Why the Earth Does Not Technically Revolve Around the Sun
“Does the Earth really revolve around the sun?”
For the past few centuries it was thought to have been common knowledge that the Earth has revolved around the sun. However, when one looks at the physics closely, it turns out that the Earth does not revolve around the sun, but that it instead revolves around a common center of mass. Not only does the Earth revolve around this common center of mass, but also all of the other planets and even the sun! It just goes to show how a little knowledge of physics can upend one’s worldview.
How Small-Scale Solar is Better Than Large Scale
“How is small-scale solar a cheaper alternative to large-scale grid distribution?”
Conventional wisdom holds that bigger is better. However, this turns out to not hold true in the arena of solar energy. A recent study has shown that when taking transmission and feedback into account, locally generated building-side distributed solar is more cost-effective than its grid-side alternative! Just goes to show the potential of renewable energy.
“How can we have convection occur without having to input any energy?”
Heat can be transferred in a fluid medium using convection. An easy way to induce this is to use a power source to move some mechanical equipment, whether it be a fan or a pump. However, can convection occur without any external input? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to solve this problem. We know that if we heat up a fluid, then its molecules will move around faster. And if molecules move around faster in a gas, then the gas will become less dense. And if one region of a gas is less dense than another, part of that gas will move in to cover it. This way, we can create what scientists and engineers call Natural Convection. Natural Convection is the main mechanism behind everyday phenomena such as air circulation and radiators.
Offshore Wind and Energy Storage
“Why are offshore wind companies looking to expand into energy storage?”
The Wind Energy industry is making massive investments into energy storage, and the offshore sector is no exception. In Northern Europe and the Northeastern United States, where the brunt of the offshore market is located, winter time can bring incredibly low temperatures, which make people consume more energy by turning on heaters. By adding battery storage to the offshore wind, this increased demand can be readily satisfied and everyone will be able to stay warm in the winter!
“What were the predecessors of battery storage systems?”
Although battery storage is all the rage nowadays, there is an older predecessor to handle extra demand on the grid. These machines were like power plants, except that they only came on in times of need! They were called peaker plants, and their electricity tends to be more expensive due to their off-cycle nature.
“How can we tie wind energy to energy storage?”
Wind energy has long been one of the reigning champions of renewable energy. However, during peak generation, much of the new power made goes wasted. So how can we use our engineering mindsets to solve this problem? Well, if we take a page from the recent developments in Solar+Storage Systems, and attach battery systems to wind farms? This is known as Wind-Plus-Storage and is one of the hottest topics in renewable energy in 2018.
A Device to Pull Water Straight From Thin Air
“Is it possible to pull water straight from thin air?”
Water is one of the most vital components to many natural and industrial processes, whether it be keeping humans hydrated, running HVAC systems, or growing food. However, in many desert areas, water is extremely hard to come by. So how can we use our scientific mindset to solve this problem? Well, a team of chemists at UC Berkeley and MIT recently used a class of porous materials known as metal-organic frameworks to build a sheet that can absorb water vapor during the night, hold it during the day, and use the sun’s rays to release some vapor and siphon it to a condenser to create usable water! This system uses 3 liters of water per day for every kilogram of sponge-like absorber it contains and holds much promise to revolutionize access to basic drinking water.
Regional Differences in Electric Vehicle Charging Load
“How does Electric Vehicle Charging vary between regions?”
When we think of electric vehicle charging, we often think that it should be uniformly distributed within a utility’s area. However, nothing can be further from reality. Take for example the Northern Californian giant Pacific Gas and Electric. Within their region of coverage, cities such as Fresno have only a 2.4 hybrid vehicle penetration rate for new cars while in Berkeley that number climbs to 18 percent. As a result, when making choices about the future of our grid, we must take into account regional differences in electric vehicle charging load.
How Microgrids Can Help Communities Recover From Disasters
“How can we use microgrids to help communities recover from natural disasters?”
Communities all over the world are in danger of natural disasters. Whether it be the fires in California or the hurricane that recently Puerto Rico. However, how can we use our engineering mindset to help people endure these mishaps? Well, one of the most common problems with natural disasters is electricity generation or lack thereof. But with the advent of distributed resources and microgrids, communities can create their own energy and even sell it to one another! Therefore, distributed resources and microgrids to help communities recover from natural disasters.