The Science of Power Generation
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Thanks to Vincent Burke and Jennifer Malat at the Johns Hopkins Univer-sity Press for ensuring the smooth transition of this book from conceptionto production. Thanks to Carolyn Moser, once again, for her expert copy-editing. I am grateful to Dr. Charlotte Geier for permission to reproduceTwo oil experts generously contributed their time and expertise to answer-...
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This book is about energy and power—the kind that we need to heat ourhouses and light our streets, to get us from A to B, and to drive our indus-tries. Power generation is a relatively recent problem historically because thehuman need for power was minimal until the Industrial Revolution. Nowa-days it is, and is rightly seen to be, a formidable and perhaps overwhelming...
1 Newton’s Legacy
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...‘‘Energy is not a material thing,’’ a physicist of the late nineteenth centurymight have said. Einstein would demur at this statement, and because ofhim, the physicists of later times think di√erently. Material or not, energy isa property of objects—a characteristic with a well-defined meaning. Ournineteenth-century physicist was not wholly ignorant about the subject,...
2 What All the World Wants
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In the early days of the first Industrial Revolution in England at the end of theeighteenth century—a time when mankind was on the cusp of changing theworld—a far-sighted and savvy businessman liked to show visitors aroundhis new Birmingham factory. Matthew Boulton possessed a gambler’s in-stinct, and he bet heavily on a young Scottish engineer called James Watt. The...
3 The Vital Spark
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Electricity is the medium, not the message. It is the vehicle through whichpower is transferred very rapidly, and quite e≈ciently, from generating plantto user. We saw in chapter 1 that electrical power is not readily stored butthat it moves quickly. Electric current is the common currency of power,readily converted as needed. Indeed, current and currency have the same...
4 Old King Coal
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Coal has a black image. Just as some people hate cigarettes but depend onthem, so humans for centuries have had a love-hate relationship with coal.Coal mining and coal burning are dirty, unhealthful, ugly, bad for the en-vironment, and vital for industry. Coal kills people at every stage of theirinvolvement with it, from extraction to combustion, yet it has kept them...
5 The Seven Sisters—Old and New
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In chapter 2 we saw something of the oil industry’s past; here, I examine inmore detail its present and future. Oil is our biggest single source of energy,as we saw in figure 2.6. Most of this energy is used for transportation, andalmost all transportation is fueled by oil. Natural gas—often but not alwaysassociated with oil for geological reasons—is the world’s second most signifi-...
6 Water, Water, Everywhere
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We move on from fossil fuels and consider our first renewable source ofenergy: hydroelectric power. Hydro is by far the best-developed, most ma-ture technology for generating electricity from a renewable resource, andthis fact is reflected in the figures: worldwide, hydro is responsible for 99%Globally, installed hydro capacity is currently something like 890 GW,...
7 Too Cheap to Meter
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Although nuclear power is technically not a renewable resource, it is oftenconsidered such because the fuel reserves are enough to last for much longerthan the reserves of other power generation technologies—anywhere from80 years at the low end of estimates to millions of years at the high end. Thefigure you hear depends on whom you talk to and upon what they include...
8 Here Comes the Sun
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The main renewable energy sources are wind power and solar power—thesubjects with which we begin this final chapter. We start o√ with a survey ofwind power technology and capabilities. You might reasonably wonder whywind power should fall under this chapter title. In fact, winds are driven bysolar power.1 We then consider again the possibilities of solar power, which...
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When two people disagree fundamentally, we know that at least one of themmust be wrong. When experts disagree, the rest of us can only make edu-cated guesses as to what is right. In this book I have quoted several experts onthe subject of energy and future energy sources and have investigated thesubject from the semidetached point of view of a scientifically trained out-...
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 23 halftones, 29 line drawings
Publication Year: 2013