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Su Young Lee - Engineering

Renewable Energy Assignment year 10

1. Why use alternative energy systems to generate electricity? Alternative energy sources
could include hydro, solar, wind tidal/wave, geothermal, human. If the current
alternatives such as coal and gas are problematic, why not stop using them straight away?

Alternative energy are sources of energy that do not encompass the use of coal, gas, or
fossil fuels. These sources of energy are still today, widely used around the globe to
generate electricity, run our cars, and pretty much everything.

Reasons to use these alternative energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind, tidal/wave,
geothermal and human energies are because:
- they are entirely sustainable
- environmentally sound
- will not continue the harm caused by global warming that coal and gas have done
through the large amounts of carbon dioxide/ monoxide that has gone into the
atmosphere through the burning of these materials.
- They will never run out, as wind, heat from earth (geothermal), waves are infinite
whereas coal or gas might one day run out.
- Compared to burning fossil fuels, even nuclear power stations give out a fraction of
the green house gases.

However, now that we know that the burning of these fossil fuels are problematic, we still
rely on them because they are the cheapest, and most efficient way that has worked for
decades to sustain the human populations thirst for electricity. Furthermore, to change
immediately to alternative energy sources would cost governments around the world
trillions of dollars to set up an alternative energy system that produced the same amount of
electricity as what the fossil fuels do now. And for this reason, there is not much government
initiative or support for systems such as tidal systems.

A reason for the lack of change is because for the moment there is no dire need to change, i.e.
there is still an ample supply of coal being mined out of the ground to supply the worlds
power. And the concept of if it works, leave it.

A recent example of this is in the United Kingdom, where according to an article, plants for
green tidal power axed as eight nuclear power stations announced, by Jason Beattie, listed
that a 10 mile tidal barrage would only meet 5% of UKs energy needs in perspective to its
massive 30 billion pound cost.

Another example of lacking government support to alternative energies is Australia; being
one of the countries who relies almost solely on fossil fuels to power its cities, rejects many
plans for investment into wave energy systems and photovoltaic cells. This is despite
Australias great coastline and constant sunlight.

2. Complete a short case study on the use of an alternative energy source for an
industrial/commercial application.

Alternative Energy sources such as extracting methane out of a landfill to run electricity and
heating needs. This is exactly what happened to a school in the USA, Antioch Community
High school which was situated next to a rubbish dump about to be closed. However, there
still needs to be management of the gases that are produced, usually, it would be burnt or

Su Young Lee - Engineering
The school administrator saw the landfill next to their school as an opportunity to use the
gases produced by the landfill instead of wasting it to burning, to produce electricity and
heating needs including water, for the high school. Furthermore to this, it would provide the
students a hands-on experience of how the future of alternative energy systems is about and
great savings to the schools electricity bills.

After the agreements with their local council to gain rights to use the former landfill to take
the methane, they planned on how it would work. It was a big investment of 1.9 million
dollars to have the whole system of collection of gas to converting to be able to use it
for heating and electricity.

The process of turning the raw methane gas into usable natural gas is quite a complex process
because of the many factors which are placed on the landfill such as the variable amount of
methane which will be produced, in which different engines may not be able to run on. For
example, a large turbine will need large amounts of methane to work. Therefore, the schools
plan was to change the turbines every so often so they can get the most out of the gases in the
landfill and continue to use the almost free gases.

The amazing thing about this very innovative investment is that yes, they did spend 1.9
million dollars initially, however, over 20 years, they will get net returns of over 1.5million,
meaning they make profit from it, which could be used to help the school in other
technological facilities.

This daring project has even attracted the attention of the EPA? Which says that this has
turned a liability into a very important asset.

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