Solar energy applications are not just the solar electric panels that convert sunlight to electricity, or the majestic large, spinning, wind turbines we see on the great plains or in offshore clusters. Solar applications also include the use of biomass…..organic materials grown and then processed into fuel or useful products.
Here is what the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] has to say about biomass applications:
- Biofuels — Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation
- Biopower — Burning biomass directly, or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity
- Bioproducts — Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum
Biofuels can be used to supplement our energy sources, replace existing petrochemical energy sources, reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy, and reduce the environmental impact/greenhouse gas emissions of petrochemical energy use.
Every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up a dollar, it costs the Navy $31 million in extra fuel costs. The U.S. military is very interested in alternative fuels — in particular, the wood-based biofuels being researched and produced at the University of Maine. Check out this amazing process.
Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine holding a bottle of biofuel made from wood materials. This biofuel can be used as is as a substitute for heating oil or refined a bit more for use as a premium transportation fuel/jet fuel.
It is fascinating to remember Thomas Edison experimented with biomass back in the late 1920s, trying to find common plant materials that could be processed to become a viable substitute for rubber. In his painstaking years of work, Edison and his staff evaluated about 17,000 candidate plant species, to develop a giant cross-bred goldenrod plant that could grow as tall as 12 feet; and whose structure contained about 12% rubber. In 1927, Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone formed the Edison Botanic Research Corporation of Fort Myers. Plants were collected in Florida and throughout the southern United States by field collectors. Plants were grown under controlled conditions in Florida and at Edison’s laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey.
Editor’s Deep Dive:
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Thomas Edison said … “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”
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