The affect federal subsidies have had on advancing geothermal power development and "fat energy"—the amount of energy required to maintain obese Americans at their excess weight—are among the energy news stories covered in this ongoing feature.
Tax breaks and U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees have advanced the development of geothermal power.
ILLUSTRATION: SLAVOMIR VALIGURSKY/FOTOLIA
The following energy news stories were drawn from multiple sources.
Enormous growth in U.S. geothermal development has resulted from tax breaks included in the National Energy Act and loan guarantees provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Utility companies in the West have already developed "earth power" plants, and the DOE has discovered a promising geothermal source for the East Coast in the Delaware/Maryland peninsula.
Fat people eat up energy, according to two researchers at the University of Illinois. The pair's calculations show that there are 850 million pounds of excess fat on American men and 1.5 billion on the women of this country. The fossil fuel energy required to provide the food calories to maintain this extra body weight would more than supply the annual residential electrical demands of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, or fuel about 900,000 autos each year!
The Windjammer 475—billed as "the most powerful private wind turbine now operating in the United States"—is a prime attraction at the 150-acre Dorney Amusement Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This 101-foot-tall generator with four 75-foot blades has a maximum power output of 225,000 watts, enough to handle an estimated 10-15% of the park's total electric needs! Plans are also underway to use the big turbine to power pumps which will supply the park's extra water needs during the summer months. School groups have been visiting the site for free lectures on alternative energy.
Sun-of-a-gun! The Pentagon's 1979 Military Construction Authorization bill requires the incorporation of optimum solar systems in all new military housing, and in 25% of other new "defense" facilities. This ruling is expected to pour $100 million into the solar products industry each year.
A homemade heater—which warms 35 gallons of water in a fireplace and then circulates it through copper pipes—kept contractor Steve Sizemore's three-bedroom house in Bethany, Ohio at a comfortable 70°F during this past winter. With most of the materials purchased at cost and the family doing all the labor, the heating system—which loses about a quart. of water a day—cost only $400.
"A Building in the Sun," a documentary film about an environmentally designed building (it uses solar energy for heat, hot water, and light!) is available to the public for rent or sale from Griffen Productions. The 20-minute color production focuses on the Plant Science Building owned by the Cary Arboretum of New York's Botanical Garden, which is the largest privately financed solar structure in the Northeast.
We just heard it, but last July a stranded boater looking for help climbed a fence at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear facility. He made his way into the plant, knocked on two doors, and finally surprised two guards at their posts. Is it any wonder that this (and other!) nuclear installations have been criticized for lax security?
An energy education packet—which includes more than 25 simple student projects—teaches elementary and secondary students about different forms of renewable resources: sun, wind, water, and biomass. These reading lessons and background supplies ($3.95 each), produced in response to over 70,000 requests for such material, are available from the Center for Renewable Resources.
Sunflower power! In Fargo, North Dakota Paul Gunkelman produces logs from the shells of sunflower seeds, a material which up to now has been thought unusable for any practical purpose. Gunkelman reports that compressed seed-logs will burn for about an hour and produce about 8,500 Btu's apiece.
A pessimistic congressional research service report recently stated: "Under the worst conditions, failure to design and implement an energy policy in the United States could endanger the nation's security, the world's monetary system, and international economic growth ... and could eventually shake the very social and political foundations of the nations of the free world."
A solar society in 50 years is the goal of the Solar Lobby, and that group describes just how such a change can be brought about in their new booklet, Blueprint for a Solar America .... Reduced nighttime lighting has actually been shown to lower crime rates ... A "hidden conservation movement" was blamed (by the utility industry's trade journal Electrical Wor1d) for the fact that last summer's expected 6% increase in peak power demands never materialized .... For information on low-interest loans to assist veterans in the purchase of solar energy systems, contact the Veterans Administration ... Also, the Small Business Administration has broad authorization to provide direct loans and loan guarantees to those who wish to start a solar business, or to individuals who are already involved in the solar industry .... By 1980, 16% of all cars built in Brazil will burn booze, and auto parts stores in that nation already sell a $200 kit that converts conventional engines to run on 100% pure alcohol.
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