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They paved paradise and put up … a power source

Nicole Orne, Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)
The secret to saving the world could be hidden in the miles and miles of parking lot in the United States, Dr. Arjun Makhijani said Saturday.

The author of “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy” and a recognized authority on energy issues, Makhijani repeatedly referred to himself as a “poor Indian boy” and a “ham” during his speech Saturday.

Makhijani is also the president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Md. He earned his Ph.D. in engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in 1972, specializing in nuclear fusion.

Makhijani spoke about a number of energy alternatives to nuclear power. One of what he calls the “bumper stickers” in his book is that “parking lots are the answer.”

By this he meant that, given the sheer mass of parking lot space in the U.S., it would be an ideal situation to put canopies with solar paneling over as many as possible, providing a lot of energy as well as shade for motorists. “They like it in Texas, it’s hot there,” he said.
(17 March 2008)

Banana Methane Powered Cars, Pig Poo Power And Other Uses For Biogas

Big Gav, The Oil Drum: Australia/New Zealand
Powering transport using liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas or fuel produced by gas-to-liquids processes are options that have received varying amounts of attention in recent years as the oil price climbs ever higher. While shifting dependence from one fossil fuel to another doesn’t make a great deal of sense when you take peak oil and gas into account, there is a renewable option for producing gas – biogas.

One recent example of biogas use in Australia is a pilot project by horticulture company Growcom to convert banana waste into biomethane, which will then be used as fuel by cars converted to use compressed natural gas and by a generator for electricity production.

The processing plant uses an anaerobic digester – in trials, the banana waste produced maximum yields of 398 litres of methane per kg of dry banana. With this yield, 1 ton of bananas per day can generate around 7.5 kW of electricity – enough to supply six to eight modern households.

According to research done at the University of Queensland by Associate Professor Bill Clarke, over 310,000 tonnes of bananas are grown in Australia each year (250,000 tonnes in FNQ). Approximately 30% of the bananas are rejected at the packing stage for quality reasons. Gloablly, around 70 million tonnes of bananas are produced each year, 20% of which are traded.

Growcom board member Keith Noble says, “An over-riding principle of the project has been to use locally available materials and expertise wherever possible. The system must also integrate with existing farm practices. If on-farm digesters are to have a commercial future they must add to farm efficiency and be simple to operate.”
(19 March 2008)
Round-up of news and developments. Also at Peak Energy

Big Gav writes:
A mix of dark green and bright green solutions.

I can’t tell how far this could be scaled, but I think if recycling programs started separating out organic material as a new category, it could be quite a useful energy source.

And it seems digesters for home use are now feasible as well (not everywhere perhaps, but certainly in the developing world).

Salt could shake up world energy supply

Alister Doyle, Reuters
Only up to powering light bulbs so far, “salt power” is a tantalising if distant prospect as high oil prices make alternative energy sources look more economical.

Two tiny projects to mix sea and river water — one by the fjord south of Oslo, the other at a Dutch seaside lake — are due on stream this year and may point to a new source of clean energy in estuaries from the Mississippi to the Yangtze.

The experiments, which seek to capture the energy released when fresh and salt water are mixed, build on knowledge that has been around for centuries — in one case imitating the process of osmosis used by trees to suck water from their roots.
(19 March 2008)