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Alternative Energy Souces For Lee County sample essay

Introduction

The United States of America is constantly searching out newer and more efficient sources of energy. Reliance on foreign sources of energy poses a threat to the American people. Lee County, Florida is also doing its part to implement new and more efficient sources of energy. The rate at which the American population consumes the traditional sources of energy will soon outpace the amount of energy that can be generated.

In a study prepared by Johnson Engineering for the Lee County Board of Commissioners, various sources of energy production were researched. According to this study there are three useful steps that can be taken to improve energy production:

1) Evaluate the Real Resource Situation, in this way, we can avoid being misled by erroneous forecasts promulgated by international organizations that are under political pressures;
Educate Users. Undertake a massive program of public education, so that everyone may become more energy-conscious and find ways to be less wasteful. Eventually, an efficiency factor could be incorporated into utility and fuel changes to penalize the wasteful and encourage the efficient. The transport system, in particular demands urgent attention; and
Ramp up Renewable Energy. Encourage and promote the rapid development of renewable energies from, solar, biomass, tide, wind, hydro, and other sources, including the growing of energy crops (Johnson Engineering, p. 3).

There are seven renewable energy sources that can be utilized by Lee County, Florida. They are Biomass, Solar, Hydropower, Tidal, Wind, Hydrogen, and Geo-Thermal. Each of these sources must be researched and analyzed individually in order to determine which source or which combination of sources would best meet the needs of Lee County Florida. Each of these resources will be evaluated on efficiency and cost.

Biomass

According to the United States Department of Energy, Biomass is the single renewable resource that has the potential to supplant our use of liquid transportation fuels now and help create a more stable energy future. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines biomass as energy, organic matter, especially plant matter, that can be converted to fuel and is therefore regarded as a potential energy source. Biomass will be converted to biodiesel and have the most affect on the transportation industry.

Currently a billion tons of biomass is being converted into a renewable source of energy, but in order to keep up with energy demands an additional seven billion tons will need to be converted in the coming years (Johnson Engineering, p. 13). Converting biomass into renewable energy will have a positive affect on Lee County’s economy as well as reduce the dependence on foreign energy sources. There are many different types of land in Lee County that can be used for biomass production. 20/20 Conservation sites can be used as well as citrus lands, future agricultural exempt lands, and forest lands (Johnson Engineering, p. 43).

Solar

Solar energy is a process of harvesting sunlight given off by the sun’s radiation (Johnson Engineering, p. 7). There are a number of ways to convert energy from the sun into renewable solar energy. One of the main methods utilized is the use of solar cell systems which can convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity. Solar energy is primarily used for landscaping and architectural features. Solar energy can be used in the commercial and residential sectors by regulating the air inside the structures.

There are currently five main solar energy programs in the state of Florida. They are:
The Front Porch Sunshine Program;
The SunBuilt Program;
The SunSmart School Program;
The Zero Energy Homes Program; and
The New Smyrna Beach Program.

The Front Porch Sunshine Program provides solar water heaters to be installed in low-income weatherized houses in order to improve the quality of life for low income families. There is no cost to the consumer for the solar water heater. This program is a part of Governor Bush’s community revitalization initiative. Program recipients save 50-80% of their water heating costs (Johnson Engineering, p. 13).

The SunBuilt Program partners with the Department of Environmental Protection, The Florida Home Builders Association, and the Florida Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation to provide rebate checks to home builders who choose to install solar water heaters in their new homes (Johnson Engineering, p. 13).

Florida’s SunSmart School Program has installed 29 solar electric systems throughout the state and encourages all Florida schools to use the free supply of sunshine to light the classrooms rather than using electricity. This program also offers scientific and solar energy education to children throughout Florida’s schools (Johnson Engineering, p 14).

The first Zero Energy Home was built in Lakeland, Florida in 1998. The United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have partnered together to continue designing and building zero energy homes throughout the country (Johnson Engineering, p 14).

