and policy-makers.
Fleishmann and Pons’ findings were repeated by many groups, and
in many different forms. The key to ‘cold fusion’ is that it happens in the
solid state, or condensed matter state, in which nuclear fusions, plus a whole
range of other nuclear reactions can take place much more readily. The cold
fusion scientists have pioneered a new discipline of “condensed matter nuclear
science”, the reactions are often referred to “low energy nuclear reactions”
Fleishmann and Pons packed deuterium (D, or 2H1,
a heavy isotope of hydrogen with twice the atomic mass) into a palladium lattice
by electrolysis of heavy water. Palladium has a high affinity for hydrogen,
and the palladium electrode absorbed a lot of deuterium. Consequently, the
deuterium nuclei (each consisting of a proton and a neutron) are packed in
close proximity in the palladium metal lattice, with the help of shielding
electron (negative) charges that are also delocalised over the condensed matter.
In this configuration, the nuclei can either fuse directly to produce helium-4,
4He2, or else the proton in the nucleus could capture
an electron resulting in two neutrons. These neutrons are special, as they
are very slow (ultra-low momentum neutrons) and can easily be captured by
other nuclei that undergo beta-decay (ejection of an electron) to give a range
of transmutation products.
Electron-capture by proton could also take place in hydrogen nuclei (which
have only one proton and no neutron), and that explains why transmutations
have been detected in electrolysis of ordinary light water.
The minimum requirement for transmutation is a metal hydride film or membrane
loaded up with hydrogen or deuterium to a high level, and kept in constant
flux, Electrode materials ranged from carbon, nickel, to uranium. The metal
hydride can be loaded by electrolysis of water or heavy water using a thin
film of the metal as cathode; or else deuterium gas can be made to diffuse
through the metal membrane by injecting the gas on one side and evacuating
from the other side. A wide variety of experimental conditions have been used
to trigger or speed up the reactions, including surface plasma electrolysis,
plasma discharge, laser initiation and external electric or magnetic fields.
A typical experiment is run continuously for 260 hours, resulting in a wide
variety of elements.
George Miley’s team at the University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign in the United States is one of the main groups involved in
transmutation. The most commonly reported elements are calcium, copper,
zinc and iron, found in more than 20 different experiments. Forty percent
of the least frequently observed elements were rare earths from the lanthanide
group: lutetium, terbium praseodymium, europium, samarium, gadolinium, dysprosium,
holmium, neodymium and ytterbium.
There were other effects associated with nuclear transmutation. These include
energetic charged particles, protons (~1.6 MeV) and alpha (~16 MeV) emissions,
and low level soft X-ray emissions. Excess heat was also produced simultaneously..
The transmutation of elements is the old alchemist dream come true. The transmutation
products fall into five peaks of atomic mass. The maxima and minima in abundances
resemble those predicted if ultra-low momentum neutron capture followed by
beta-decay were involved in the transmutations in accordance with the theory
of Alan Widom at Northeastern University Boston, and Lewis Larsen of Lattice
Energy in the United States.
These findings not only challenge the story of how the chemical elements
were created, they have the potential for a new source of much safer, cleaner
nuclear energy. It could “revolutionize” the energy industry, according to
Larsen, in providing highly concentrated energy sources that could, for example,
allow a car or an airplane to travel around the world without refuel.
Perhaps more importantly, there is a potential for making safe the accumulated
nuclear wastes from conventional nuclear reactors. Spent fuel rod assemblies
could be processed on site and injected into co-located LENR transmutation
reactors that would ‘burn’ the hot radioactive wastes down to stable isotopes
using large fluxes of ULM neutrons that are easily captured by the radioactive
isotopes. This process will also provide an enormous source of concentrated
energy for enriching the future zero-carbon world.
explicit national target should be set for 100 percent green, renewable energy
sources by 2050.
power, carbon capture and storage, and large scale biofuel or biochar plantations
should be excluded.
should be no carbon trading to offset greenhouse gas emissions in developing
The developed nations must take responsibility for reducing
their own emissions at home, while providing genuine
financial and technological assistance to poor nations that have to cope with
the worst effects of climate change.
investment should be targeted at education, research and development of the
appropriate green energy technologies present and future, including those
mentioned in this report.
and subsidies should be targeted to encourage decentralised distributed small
scale to micro-generation of green renewable energies, and to promote green
initiatives from local communities
tariffs should be introduced for all new renewable energies
nuclear power stations should be decommissioned at the end of their designated
life times. Uranium mining should cease and clean-up should begin. At the
same time, weapons grade uranium should be consumed in existing reactors in
accordance with nuclear disarmament.
public investment should be directed towards making safe toxic and radioactive
nuclear wastes by low energy nuclear transmutation.
