Thursday, March 6, 2008

Generating electricity

Green Thursday TGIT – Thank Generators It’s Thursday

Today we get to discuss the essence of electricity. We have several ways of generating electricity but all except photovoltaic rely on the movement of a coil through a magnetic field. We can thank a very smart Brit named Michael Faraday for the vast majority of the electricity in the world. It was he who came up with the notion of electromagnetism. The movement or propulsion of the coil through the magnetic field needs some engine that extracts work out of a fuel or potential energy source and converts this to electricity. There was news yesterday that the US Park Service purposely caused a man made flood in the Colorado River by releasing a vast quantity of water from Glen Canyon. The quantity of water released was at a rate of 41,000 cubic feet per second and will be for a duration of three days. This is equal to 307,254 gallons per second. The potential energy of 1,000 gallons of water at a height of 300 feet is approximately one kilowatt hour. The Glen Canyon Dam is 710 feet high So releasing 307,254 gallons per second for three days with a height of 710 feet equals 188,482,014 kilowatt hours of released potential energy. This amount of energy seems ginormous but in fact it is not. In the same three days the USA consumed 62 million barrels of oil with the chemical potential energy of some 101.7 billion kilowatt hours or some 540 times more energy than the energy released in the man made flood.

Back to old Mike Faraday and his electro motive force EMF. We can generate electricity by raising steam at a high pressure and then allowing the steam to expand through a turbine that spins a coil in a magnetic field. We can do this by burning coal or by having a Nucular heat source, Note I am misspelling nuclear on purpose to allow President Bush to follow this blog. Actually GW is not the only president to mispronounce nuclear the left wingers from Berkeley have compiled a list of famous people who could not pronounce this word correctly No doubt we will have to rely on more nucular generators in the future for our electricity.

I kind of like a generator that has been developed to extract electricity out of flowing rivers rather than building dams. This article from the Economist was sent to me by Alan from Australia. In the future we perhaps won’t have Glen Canyon Dams and three day floods and we will still be able to extract energy out hydroelectric sources. A fool in the US Department of Energy may ask that this device will not work in Australia as they are down under and the Coriolis effect is reversed.
Please tell our hard working civil servant that gravity is still one of the fundamental forces in the southern hemisphere and that is why blokes in the out back do not free fall to the Antartic.

Thanks to Faraday we have wind, hydroelectric, thermal solar, coal, natural gas, wood, oil, tidal and even nucular generators.
The word of the day is rara avis or Latin for a rare bird or a unique person or thing. No doubt Michael Faraday was a rara avis and this mispronunciation of nuclear is not.

rara avis \RAIR-uh-AY-vis\, noun;plural rara avises \RAIR-uh-AY-vuh-suhz\ or rarae aves \RAIR-ee-AY-veez\:A rare or unique person or thing.
He was, after all, that rara avis, a Jewish Catholic priest with a wife and children.-- Jeremy Sams, "Lorenzo the magnificent",
Independent, May 16, 2000
"First of all," Arthur said, "Jack is that rara avis among Ivy League radicals, a birthright member of the proletariat."-- Charles McCarry, Lucky Bastard
Rara avis. You'd have to go far and wide to find someone like that, especially in these times.-- Andrew Holleran, In September, the Light Changes
Rara avis is Latin for "rare bird." Entry and Pronunciation for rara avis