The New Smyrna Beach program utilizes the Zero Energy Home design. A newly built duplex with two units features a highly reflective metal roof and light colored exterior walls. The active solar components of the home provide energy to displace the power used from the local utility and create a zero net draw from the utility (Johnson Engineering, p 14).

Hydropower

The term hydropower refers to hydroelectric power which converts water into a renewable energy source. Integral Aqua Systems, LLC has received a grant to begin work on a project entitled “Florida Tidal Hydropower System.” Discussions are currently being held on how to effectively use hydropower in Florida as well as in Lee County with the emphasis being on the Caloosoahatchee River. According to the United States Department of Energy, the state of Florida is vastly underutilizing its hydropower potential.

Hydropower works in conjunction with a cycle called the Hydrologic Cycle. During the Hydrologic Cycle, water moves through a vast global cycle, in which it evaporates from lakes and oceans, forms clouds, precipitates as rain or snow, the flows back to the ocean. The energy of this water cycle, which is driven by the sun, is tapped most efficiently with hydropower (Idaho National Laboratory, 2005).

Tidal- Offshore Wind and Waves

There are three ways to use the ocean’s power for energy:
Wave Energy;
Tidal Energy; and
Ocean Thermal Energy.

Tidal Energy used in conjunction with hydropower technologies. Using these two methods in conjunction with each other involves erecting a dam and trapping the water. In order for this method of energy to be effective a 16 feet difference between high and low tide must exist. There are very few places in the world where this phenomenon occurs. However, power plants in these areas are utilizing these methods with great success.

In the absence of a 16 feet difference between high and low tide, there are two main types of tidal power. Tidal Stream Systems can make use of the kinetic energy from the moving water currents to power turbines, in the same way that windmills use moving air. Utilizing tidal stream systems is a low cost method to generating power and is gaining popularity. Another method of using barrages to tap into the potential energy from the difference in height of the tide. However, as mentioned previously this only works well when there is a 16 feet difference from high tide to low tide.

Wind

Wind can be defined as the conversion of wind energy into useful forms, such as electricity, using wind turbines. A wind turbine is a machine that converts kinetic energy from air movement into mechanical energy. Developing a plan to utilize wind energy more effectively in Florida would be beneficial because the theoretical wind energy from a hurricane is about one half the total world electrical generating capacity. As the cost of wind energy continues to decline, Lee County will be able to utilize this source of energy more efficiently.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen can be defined as a colorless, odorless, flammable gas that combines chemically with oxygen to form water (Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2006). Hydrogen by itself is an energy carrier not an energy source. Pure hydrogen never stands alone on earth and must be produced through fossil fuel or biomass. The most common use for hydrogen in the United States is industrial processes, like making petroleum. However, the United States department of Energy is developing an energy source called the fuel cell that will utilize hydrogen and reduce dependence on foreign energy sources.

The fuel cell converts the chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity and heat. Inside a fuel cell, hydrogen electrochemically combines with oxygen from the air to create electricity, with pure water and potentially useful heat as the only byproducts. Thus fuel cells are virtually pollution free. (US Department of Energy, 2007). In the future, fuel cells have the potential to generate energy to run cars, houses, and industrial plants.

Geo-Thermal Energy

Geo-Thermal Energy refers to the heat from the earth. The earth’s interior generates heat, and gives us power that we can use without causing pollution. Geo-Thermal Heat is utilized through Geo-Thermal Power Plants. According to the Geo-Thermal Education Office, there are three types of Geo-Thermal Power Plants:
A “dry stream” reservoir;
A geothermal reservoir that produces mostly hot water with temperatures ranging from 300-700 degrees Fahrenheit; and
A “binary power plant” with temperatures ranging from 250-360 degrees Fahrenheit.

A “dry stream” reservoir produces mostly steam. The steam is pumped through a pipe into a power plant in order to provide enough force to spin the turbine generator. A geothermal reservoir that produces hot water with temperatures ranging from 300-700 degrees Fahrenheit is also called a “hot water reservoir.” The water is brought up through a deep production well and piped into a separator where the steam from the hot water can then power the turbines. A “binary power plant” the water is not hot enough to produce steam that will spin the turbines. The water is passed through a heat exchanger and transferred into a secondary liquid that will boil at a lower temperature. When the liquid has boiled, the steam is then used to spin the turbine.

