The Associated Press must be the only press release recipient for some major news. The University of Minnesota Renewable Energy Center at Morris Minnesota has designed a $3.75 million carbon-free system that uses wind power from a towering turbine to produce anhydrous ammonia, NH3, a the most common and widely used nitrogen fertilizer and a component of most other nitrogen fertilizers. Construction started on the Morris plant the week of June 7, 2010, and it should produce fertilizer by the end of the year.
The NH3 plant will use the surplus energy generated onsite by a 1.65-megawatt wind turbine that already helps power the nearby campus.
The U.S. is the largest importer of fertilizer in the world, with more than half its NH3 coming from overseas. The country imported about $1.4 billion worth of NH3 in 2009, or 6.1 million U.S. tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The system creates fertilizer by using an air separation unit to pull nitrogen from the air, while the turbine powers large electrolyzers that separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The nitrogen and hydrogen are then synthesized into anhydrous ammonia using a century-old chemical process called the Haber-Bosch Process. The technology is proven, a hydrogen system model is functioning in Utsira, Norway. Using wind to power the electrolyzers instead of natural gas frees a large market share and makes NH3 production a carbon-free process that releases no greenhouse gases.
The motive is easy to explain. Before the oil price spike and the credit crisis NH3 would sell to farmers for near to $200 per ton. At the current price of about $500 a ton, competition will be possible but difficult. But if prices return to the near-$1,200-per-ton range seen a couple of years ago when natural gas prices spiked the wind process would be wildly profitable.
The NH3 price issue is of great concern to the corn market and thus to food and ethanol production. The 2008 price run-up was followed by a sharp drop, but many farmers had already contracted prices for the spring of 2009 and had to take the NH3 at the stunning high price.
John Holbrook of Richland, Washington based NHThree LLC , an ammonia expert exploring its use as a motor fuel points out the big impediment to a profitable wind-to-fertilizer system is the electrolyzer. NHThree is working on a new process called solid-state ammonia synthesis, which could improve efficiency by bypassing the Haber-Bosch Process and the electrolyzer. But UM at Morris is going ahead with their construction.
UM at Morris isn’t alone – San Francisco-based SynGest, Inc., plans to build an $80 million facility about 40 miles west of Des Moines, Iowa, that will produce ammonia fertilizer from corn cobs, and an Oregon nonprofit called the Northwest Hydrogen Alliance Inc. is studying the feasibility of storing energy by producing anhydrous ammonia using cheap excess hydropower at off-peak times during the spring melt to produce anhydrous ammonia for use as fertilizer or to store hydrogen. There are lots of others, too working on NH3 fuel.
Check those numbers – that $1.4 billion divided by the 6.1 million tons comes to $229.51 leaving more than $270 per ton for transport, storage and profits from the $500 per ton current price. Lots of people should want in the NH3 business. The volumes are large enough that there’s 3100 miles of ammonia pipelines in the U.S.
The test plant will produce fertilizer for use on the university’s own research farmland. The venture would again make NH3 a renewable commodity, which it was until the 1950s and 1960s. NH3 production in the early 1900s was powered primarily by hydropower, but producers stopped that method after realizing they could make it more cheaply using natural gas. Well, now the wind is free – it’s the capital cost and operating expense that’s at issue.
The researchers at the University of Minnesota deserve congratulations. A search on wind and ammonia shows they’ve been at this for quite a while. The incentives are strong, the capital expense significant and the impact of NH3 as a product in the national economy is far more fundamental that most people realize.
Production of hydrogen and on to NH3 has lots of potential from fertilizer or to use as a fuel. Making NH3 would get the energy store into a low-pressure tank, that stays put and is easily transported.
Time will tell in the real numbers on viability. The university pilot is small and loaded with research equipment – just how that relates to a commercial facility is yet to be seen
Michael Reese, director of the University of Minnesota Renewable Energy Center was quoted by the Associated Press saying, it’s a perfect supply-and-demand match, as the region has no shortage of wind and U.S. farmers use millions of tons of fertilizer
Its obvious now it can be done, just how low a price can be found?
The original post: New Energy and Fuel
May 31, 2013 Energy Talks
High energy costs and an environmentally battered planet affect each one of us in one way or another. The fact of the situation is it is really quite possible for a good percentage of us to cut our monthly bill while helping to save the planet. Yes, kill two birds with a single stone just by turning to renewable energy and the best and practical technique to do that’s arguably thru the use of home made wind generators.
