To Conserve Energy – Conserve Water

English: Energy flow charts show the relative ...
English: Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From ‘Forbes’ : So you got your new compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Now you’re wringing your hands over how to dispose of them so that you don’t unleash toxic mercury into the environment. An improvement? Or just another example of politicians and environmentalists trying to push us around?

Sure CFLs save electricity, but so do a lot of other efforts. In fact, in a new study (“Evaluating the energy consumed for water use in the United States“) University of Texas scientists Kelly Sanders and Michael Webber reveal the counterintuitive conclusion that water conservation could have an enormous impact on energy conservation.

Save water and you save energy. Here’s why.

The United States, uses 410 billion gallons of water every day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Think of all the energy expended in pumping that water, treating it, spraying it on crops, heating it for your shower, making it into ice, Coca-Cola, paper, and on and on. These core uses (what they refer to as direct water and steam services in the commercial, residential, industrial and power sectors) eat up 12.3 quadrillion BTU per year. That’s 12.6% of primary energy use in the United States, or the equivalent energy consumption of 40 million Americans.

Add in indirect water use, such as steam generated in coal-fired power plants to spin turbines to make electricity, and you tack on another 34.1 quadrillion BTU.

Together, the amount of energy tied to water consumption totals just under half of all the energy this country uses. So the connection is clear: cut down on water use and you cut down on energy use.

Where to focus? Well the breakdown of who uses how much water in what ways is kind of surprising. Residential use was just 7.2% and commercial use is 3.4%. The researchers found that for residential users heating water (showers, clothes washers, cooking, hot tubs, etc) accounted for 75% of water-related energy use. But because the residential share of the pie is relatively small, what we as individuals do doesn’t matter that much in the scheme of things.

Much bigger impacts? Irrigation of crops and golf courses and other landscaping takes up 31.2% of water consumption. While the biggest user is power generation, with 49% of all water use.

Getting all that water to fields can be expensive. In California, for instance, the energy cost of piping water between basins amounts to roughly 13,000 kwh per million gallons.

And consider the electricity that needs to be generated to move and heat all that water. Based on the efficiency rates of industrial boilers and power plants, the researchers figured that 58% of the total primary energy consumed for water-related purposes is “rejected” or lost as waste heat. Indeed, on the tiny residential scale think about how much energy is wasted when you heat up a whole kettle of water to make just one cup of tea. Expand that idea to the industrial scale and it’s easy to see how much energy is wasted in our aqua-economy.


Japan’s nuclear crisis blows open debate on future energy

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami, amid fears of a radiological disaster, commentators worldwide are postulating one question: is this the end of nuclear power? Alisa Murphy, CEO of B9 Coal, argues here that they ought to be discussing the wider energy mix.

“The scale of the human tragedy and economic cost of the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are undoubtedly tremendous. As analysts attempt to assess the long-term fallout, one resounding fact is clear: it is time to take new safe, clean, sustainable energy solutions seriously. With non-polluting options (i.e. nuclear) called into question, we cannot afford to be complacent about energy issues any longer.

Global governments’ response to Japan’s crisis have been markedly tempered. Concerned by global energy shortages and climate change they are acting cautiously; too readily accepting that nuclear is necessarily part of a credible energy mix.

With an existing £40 billion invested in eight sites in England and Wales, British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was careful to note that ‘It’s far too early to tell at this stage whether there will be any impact on the investment climate’.

Keen to appease both left and right, US President Barack Obama quickly defended the technology. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ostensibly hard-line response may have been more of a political strategy in the wake of upcoming state elections. But China’s u-turn decision to freeze approvals for new nuclear reactors will demand an adequate response from the West.

The Financial Times notes that the cost of gas and coal – the two main alternative commodities for power generation – has risen sharply since Friday, as has the price for trading carbon emissions. It is pertinent that Japan’s crisis does not become an excuse to return to the dirty technologies of yesterday.

With renewables currently too unreliable to support a sustained energy solution, and oil prices rising as supplies diminish, it would be all too easy to rely on today’s fickle media to sweep Fukushima under the table rather than opening up the wider energy debate.

Until renewable technologies reach the required stage of development to meet growing demand reliably and affordably, a transitional solution that efficiently and cleanly uses the world’s remaining fuel resources is essential.

Well-meaning talk from politicians is not enough: we need serious investment in a low-carbon future and real commitment to transitional technologies. B9 Coal, a pioneering British company based in London, is doing just that.

Earlier this week, at the Advanced Power Generation Technology Forum (APGTF) in DECC’s offices, it was widely recognised that carbon capture and storage (CCS) needs to be accelerated and extended in light of events in Japan.

There is growing agreement that long-term CCS could be a logical beneficiary of fuel switching from nuclear to fossil fuels. B9 Coal’s fuel cell power stations offer the most commercially attractive CCS model proposed to date.

B9 Coal has created a world first template for commercially attractive, flexible, clean energy projects with the ambition of revolutionising the way we produce electricity. By combining revolutionary alkaline fuel cells with fossil fuels in a carbon capture–ready model, B9 Coal provides an essential step in the move to a low carbon future.

These power stations offer the benefits of highly efficient power generation and the ability to load-follow to meet peak demand. The company is stimulating a reassessment in attitudes towards fossil fuel power generation and the possibility of decoupling coal use and the adverse environmental impacts traditionally associated with it.

The alkaline fuel cells developed by AFC Energy are the most efficient method of converting hydrogen to electricity. AFC Energy’s system is low-cost, low-pressure and developed for large scale deployment.

The company has been making significant developments across a range of industries including chlorine production and electricity from waste. Integrated with the B9 Coal model, the fuel cells offer a pull through solution for CCS and will provide a fundamental building block in the development of a hydrogen economy.

Investing in this British technology would not only combat reliance on foreign reserves, but position the UK as a global leader on CCS and low-carbon energy solutions.

Despite Mr Huhne’s concerns over existing investments, CCS actually has considerable technical, economic and safety advantages over new-build nuclear.

In particular, pre-combustion technologies with fuel cells have a highly flexible output, and can back-up a greater capacity of intermittent renewable technologies like offshore wind. In contrast, nuclear stations are far less flexible in output and therefore less able to support the development of the UK’s marine renewable resources.

Under current nuclear roll-out plans, it would take billions of pounds of investment to produce a relatively small percentage of the UK’s electricity needs each year. Re-directing this enormous cost towards CCS has potentially huge advantages for national energy security.

The UK Government has formalised its commitment to investing in CCS demonstration projects, but development is hugely stalled; something which is not only frustrating for the energy industry but also detrimental to our emissions targets.

Coal and gas will inevitably be a substantial part of the future energy mix, therefore the only viable answer is to reassess the ways in which we use them developing efficient and responsible solutions. This is all the more clear in the wake of the horrific tragedy unfolding in Japan. The decision whether new nuclear should be included in the UK energy mix can wait until 2020, acting to preserve our current energy reserves by investing in CCS cannot.”