U.S. Department of Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy has granted a $43 million loan to a Massachusetts-based company to prove the value of a new technology in which spinning flywheels are used to improve the efficiency of the electric grid. Beacon Power Corp. will build a 20-megawatt flywheel plant in upstate New York in which flywheels spinning up to 16,000 times per minute will act as a sort of short-term power storage system for the state’s electrical distribution system, according to the Associated Press.
A colleague of mine said to me recently, “No energy is clean energy.”
Which got me thinking. Of course, Clean Coal comes to mind. And people love to say that “No coal is clean,” and “Clean Coal is an oxymoron.”
OK, OK. It’s not the best marketing term I’ve ever heard. There is a U.S. Department of Energy program that uses the term, and that program has funded gasification and carbon sequestration projects. So there is such a thing, whatever you want to call it. How about “Clean(er) Coal”?
Then I thought about wind. Big, majestic, white turbines … cutting up birds that fly into them. Whoops. That’s not very clean.
Cellulosic ethanol has been hailed as the next frontier in renewable fuels. After all, most ethanol in the U.S. comes from corn, a staple product in the food chain. Use more corn for ethanol, and you’re bound to drive up food prices. If you’ve seen “King Corn,” you know the score. Corn ethanol also has its problems with energy inputs versus energy outputs. In other words, the benefits can be sketchy.