Having having said that , it’s not always feasible or practicable. And are they inexpensive over the conventional form of power?
Wind power generation is based on the concept of energy conversion. Basically, the wind power turns the windmill which is attached to a turbine alternator or converter to provide electrical power. Traditional windmills are just water pumps but modern wind power generators are complete power systems that come with safety, high-wind survival, lightning and electrical overload protection and emergency shutdown features. The majority are equipped with options for storage and interconnection to area utility grids for credit or sale of overflow power.
Ideally, the house sits on a good-sized plot in a comparatively spaced-out rustic or sub-urban neighborhood. Surrounding wind resource is steady and even. The local supply grid also supports the interconnection of excess power for reverse credit or sale.
That is the reason why wind power generators are sometimes employed in mutual complement with another renewable energy source specifically solar power, sunlight supply of which intrinsically is also not continuous thru either.
It isn’t rocket science to make wind energy. A handful of those DIY handbooks essentially do a particularly neat job in guiding even the fully uninitiated to construct their own wind power generators from nothing. It’s possible to not only chop your power bills but also receive payment for the excess that is channeled back onto the utility grid. On top of that, there’s the sensation of gratification from understanding that you have made a contribution to the green movement.
Original Wind Power Energy Ideas and Solutions
May 22, 2013 Energy Talks
Solar power is great, don’t you think? What a great way to help the environment, and make money on renewable energy. The energy used behind the electric power supply in most of the homes throughout the world is made of fossil fuels. It takes millions of years for these fossil fuels to get converted into crude oil. Fossil Fuel is not a fuel source that not only pollutes the environment, creates huge problems for our atmosphere with air pollution, it is also not renewable at a rate which meets demand. Renewable energy is the only solution and could well be a profitable solution! The best way to get power by wind and solar energy, is with readily available parts. For example with a wind power configuration, you will need a wind power generator, which converts wind energy into electric. With solar power, it is with solar panels, which converts light energy into electric. The good news is that even though it can require an initial investment, over the long term the electric works out to be cheap, and will give good results. What are these benefits? Reducing your electrical bill is just one benefit. Don’t consider becoming a millionaire this way, but you may be able to sell some of your excess energy back to the electric company. Good things are happening in the area of alternative energy. Renewable energies are being used in electric companies. Even homeowners are benefiting from renewable energy. I recently became aware that statistics say that the amount of energy transmitted to earth by the sun in an hour is equivalent to the amount of electricity used by the earth in one year. This is huge and the more people that use it, the better for our environment. Grants are now available from the government for eco-friendly home power stations. Even better, every day you use this method of energy, you get a return that will eventually yield pure profit. Think about what it would be like to constantly keep on all of the lights, the TV and household appliances at no cost at all! Renewable energy can do all of that, and it has a positive impact on the environment. This method of money making may not fetch you huge sum of money but the fact that it doesn’t affect the environment in anyway will certainly attract you. So what do you need? The main cost comes down to the main parts. For example with solar power it is solar panels, whereas with wind energy it is wind power generators. The cost is relative to your need. So more energy requirements will require either bigger solar panels, or more of them. With wind power generators, it could be a bigger generator or again owning several smaller ones.
Sep 3, 2012 Energy Talks
Several technologies have been proposed that hope to harnessing wind power from high altitudes. Two basic approaches have been proposed. The mechanical energy can be transmitted from high altitude to the Earth’s surface, where generators would produce the electricity at the ground or electricity could be generated aloft and transmitted to the surface using the tether.
Most concepts are still at an early stage of development, in which patents have been obtained. But neither business entities nor commercial-scale prototypes exist. No high-altitude wind power technology to date has produced a prototype that has been tested long enough to provide a solid record of electricity generation and associated costs.
But the lure is powerful. The jet streams, even with seasonal movements are relatively persistent features of the mid-latitudes in both global hemispheres. The total wind energy in the jet streams is roughly 100 times the global energy demand. The abundance, strength, and relative consistency make jet stream winds particularly interesting in wind power development. It’s a huge resource and it is accessible, even though a giant engineering problem.
