Texas Wins Big: NEED State Program of the Year

NEED – the National Energy Education Development Project – is an organization that teaches people how to teach about energy. Even though the concept of energy education might sound simple at first – too many people think that if they teach about one energy source, they’re teaching about energy in general.

In the NEED Primary Science of Energy curriculum, they discuss petroleum, coal, solar energy, uranium, biomass, hydropower, wind energy, geothermal energy, propane, natural gas and light.

Texas was selected as NEED’s State Program of the Year because of the diverse and dedicated partners providing energy education opportunities to students, teacher, and families in Texas.

HMNS, along with other Texas partners, was recognized at the 29th Annual Youth Awards for Energy Achievement for the Museum’s commitment to NEED and the programs in Texas, as well as our commitment to energy education in general.

Niagara Falls Hydro Plant
Hydropower
Creative Commons License photo credit: gobanshee1

But it’s not just about giving the teachers facts and figures. The fastest way for teachers to get students excited is to get the teachers excited –  and NEED activities do just that.

Before receiving the award, we completed a test run of their new hydropower curriculum. I spent a few hours with elementary school teachers and kids, putting together a water-powered wheel that would lift paperclips.  The exciting part was watching the kids come up with ideas and innovations to make the water-powered wheels run more efficiently and do more work.

To learn more about energy education, check out our previous entries in the blog’s Energy category.

Blowing away the alternative: a case for wind power

Following up on his previous post, Wiess Energy Hall Master Docent Julian Lamborn shares his case for the further development of wind power in the US: 

PICT1018
Creative Commons License photo credit: s2art

If coal-fired power stations were to be forced to sequester their greenhouse gases then production of electricity from wind generators would be cheaper than from coal.  There are optimists who believe that the present USA wind generating capacity could be raised from 1% of the country’s electricity needs to 20% (although 5% to 7% by 2020 is believed by most to be a more realistic number, particularly since some of the Federal subsidy programs for wind generators are scheduled to run out at the end of 2008!)
If you are considering putting a 2 MW wind/power generating machine in your backyard (remember that it would be some 360 ft. tall!) it would set you back around $2 million but, remember, the wind resources in the United States are vast. Using today’s technology, there is theoretically enough wind power flowing across our country to supply all of our electricity needs.  North Dakota alone could supply about one third of the nation’s electricity

Adequate winds for commercial power production are found at sites in 46 states but only a small portion of our country’s vast wind potential will likely be tapped in the near future since there has to be an integrated approach to energy management with both political and industrial participation.

Here in the USA, in Iowa, at the Iowa Stored Energy Park, a $200 million system that will take surplus electrical energy from nearby wind farms and use it to compress and store high pressure air underground will go online in 2011.  When needed, this compressed air can be released into a natural gas fired electricity generating turbine to produce some 268 MW of supplemental power.

The World Wind Energy Association anticipates that the installed capacity of wind powered generators will be around 170,000 MW by the end of 2010… this represents an 81% increase in world wind generating capacity from the end of 2007. This is the fastest growing source of alternate energy the world has at present. 

PICT1015
Creative Commons License photo credit: s2art

Although there are many NIMBY (“not in my back-yard”) activists interested in where to site wind-farms, many ornithologists interested in avian problems created by the rotor blades and many people that just don’t like change, the alternate of burning more and more coal and producing potentially more and more greenhouse gases has also to be put into the equation.  In the long term (as there always is) there will be an acceptable balance wherein, at least in the US, there will probably be wind generation producing between 5% and 10% of our daily electricity needs as part of our daily power grid input. But I’ll also bet with you, though, that none of these wind generators will be in or very close to a National Park!

The world’s oldest alternative energy source

As oil reaches a new record of $143 per barrel today, I think it’s safe to say that energy – and possible alternatives to fossil fuels – are topics on everyone’s mind. Before the development of fossil-fuel based energy technology, wind-power wasn’t an alternate form of energy – it was just the way things were done.

Julian Lamborn, Master Docent for the Wiess Energy Hall, has been kind enough to share the history of wind technology as well as share his case for developing wind energy today, in this two-part post.

Shakespeare had it right when he penned: “Blow, blow thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind.”

The winds of the world today bring with them the promise of low cost, renewable and sustainable electricity which will help feed the world’s insatiable demand for energy. One perk of using wind energy is it has a low atmospheric pollution potential.

In 2007, the globally installed capacity of electricity generation from wind increased by some 26.6% over 2006.

Ontario Turbines (2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: JoshMcConnell

The global capacity of wind-generated electricity is currently equivalent to some 1.3% of the world’s electricity needs with Germany producing the most wind power.  In fact, Germany has 22,247 megawatts of installed wind generating capacity which meets between 5% and 7% of the country’s electricity needs. 

Here in the USA (which, at 16,818 MW, is second only to Germany in installed, wind-generating capacity) about 1% of our electricity needs are met by wind generation and in Texas particularly, this number rises to 3%. Texas is also the state that uses the most wind energy.

Blood Hill Wind Farm, West Somerton, Norfolk

Creative Commons License photo credit: .Martin.

It’s all very well talking about a megawatt of wind generated power, but what can it actually do for you in your home?  In very round numbers, one megawatt of wind generating capacity typically will satisfy the electricity needs of 350 households in an industrial society, or roughly 1,000 people per year.  Although wind generators are placed in windy areas and designed to run optimally at wind speeds between 25 and 35 mph, wind does not blow all the time.  In the USA wind generators work at about 30.5% of their capacity.

But, of course, this is the modern story. 

IMG_3163
Creative Commons License photo credit:
Wouter de Bruijn

The first windmills were developed to automate the tasks of grain-grinding and water-pumping. The earliest-known design is the vertical axis system developed in Persia about 500-900 C.E. (although there is some suggestion that King Hammurabi of Babylon in c 1760 B.C.E used wind driven scoops to move water for irrigation).   The first known documented design of a Persian windmill is one with vertical sails made of bundles of reeds or wood which were attached to the central vertical shaft by horizontal struts. 

Windmills as we know them today from paintings by the Dutch Masters first appeared in the late Middle Ages, although it took another 500 or so years for the highly efficient mills of the Dutch to be fully developed. 

However, by the late 19th century, all the technology was in place to allow the design of the first power-generating wind-mill. This first use of a large windmill to generate electricity was a system built in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1888, by Charles F. Brush. Compared to today’s behemoths producing up to 3.6 MW or more, Bush’s machine was a lightweight producing just 12 KW!

The modern wind powered generating devices, such as those near Abilene, typically each produce 1.5 to 2 MW of power at around the same 4.5 cent cost per kilowatt-hour as electricity from coal but without the co-production of greenhouse gases