Alternative Energy for the 21st Century

There are numerous sources of alternative energy available in the 21st century.  Listed below you will find some information about each one.  Not all alternative energy source are practical.  Some alternative energy sources may be practical in some locations and not in other locations.  I.e., mountains, sea coasts, plateaus, regional climate, and other factors can affect the effectiveness and practicality of a source. 

Alcohol
A person can easily make Farmer’s alcohol, or ethanol, from grain or fruit.  All they need is a 55-gallon drum, a pipe full of rocks, and a moonshine coil with a condenser.  That is, any farmer can make motor fuel with the basic know-how, a feedstock (grain or fruit), and less than a hundred dollars’ worth of equipment.

You may have heard that it takes more energy to produce than it delivers.  That is true, however, the energy used for heat in an alcohol still more often than not comes from wood, corn stover, trash, and the like, hardly viable for use in an automobile.  If you don’t burn it, it rots.

The big drawback to the widespread use of ethanol produced by individual farmers is the government itself.  Anyone who produces over 2,500 gallons of ethanol a year will have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to contend with.  An acre of corn will yield 250-500 gallons of ethanol.  The average farm in the United States is 487 acres, which could yield of over 70,000 gallons per farm.

Methanol
Methanol, another form of alcohol made from wood or coal, isn’t really a practical alternative energy source.  The Btu content is much lower than ethanol and it is highly toxic.  Drinking a thimbleful of it will cause blindness.

Biodiesel
A person can make biodiesel from canola oil, which in turn is made from rapeseed and it has almost sweet-smelling emissions. Rapeseed is, at the moment $10.00 for a hundred pounds. Yield of canola oil from 100 lbs. of rapeseed, about 2 gallons. When conventional diesel fuel goes well over $5.00 a gallon, it might be feasible.  Biodiesel exhaust is so acrid it will make your eyes water and smells like a hundred housewives burning supper.

Some entrepreneurs have made a business out of collecting used cooking oil from restaurants in their area and converting it into a usable biodiesel fuel for those looking for an available alternative energy source.

Fish Carburetor
The Fish Carburetor Company manufactured the Fish Carburetor from 1947-1957 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  The company produced about 2,000 a month produced.  It was manufactured again from 1981-1996.  About 10,000 were produced.  Mike Brown hopes to be back in production in 2017.

Gasifiers, Wood
You can produce carbon monoxide gas in units designed to gasify wood.  The problem is that the wood gassified carries tree sap into the engine with it.  Sticky valves are often the result.

Hydrogen
Water, by weight, is 89% oxygen and 11% hydrogen.  In addition to having a million dollar windmill to produce it, hydrogen has other problems.

Btu content is low.  Hydrogen has 30,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per gallon, ethanol 80,000, and gasoline 120,000.  A 16 mpg gasoline powered vehicle will go only 4 miles on a gallon of hydrogen—theoretically.

The hydrogen molecule is the smallest molecule in the universe.  It leaks—everywhere.  Notice that in the news on November 5, 2010, NASA had to cancel the latest Space Shuttle launch because of leaking hydrogen fuel.

H2 has to be dried out with sulfuric acid.  Water in the H2 drains the hydrogen of energy.  People working with sulfuric acid have to wear extensive protective gear.

Solar
Solar panels are expensive. The large “farms” of panels eventually collect dust and will need to be cleaned like windows.  A lot of the time, the sun doesn’t shine. The farther north you go, the less efficient it gets. Everything that promises improvement requires investors.

Steam
Ninety-three percent (93%) of all the energy produced in the United States (from the utility companies) is still produced by steam, mostly by steam-driven turbines.

 As long ago as 1946 a ton of freight could be moved along the rails by the steam produced from a cup of water and 2 ounces of coal.

 Water turned to steam occupies 1700 times its original volume.

Notice that wood is a product of solar energy, and nothing man-made is required to capture it. It just lays there, on the ground, waiting to be picked up and shoved into a furnace and boiler setup to run a steam engine.  In case you think I’m oversimplifying the procurement of wood, many industries have a lot of scrap there for the taking—sawmills, furniture factories, construction sites, etc. They usually have to pay someone to haul it away. You can do it for nothing and both parties come out with a benefit.

Steam Turbines
We get an inordinate number of emails from people who have it in their heads that they want to design a steam system for electric power starting with a steam turbine.

Steam turbines work quite well in major power plants, naval warships, and the like. Such applications require huge amounts of horsepower. For anything under 250 hp, you’re going to run into problems, which we will address.

1. Small steam turbines are horrendously fuel inefficient. A 3 hp steam turbine will consume ten (10) times the amount of fuel a 3 hp steam engine will to produce the same amount of power. A Tesla turbine is even worse. Nikola Tesla was an electrical genius. What he knew about steam enabled him to build the most inefficient engine known to man.

2. The boilers for steam turbines cost, on the average, three (3) times as much as boilers for piston steam engines. This is due to the effect of microscopic droplets of water in a steam turbine. Such droplets have no effect on piston steam engines. Steam turbines turn at an extremely high rate of speed. Microscopic droplets of water act as grains of sand would in normal machinery. Dust causes the same problem.

3. Steam turbines only act at full efficiency (even the big ones) at full throttle. For example, electric power utility plants don’t use one big steam turbine. Instead they use several steam turbines running at full throttle. When the demand for electricity increases, more turbines are brought on line to fill that need. When it lessens, they are disconnected. This set up requires very expensive switching equipment.

Stirling Engines
A Stirling engine runs on superheated air.  You heat the air, the air expands and pushes a piston.  Air will only expand to about 5½ times its original volume.  Water, by contrast, will expand to 1700 times its original volume when converted to steam.  A 3-horsepower Stirling is the size of a Volkswagen.

Wind
Not everyone has a million dollars to spend on a windmill.  Windmills often act as lightning rods (the generator section fries) and quite often kill migrating birds.