Now twenty-eight years of wind data from the reanalysis by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the Department of Energy have been analyzed and interpolated to study geographical distributions and persistency of winds at all altitudes. The intermittency issues and global climate effects of large-scale extraction of energy from high-altitude winds have been investigated. Cristina L. Archer at the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, California State University in Chico and Ken Caldeira at the Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford whose paper “Global Assessment of High Altitude Wind Power” covers the reanalysis with some interesting points.
As noted the technology is barely past conception stage. One mechanical concept the authors look at is the KiteGen. KiteGen consists of tethered airfoils (kites) connected to a ground-based generator with two lines, which are pulled and released by a control unit [4-6]. The energy generated during the traction phase is greater than the energy needed in the recovery phase. A single unit of 100 square meters is expected to generate 620 kW of electricity. Arrays of several kites can be arranged in a carousel configuration around a circular rail for electricity generation of up to 100 MW. This approach appears most suitable for the lowest few kilometers of the atmosphere.
The design proposed by Sky Windpower has four rotors mounted on an airframe, tethered to the ground via insulated aluminum conductors wound with Kevlar-type cords. The rotors both provide lift and power electric generation. The aircraft can be lofted with supplied electricity to reach the desired altitude, but then can generate up to 40 MW of power, with angles of up to 50° into the wind. Multiple high altitude wind turbines (rotorcrafts) could be arranged in arrays for large scale electricity generation. For this approach, the aim would be to capture energy closer to the jet streams.
The sharp reader will quickly realize that as the altitude increases the density of the air decreases so lessening the power of the wind. The authors give a good rendition of the mathematics and the formulas needed to assess the potential power available. That point is covered, and the results still offer lots of power to harvest.
The authors even briefly cover the interference with aviation.
The researchers found that the regions best suited for harvesting this energy match with population centers in the eastern U.S. and East Asia, but the fluctuations in wind strength still present a challenge for exploiting this energy source on a large scale. Ken Caldeira says, “There is a huge amount of energy available in high altitude winds. These winds blow much more strongly and steadily than near-surface winds, but you need to go get up miles to get a big advantage. Ideally, you would like to be up near the jet streams, around 30,000 feet.”
Jet streams are meandering belts of fast winds at altitudes between 20 and 50,000 feet that shift seasonally, but otherwise are persistent features in the atmosphere. Jet stream winds are generally steadier and 10 times faster than winds near the ground, making them a potentially a vast and dependable source of energy. This is truly competition for ground based wind turbines.
Cristina Archer says, “We found the highest wind power densities over Japan and eastern China, the eastern coast of the United States, southern Australia, and north-eastern Africa. The median values in these areas are greater than 10 kilowatts per square meter. This is unthinkable near the ground, where even the best locations have usually less than one kilowatt per square meter.” The analysis assessments included the high altitude wind energy for the world’s five largest cities: Tokyo, New York, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Mexico City. “For cities that are affected by polar jet streams such as Tokyo, Seoul, and New York, the high-altitude resource is phenomenal,” said Archer. “New York, which has the highest average high-altitude wind power density of any U.S. city, has an average wind power density of up to 16 kilowatts per square meter.” Now that’s like 16 100-watt bulbs in just over a square yard. This is serious atmospheric power.
Now for the bad news. Caldeira says, “While there is enough power in these high altitude winds to power all of modern civilization, at any specific location there are still times when the winds do not blow.” But the comparisons with near surface winds doesn’t seem fair, even over the best areas, the wind can be expected to fail about five percent of the time. Yet, this is a big change from being offline 60 or 70 percent of the time.
Caldeira continues, “This means that you either need back-up power, massive amounts of energy storage, or a continental or even global scale electricity grid to assure power availability. So, while high-altitude wind may ultimately prove to be a major energy source, it requires substantial infrastructure.”
Maybe, perhaps even probably. But there is a massive resource overhead and ingenuity isn’t in full play just yet. Five percent or even ten percent down time, with the prospects of energy storage breakthroughs may well blow off Caldeira’s conclusion in the future.
High altitude wind is certainly worthy of more creativity and ingenuity. The current examples look good. Meanwhile the leaders in this field need to be looking into the future issues such as land and airspace rights for starters. One has to know soon if the engineering matures can the technology get airborne at all.
Original post: New Energy and Fuel