Monday, June 04, 2012

Transforming how we use energy - Part 1

I listened to a very educational online talk by Maggie Koerth-Baker about our energy future. She wrote a book: Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us. It was a great talk and I took the liberty of distilling some of the salient points. This will be presented in 4 parts....

"We use more energy to produce electricity in the US than we do for anything else, including transportation. But transportation becomes our focus, because that's what we have an intimate relationship with. I go to the gas station and I might spill gas on my shoes - but electricity is just these magical elves that live in your wall and you just expect it and you don't think about it.

66% of the energy used to produce electricity never becomes usable. That's because of the way that the machines that produce electricity work. Some of that energy turns into electricity, but some gets lost to waste heat and dissipates into the buildings where the generators are and never gets used. Sometimes you can capture that in systems called combined heat and power. They are often used at universities, where they will produce electricity but also at the same time capture that heat and use it to heat up buildings.

At Colorado State University, they're testing out new generators that are way more efficient than have ever been used before. But it's one of those things that happens slowly because these are all really expensive systems. You don't just replace one as soon as the newest thing comes out, like an iPhone. You wait for it to die before you spend the money on a new one."

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