In addition to using Geo-Thermal Energy in health spas, hot springs, and farms, the United States also uses Geo-Thermal Heat Pumps. These pumps use very little electricity and is utilized by over 300,000 homes, schools, and businesses in the United States to control air temperature inside (Geothermal Education Office, 2000).

Federal Assistance for Lee County, Florida

The United States government has developed initiatives in the last two to three years in order to encourage states to develop solar energy and biomass energy, most specifically. The grants available from these initiatives can be used to plan, conduct research, and provide working capital to develop renewable energy sources. Independent producers, ranchers, and farmers are eligible to apply for these grants.

The 2006 Clean School Bus Funding program was developed by Congress in order to retrofit and/or replace old diesel school buses. Congress allocated $7 million for this project. The funds are issued through the Environmental Protection Agencies regional offices. School districts, state and local government programs, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and non-profit organizations are all eligible applicants (Johnson Engineering, 75).

Florida Energy Act of 2006

In February 2006, Governor Jeb Bush enacted the Florida Energy Act of 2006 which provides $30 million over a four year term for rebates, tax incentives, and grants, in order to increase Florida’s investment in renewable energy sources. According to the Florida Energy Act of 2006 the budget will provide the following (Johnson Engineering, p. 77):
$10 million for development and technology demonstration grants for all renewable energy sources
$2.5 million to provide rebates for consumer purchases of Energy Star Applicances
$2.5 million to provide rebates for solar technologies
$5 million for transportation sales tax exemptions and corporate income tax credits for hydrogen vehicles and clean fuel fueling stations
$2.5 million for sales tax exemptions and corporate income tax credits for hydrogen fuel cells used for supplemental and backup power
$7.5 million for sales tax exemptions and corporate income tax credits for biodiesel and ethanol production.

Recommendations

Johnson Engineering, in their Alternative Renewable Energy Study prepared for the Lee County Board of County Commissioners recommends that Lee County:
Form an Energy Board to study alternative energy applications;
Advance Public Awareness of renewable energy solutions and promote energy education and conservation;
Motivate county government to make an immediate assessment of its future energy needs and to engage in cost saving and environmentally friendly projects; and
To support economic growth and public awareness in Lee County through the development of an Alternative Energy Center (Johnson Engineering p.81-82) .

Conclusions

The United States is heavily reliant on foreign energy sources. However, with the various types of energy available this should not be the case. The first step in relying more on domestic sources of energy is education. Lee County has started the process to educate its people and institute alternative energy sources. Lee County has established an excellent solar energy program and should continue to promote this program as much as possible.

Although some of the energy sources discussed are not as useful as others such as tidal power, fuel cell energy is very useful and should be researched and analyzed more thoroughly. Lee County will reap the benefits of utilizing fuel cell energy. Due to the location of Lee County, Wind power is another source of energy that should be more adequately researched and utilized. The Florida Energy Act of 2006 provides the necessary resources to develop these renewable energy sources and should be taken advantage of.

REFERENCES

Geothermal Education Office. (2000, December 23). Geothermal Facts Introductory. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from http://geothermal.marin.org/pwrheat.html#Q1

Idaho National Laboratory. (2005, July 18). Hydropower. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from http://hydropower.inel.gov/hydrofacts/how_hydro_works.shtml

Johnson Engineering prepared for Lee County Board of Commissioners. (2006, June). Alternative Renewable Energy Study. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from http://www.lee-county.com/publicresources/Alternative_Energy_Report.pdf

Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. (2006).

United States Department of Energy. ( 2007, September) Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technology Program. Retrieved from http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/education/h2iq.html

United States Department of Energy. (2007, November). Biomass Research and Development Initiative. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from http://www.brdisolutions.com/default.aspx

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