Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is fusion power an option?

In his TED talk plasma physicist Michel Laberge talks about the state of the art of energy production by nuclear fusion and presents an idea for a new type of nuclear reactor that could produce cheap energy.

There are two types of energy production by nuclear power, fusion and fission. All current productive nuclear power plants are based on the fission technology, which comes with the risk of thermal runaway meltdown and lots of health risks from nuclear waste.
The other type, fusion, is worth a look though. Currently there are no fusion power plants that gain more energy than is used for running the process. However, since fusion processes only take place under high temperatures, a fusion process would stop under a breach of the containment field which makes it less dangerous than fission - at least if you are not in the immediate vicinity of the reactor when this happens. Fusion power will also produce more short-term radioactive material, which will be dangerous for "only" 300 years. In contrast, current nuclear fission power plants produce material that is active for thousands of years.
Still too dangerous? Then let's have the fusion reactor installed 150 million kilometers away in space. It's called the sun.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Energiewende - the Game

"Energiewende" is a computer game about the transition of our energy system from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. The game was developed by Manuel Herold, Matija Kucko, Andrea Monacchi, John N. A. Brown, and Wilfried Elmenreich as contribution to the CROSMOS GameJam. At this event teams had to develop a computer game to a topic just revealed at the contest in just two days - 2014 the topic was related to the services of Stadtwerke Klagenfurt. 

Energiewende - the game
The game Energiewende let's you try out the strategic and tactical aspects of an electrical energy system that is mostly powered by renewable energy sources. Unlike a coal power plant, photovoltaic or wind power plants cannot save fuel in times of low load for using it later. Therefore, it is necessary to plan the distribution and placement of power plants well according to the expected power demands of their users - in the game they are modeled as houses with an energy consumption behavior of typical households. After placing power plants and transmission lines, the game features a real-time mode, where your system is simulated throughout three phases of a day (night/morning, daytime, evening). In case there is not enough energy in one phase, you must prevent a blackout (otherwise you loose the game) by balancing the grid. This is done by turning off devices in the houses. But be aware - user might not like this, especially if you turn off a device the user was about to use right now. A "complain-o-meter" is showing the aggregated dislikings of the users - once the complain-o-meter runs over, the game is lost.
Thus, one learns also about the typical consumption of devices and their potential for balancing the grid. The method shown in the game called demand response is currently a frequently discussed method for the future smart grid.

Got everything? Try out the game by clicking the image above. Have fun!