September 26, 2008

New Power Generation

By Badiru, Adedeji

Energy requirements planning must drive future product development ENERGY IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF commerce, industry, services - essentially all that we do, so we cannot afford to be lackadaisical about energy issues. Energy consciousness and awareness have heightened dramatically in recent times due to price escalation in several sectors of the economy. Our energy-intensive economy is feeling the pinch from all corners; therefore, managing energy effectively is of paramount importance in every organization and every nation. It has become necessary to optimize decisions relating to energy exploration, production, distribution and consumption. The combined disciplines of industrial engineering and operations research offer proven mathematical and managerial approaches to model and manage energy decisions and systems.

The prevailing concern about gasoline cost is the most noticeable aspect of the energy predicament. Figure 1 presents a plot of oil prices per barrel for 1986 through 2006. The trend of price escalation is quite evident in the plot. Statisticians are often cautious about extrapolation, but the realities of actual oil prices today perfectly match the trend that the 1986 to 2006 plot portends. In 1986, not many observers thought that prices would cross the $100 threshold so soon. We are all believers now!

According to the strategic plan of the U.S. Department of Energy, reliable and affordable energy is central to our economic and national security. Rapid economic growth, especially in the developing world, is expected to increase world energy consumption by more than 50 percent by 2025. There is consequently an urgent need to enhance energy supply, improve energy efficiency and modernize energy infrastructure, while addressing environmental and climate changes in order to meet the challenges that exist today and those that will ensue in the future.

In terms of consumption magnitude, by the year 2050, the world population will have increased from 6.5 billion to 9.2 billion. This represents a tremendous growth in human activities, all requiring new energy-intensive products and services. By that time, world energy demand will nearly double. Can we produce enough to meet this massive demand? World energy production for 2005 is shown in Figure 2, and a review for 2006 is illustrated in Figure 3. The plot shows that more efforts should be directed at alternate sources of energy production.

In order to mitigate the increasing gap between production and consumption, we must pay closer attention to energy requirements of new products in addition to embracing conventional conservation practices. Industrial engineers can positively influence product design through energy requirements planning.

Global aspects of energy

Energy is what makes the world and everything it contains work. Newton's law of conservation of momentum and energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can, however, be converted from one form to another, be it locally or elsewhere. This confirms that everything is interconnected, in a systemic way, around the energy-hungry world. For example, many stock market problems can be traced to energy cost volatility. Unfortunately, we cannot just go out and "create" more energy for domestic needs.

Figure 1. Plot of oil prices per barrel for 1986 to 2006

Recent energy-related events around the world have heightened the need to have full understanding of energy issues, from basic scientific characteristics and consumption patterns to conservation practices. Tragic examples can be seen in fuel-scavenging practices that turn deadly in many energy impoverished parts of the world. In May 2006, more that 200 people died when a gasoline pipeline exploded in Nigeria while poor villagers were illegally tapping into the pipeline to obtain the much-needed fuel.

Similar energy-induced disasters have occurred again and again in different parts of the world. These catastrophes illustrate a major lack of understanding of the physical volatility and social unpredictability of many energy issues. This is a global challenge that we must all rise up to address cohesively. In these days of global connectivity, everything is intertwined: energy, the economy, housing, food prices and so on. Slumps and escalation in many of these factors are showing up simultaneously now. In developing countries, a larger portion of household expenditures is directed at the most inflation-sensitive commodities: food and energy. This eventually gets tied to price escalations in the developed countries due to increasing cost of production around the world.

Figure 2. Energy production in 2005 divided by source of energy. Courtesy Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy

Even if, as engineers, we are already versed in the science of energy, new reinforcement in the social context of the present energy crisis will be informative. We must understand the inherent scientific characteristics of energy in order to appreciate the perilous future that we face.

There are two basic forms of energy: kinetic energy and potential energy. Kinetic energy is found in anything that is in motion (e.g., waves, electrons, atoms, molecules and physical objects). Anything that moves produces kinetic energy, but what makes it move requires its own source of energy. Electrical energy is the movement of electrical charges. Radiant energy is electromagnetic energy traveling in waves. Radiant energy includes light, X-rays, gamma rays and radio waves. Solar energy is an example of radiant energy. Motion energy is the movement of objects and substances from one place to another. Wind is an example of motion energy. Thermal or heat energy is the vibration and movement of matter (atoms and molecules inside a substance).

Potential energy represents energy content by virtue of gravitational position as well as stored energy. For example, energy due to fuel, food and elevation (gravity) represents potential energy. Chemical energy is energy derived from atoms and molecules contained in materials. Petroleum and natural gas are examples of chemical energy. Mechanical energy is the energy stored in a material by the application of force. Compressed springs and stretched rubber bands are examples of stored mechanical energy. Nuclear energy is stored in the nucleus of an atom.

When we ordinarily talk about conserving energy, we often refer to reducing our consumption in order to save energy. As an automobile engine burns gasoline (a form of chemical energy), it is transformed from the chemical form to a mechanical form. When energy is converted from one form to another, a useful portion of it is always lost because no conversion process is perfectly efficient. It is the objective of energy engineers to minimize that loss by putting the loss into another useful form. Therein lies the need to use industrial engineering and operations research techniques to model mathematically the interaction of variables in an energy system in order to achieve an optimized combination of energy resources for product energy requirements, particularly new products.

