Closing 21 Feb 2013, Community Renewable Energy Projects: Message – Innovations excluded and technology chosen must be commercial. This is despite many innovators being able to prove an environmental benefit at least cost. It is not a new issue it is a matter that is a symptom of measures providing a pathway regardless of the evidence. Albeit, justification for this approach can be found by some oblique reference to some far away story.
As the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains “One of the most serious (and valid) criticisms of subsidies for “renewable” energy is that they heighten the perception (but not the reality) that wind and solar are less expensive and more energy efficient than conventional fuels”.
If we single out the NSW Renewable Energy Precincts Program and the expression of interest for funding the wording says “EOIs will only be accepted for projects proposing to use renewable energy technologies that are commercially available and have been demonstrated in operation at a similar scale generation capacity for 12 months or more. Solar photovoltaic technology and wind are the two most common, and commercially available, renewable energy technologies. Most CRE projects internationally use one of these two technologies”. This is interesting as world wide, and in Australia, there are technologies that offer a better power capacity ratio. It is also interesting that in Australia at least one public entity has taken legal action to restrict (Suppression) the opportunity for a commercial opportunity with alternative renewable energy. When the reference is made to power capacity ratio it simply means – coal fired can be replaced by this technology as base load. It should also be said at a lower cost than wind and solar. AKA – cost benefit is superior.
It is difficult to understand why a ‘community’ program is directing a bias in this way towards wind & solar. CO2Land org feels this is a shame because more than a few communities would be able to scratch together sufficient green waste and other biomass resources to run a genuine base load or peak lopping plant, from what is waste with the added advantage of also having very useful co-products and creating more permanent local employment.
It follows that local government have obligations for services and various industry is within the boundaries they manage. Industry does two things: 1) They tend to consume more of the fuel resources available in the geographical area, and 2) Produce waste that is often toxic or hazardous in the environment.
In a growing trend around the world (being a reference was made in the NSW REP EOI), and since 1980, as far as CO2Land org can see, major industry is increasingly looking at methods for recovering the fuel value from many wastes.
CO2Land org can identify some of the different methods to do so and each is superior in their own way, and certainly make use of existing problems of waste and remove much of the need for virgin material in the products they offer. The point is made – not one product such as electricity generation of wind and solar, but also other products that make up the needs of society.
To give examples: Gasification, Pyrolysis, Plasma conversion are increasingly being piloted or in production in other parts of the world. Not surprising is that many of the leading work was from Australia, then ‘discovered’ by America, India, China and other countries determined to solve their resource and waste problems. If you were to argue it is cost that is the problem. As a single product produced wind and solar can argue they the high ground. “But consider this case of cement kilns converting waste: The ash in waste fuels becomes part of the cement product in a cement kiln, this system is one of the very few that actually consumes all of the waste material – both organic and inorganic turning all of the waste into product – no ash, no change in emissions and no impact on product quality”. Patent Number 8268073 System and method for making cement and cement derived therefrom Inventors: Burton J. Kunik, James C. Berns, David G. Gossman
More recently, engineered fuels (Synfuels) are carrying on to advance the latest step in the process that started over 30 years ago. Some might even recall or have read that in World War 2 years the need to ‘invent’ devices to get the family car around as fuel was rationed. The new advances present the real potential for using a wider variety of waste materials, including treated medical wastes, to consume waste materials instead of coal and other natural resource based fuels in the manufacturing process.
Then there is products from the treatment of medical waste including sharps: Embodiments of this invention provide methods for converting a used healthcare material including a complex mixture of components including pulp materials, polymer materials, metal materials, and/or other material such as ceramic materials, ash materials, etc. directly into a burnable fuel, Without the need for component separation. Patent Number 8163045 Method and system of making a burnable fuel Inventors: Burton J. Kunik, James C. Berns, David G. Gossman
Still struggling in Australia is Real Power Systems. Peter and Kerry Davies have built a considerable amount of bench testing conducted (circa 2009 to now) and are successfully testing, including onsite pilots of their gasifier and pyrolysis retort and this success continues to lead to product identification not previously considered. They started being most interested in bio-char production for agricultural purposes, and the range of fuels that can produce and the range of waste they can treat under various water saturation condition is striking. And, they can produce syngas, synfuel, syncrude and have solved problems such as “Cavitation Phenomenon at the Reactor Chamber” that plaqued or was the reason for more expensive offering in the field.
If you can consider the cost savings when compared with traditional fuels it can be enormous. The environmental saving through the use of engineered fuels (syfuels) is a significant reduction of GHG emissions. So much so that engineered fuels, are getting overseas regulatory approvals and are meeting EPA definitions for “sufficiently processed”.
We are saying we should compare complimentary and alternative solutions to our energy problems, and being we should be very conscious of the traps involved in the development of technology, It can be very hard to stay focused when development is proving there is so much flexibility and opportunity in direction.
Possibly this is why the 21 Feb 2013 closing EOI has chosen to stay focused on wind and solar, but then something more needs to be done in keeping with the developments and as such building on advances to ensure uniform characteristics can be judged to gain a higher level of understanding and open whole new avenues for applications of otherwise problematic materials. What could be better than the local government waste dump having onsite production capability of syncrude made from waste tetra packs and plastics? it does make things oddly enough, a tad more difficult…but not impossible.