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Photovoltaics: From Waste to Energy-maker

Engineer-Poet, The Oil Drum
One recurring theme in nature is that anything which creates a waste product tends to also create an ecological niche for something which uses that product. This has also occurred in technology. It is relatively common for waste products which contain energy to find uses, but we may be about to see something a little different and more radical. For the past century, millions of tons of a particular waste product have been piling up all over the earth. This waste product contains no useful energy or rare elements, so its potential has taken longer to be widely recognized. It might just become something far more important to the future: a cheap and abundant energy-maker.

…To summarize the points above,

  • We’ve been ignoring a major supply of silicon-containing material.

  • This material can be made into elemental silicon very cheaply.
  • The silicon product is ready for direct fabrication into raw wafers for PV cells.
  • These PV cells may be extremely cheap: about 3 peak watts per dollar.
  • If we used all the annual supply of this silicon source, we could create peak capacity of about 10% of US average electric consumption every year.
  • If we used the stockpiles accumulated over the last several decades, we could go a lot faster than that.
  • Cheap renewable energy producers would be an economic engine and could even help rescue a moribund economy and currency.

I know this is a rhetorical question, but what are we waiting for?
(8 October 2007)

Interview: Ethanol Fuel Expert David Blume
PORTLAND, Ore. — David Blume, author of the book Alcohol Can be A Gas, is offering a workshop Saturday on how to produce alcohol fuel on a small scale.

Blume will show the simple technique used to convert vehicles to run on alcohol.

The workshop will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Portland State University.

For on the information, click here.
(5 October 2007)
Author and permaculture teacher David Blume is a proponent of ethanol. Go to the original link for a web-only interview in which David makes his case.

Contributor Randy White writes:
Portland TV Station KPTV has stumbled upon a wedge issue with Peak Oil, which is the biofuels debate. They get serious about finding solutions and a fight looks ready to break out between David Fridley (Myths of Biofuels) and David Blume (Alcohol Can Be A Gas).

Washington state a leader in new energy sources

Lee Blumenthal, Tacoma News Tribune (Washington)
WASHINGTON – The Evergreen State is getting greener.

When it comes to developing renewable energy sources, Washington is among the fastest growing states in the U.S. It ranks No. 3 this year, trailing only North Dakota and Montana, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Most of the growth comes from the major wind farms springing up along the Columbia River Gorge, in Kittitas County surrounding Ellensburg and in eastern Washington near the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla.

But the state’s utilities are also looking at tidal, wave, solar, geothermal and biomass as they try to figure out how to meet the requirements of a voter-approved initiative requiring 15 percent of their power be green by 2020.

State agencies are working on developing regulations as the state’s utilities scout out potential renewable energy sources.

Even so, the utilities have a long way to go. And just as they are getting started, the cost of constructing a wind farm has, by some estimates, tripled over the past five years. That is due to everything from a two-year waiting list for the turbines to a shortage of copper and steel because of competition from India and China. The weakening of the dollar overseas hasn’t helped either.
(8 October 2007)

Huge wind farm for Mad Max country

Wendy Frew, Sydney Morning Herald
A giant $2 billion wind farm proposed for western NSW could double the number of turbines operating in Australia and provide as much electricity as a large coal-fired power plant.

Epuron, a subsidiary of the German renewable energy group Conergy AG, will today announce plans to build as many as 500 turbines, generating enough electricity for 400,000 homes. They would be built on the ranges that rise around the Mundi Mundi plains, north-west of Broken Hill.

The wind farm would be 10 times bigger than the next largest wind farm approved for NSW and could reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. It would produce up to 4.5 per cent of NSW’s energy needs in a typical year.
(8 October 2007)
Recommended by Big Gav.
Related: Climate laws may delay $2bn wind farm (The Australian)