Harnessing natural energy

It is a physical fact that there is abundant energy in the world. It is just a matter of meeting technical requirements to convert it into useful and manageable forms, from one source to another. For example, every second, the sun converts 600 million tons of hydrogen into 596 million tons of helium through nuclear fusion. The remaining 4 million tons of hydrogen is converted into energy in accordance with Einstein's theory of relativity, which famously states that E = mc^sup 2^, where E represents energy, m represents mass of matter and c represents speed of light.

Figure 3. BP's statistical review of world energy in 2006

This equation says that energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. That is, they are fundamentally the same thing. The equation confirms that a very large amount of energy can be released quickly from an extremely small amount of matter. This is why atomic weapons are so powerful and effective. The theory of relativity is also the basic principle behind the way the sun gives off energy, by converting matter into energy. What the sun produces is a lot of energy that equates to 40,000 watts per square inch on the visible surface of the sun. This can be effectively harnessed for use on Earth, and it accounts for the ongoing push to install more solar systems to meet our energy needs.

Although Earth receives only onehalf of a billionth of the sun's energy; this still offers sufficient potential for harnessing. Comprehensive technical, quantitative and qualitative analysis will be required to achieve widespread harnessing around the world. Industrial engineering and operations research can play an important role in that energy pursuit. The future of energy will involve several integrative decision scenarios involving the following technical and managerial issues:

* point-of-use generation

* co-generation systems

* micro-power generation systems

* energy supply transitions

* coordination of energy alternatives

* global energy competition

* green power generation systems

* integrative harnessing of sun, wind and water energy sources

* energy generation, transformation, transmission, distribution, storage and consumption across global boundaries * socially responsible negawatt systems

Negawatt power is a term that was introduced by Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in a renewable energy speech in 1989 to encourage reduction in consumption practices. The idea of negawatt is to invest in reducing electricity demand instead of investing to increase electricity generation capacity. This method can meet the desired growth of energy supply by improving the efficiency of existing electrical equipment rather than by building new power stations. In other words, energy savings amount to virtual energy generation. The energy, thus freed, can be hypothetically traded as units of energy.

The assertion in this present article is that the concept of energy use reduction can be further "practicalized" by embedding negawatt design into new products. For that reason, this article offers a new term, designer wattage savings, to represent energy savings achieved through better product design. This term calls for product designers to leverage technological advances in renewable energy such as wind and solar systems to improve energy requirement attributes of new products.

Product design and energy policy

We must conduct energy audits not just for the sake of cost. In addition to saving energy and money, we should consider the long- term impacts of energy on everyday transportation, service operations, manufacturing and construction activities. Prevailing government and commercial policies impinge directly on those activities and must be taken into account in product design decisions. When designing new products, we should consider energy- efficiency characteristics of the elemental components that go into the products. Issues such as energy sustainability and product resilience should be paramount in the product design process.

Several companies and notable individuals are already making a push in this direction. The emergence of new concept products from General Motors in hybrid, battery-powered and hydrogen-powered vehicles are moving in a positive direction. A collective approach is needed to address the widespread energy challenges that can be summarized into the three major areas:

* Generation: fossil, fission, fusion, renewable, safety, security, energy independence

* Distribution: transmission technology, hydrogen, distributed energy sources, market

* Consumption: transportation, buildings, industry, product requirements, conservation, energy diversification

Product design and policy issues must be urgently addressed for the above categories of challenges. Most of our efforts and rhetoric have been directed at conservation. But beyond conservation lies the need to address energy consumption at the root-cause product-design level. Recommendations for conserving energy include the following:

* Convert to fluorescent lighting as opposed to incandescent lighting.

* Use ceiling fans as an alternative to air conditioning.

* Solar-dry clothes and reduce the use of electric dryers.

* Recycle, reuse and reduce energy-hungry products.

* Endure more discomfort by lowering the thermostat (if air conditioner must run).

* Drive less, walk more and enjoy the concomitant benefit of getting in shape.

We are reminded often that small changes can make a big impact on energy consumption. It is obvious that long-term sustainable energy citizenship can be better achieved by embedding control into the products directly and reducing discretionary action on the part of energy users. We need more energy requirement planning at the product design level. The industrial technique of material requirement planning offers a good platform for developing energy use for new products. Basic expectations of consumers may have to be modified. Based on the energy realities of today, what we need are energy-prudent products rather than fully loaded products. When products have to be fully loaded, designers must be cognizant of the energy requirements of the products.

Energy is one of the biggest challenges facing humankind today, and it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Energy is an all-encompassing commodity that touches everyone, and we must all work tirelessly to ensure a secure energy future. While we often focus on what energy costs, there are other metrics of concern. Beyond cost, product energy requirement planning should address source, sustainability, cleanliness, green-ness, supply, distribution and peak use. While the die is already cast for existing products, future products can still be rescued through effective energy requirement planning. Industrial engineering should be at the forefront of this endeavor.

Adedeji Badiru is a professor and head of the Department of Systems and Engineering Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is a senior member and fellow of IIE. He was previously professor of industrial engineering and director of the Center for Industrial Development Research at the University of Tennessee.

Copyright Institute of Industrial Engineers-Publisher Sep 2008

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