There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
|Helmut Lubbers Comment left 14th September 2010 05:05:13|
"100 percent green, renewable energy sources by 2050". Really?
So-called "renewables" (wind, water, photovoltaic) are one hundred percent dependent on fossil fuels for construction and maintenance of these electricity generation plants. Moreover electricity cannot replace oil for its use as fuel and primary materials for a host of industrial products.
"Renewables" are dangerous illusions which lead us to believe we could continue modern society and depletion of natural resources.
But mankind has overshot the earth's carrying capacity by far. Some estimate as much as 400 times since the end of the middle ages.
Sustainability requires a level of resource use that is not higher than the earth can regenerate at the same speed as humans are using them. Most of our present use of resources, living and minerals, is simple depletion without any regeneration at all.
Pipe dreams of renewable energies and technology do nothing to avert collapse because of lacking resources - long before 2050!
Peak-oil is here. The after peak-oil era will probably start within the next few years. That will be the beginning of unstoppable decline.
If we want to avoid chaos and war, we should stop economic growth and population growth now and then re-localize, reduce, de-industrialize, slow-down.
Then we'd have a chance to survive.
The I-SIS should stick to its field of competence: Genetic engineering.
[Note to the moderators: I'm pretty sure you will not publish this because your task is to "moderate", not to review for scientific validity. And since I-SIS needs funding, you need positive comments on the publications you try to sell. So be it.]
|Mae-wan Ho Comment left 14th September 2010 05:05:14|
Helmut lubbers, it is ideologically committed pessimists, spoil sports, wet blankets, fatalists, holier-than-thou environmentalists like you that get people into such deep depression they may as well sit around waiting to die. We do not propose to carry on business as usual. ISIS does not need funding. You are always preaching to the converted and very patronisingly too. Do something useful for a change
|Julienne Battalia Comment left 28th February 2011 15:03:06|
Right on Sister. My daughter is studying biology and physics at Bowdoin college in Maine. I believe you may be the bridge for her.
Thank you for this incredible hope filled science and the vision it imagines for our childrens childrens children.
|Irina de la Flor Comment left 9th March 2011 11:11:53|
Congratulations on this fantastic work. I know there are many organisations working to create a better world and I´m very happy to see you are one of them. Thank you for the efforts you have done throught these years to remain independent and professional working in such a brave way. Only scientists like you can make a real change.
|maria Comment left 5th July 2011 15:03:27|
This looks like a book all world leaders should have on thier night stand!
|www.gold-dna.de Comment left 21st October 2012 07:07:15|
You have so much insight into the being of life. Why, I asked myself every time I find the words GLOBAL WARMING on your otherwise outstanding site, are you unable to see the rising of CO2 in the same frame of mind as your other works. In retrospect, higher CO2 is nothing new under the sun, regardless of humans around or not.
|Mae-Wan Ho Comment left 21st October 2012 12:12:12|
Being green and sustainable is desirable in itself, even if you are a climate sceptic! Please do not be diverted by often pointless arguments intended to score points against opponents rather than enlightening people.
|NickB Comment left 4th January 2013 00:12:06|
I'm with Helmut Lubbers, though I sympathise with your advocacy of renewables. They should be promoted in the context of economic and population degrowth, not advocated as a heart transplant for the current industrial system. This may be "ideologically committed pessimist, spoil sport, wet blanket" etc. but these have no bearing on truth - and what Lubbers says about resource depletion is well evidenced. As documented for example in Strahan: The Last Oil Shock, which contains good academic references.