The Archives

Browse the content below to find what you're looking for.

John Stivers – Work Energy Power

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

When I looked at energy-101, I was amazed at how sophisticated some of the discussions were and it struck me that having a primer where I looked at WORK and ENERGY and POWER again might just be the ticket.

Well let’s start with work. Physicists define work as a force applied over a distance. If you take an object, say a toolbox and apply a force, 22 pounds of force and you move it two feet, you’ve done 44 foot pounds of work. In metric those units convert to 100 newtons of force, and let’s say we moved it 0.60 of a meter. So we’ve done 60 newton-meters of work. In the metric system that’s referred to as a joule, 1 newton-meter is 1 joule.

Again, work is a force acting over a distance and energy is the capacity to do that work. Or another way to look at it, in a perfect world, the amount of work done is equal to the amount of energy expended. As it turns out work and energy are measured in the same units. And in the metric system that’s a joule.

Energy as it turns out is an inherent property of any object. It’s the stored capacity to do work. When it comes to electrical energy the battery is a great example. There are other forms of energy generally connected with producing heat, like a chord of wood, a ton of coal, maybe a gallon of gasoline or our sun. We’ve got energy and work down now lets see how power relates to them.

Power is the rate at which work is performed so let’s take a look at that toolbox again. If we put a stopwatch to it and we do 60 joules of work in 3 seconds and divide it, we’ve done 20 joules per second that’s the rate at which power has been applied in order to accomplish that work. The basic unit of power, joules per second is a watt and the power that was applied to accomplish that work turns out to be 20 watts.

Watts are pretty common units of measure it’s what we use when we buy a light bulb, we see it on our toasters, or it was that 20 watts that I used to move that toolbox.

Many hands make for light work. Or another way to say that is the power that’s supplied the less work each individual device ends up doing or the quicker the work gets done. Power is also the rate at which stored energy gets converted. For example, you are driving along and you want to get around that slow car in front of you. You push the peddle to the metal. In essence what you are doing is increasing the amount of power that the engine delivers to the wheels and also you are converting the stored energy of the gasoline at a lot faster rate.

So to recap. Work is a force applied across a distance also, that relates to the energy consumed in accomplishing that work and they are measured in the same units. Power is the rate at which that work is produced or the rate at which we expend energy to accomplish it. This interrelationship between WORK and ENERGY and POWER are things once you are aware of it we see all the time in everything we do.

John Stivers – Seeing Electricity

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
Video Transcript:

When you look at the discussions in ENERGY-101 you realize that an understanding of the fundamentals of what electricity is all about really is helpful and may even give you some insights as to what it’s all about.

Well the history of electricity starts with discoveries that were made in the 18th and 19th centuries. One form of electricity that was most apparent to everybody was static electricity, which, is an inherent property of nearly every object. The lose electrons, atoms and molecules tend to migrate to the surface and collect. Often times they’ll be found on a point such as your finger or Harry Potters wand
if you will.

We build those charges up when we pull our sweater off and our hair goes sprong. But inherently it was very difficult to capture and put to use that static electricity. Lightning is probably the most spectacular form of static electricity. We probably all have that image of Ben Franklin with his kite standing in a thunderstorm trying to capture that energy. The truth of the matter is he and most of the other scientist at that point were struggling with that. He fortunately developed the lightning rod which got it to ground…saved a lot of barns and church steeples from destruction but it wasn’t until two Italian’s developed the first battery.

A battery is generally dissimilar metals, let’s say copper and zinc that a separated with an electrolyte. The earliest ones used a brine or pickle juice. The ions migrated; they naturally want to migrate from one metal to the other, from the copper to the zinc. When you put them together in a battery then you have two poles at either end. If you interconnect those with a light bulb in between it, you have the first flow or direct current.

Once we have the battery hooked into a circuit we can look at how we measure what’s going on.

Two primary components are voltage and amperage. Voltage is how exited those electrons are that want to get through the circuit. Amperage is a measure of the flow of those electrons past any given point per unit of time.

One way to think about it is the number of electrons that are flowing down the wire. This is analogous to the way they looked at it back in the days when water was a significant source of power, the waterfall is a great example. The height of the waterfall is analogous to the voltage, how excited are the electrons? The amount of water going over the edge is equivalent to the amperage, the number of electrons that go past a point at any given unit of time. The product of those two, the voltage times the amperage, is power and the unit of measure is a watt.

A watt is a very small unit of power and when we use it in our house we generally measure it in thousands of watts or kilowatt. That particular watt or kilowatt, that power, is the same that we get when we perform work at a given rate or when we consume energy at a given rate. There is a connection not only between the electricity but also to what going on in production and consumption of energy and other mechanical items such as your car or even physically what you are doing.

In recap, voltage is the charge and its desire to get to and balance out with an other charge or an other body. So from this battery, what is the likelihood that the electrons want to go from post to post? Amperage, if you put this in a circuit with like a light bulb or a motor, is want is the rate those electrons are moving across there. And the product of those two, how excited they are and how many are moving at a given rate of time is power and again that’s measured in watts.

Typically, when we buy for our house and plug it into the wall we measure in kilowatts which is just a thousand watts. That same production of power, that use of energy is the same units and concepts that we have when we use mechanical equipment such as our lawnmower, drive our cars or even eat food curiously enough.

John Stivers – Affordable

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Affordability is actually an adjective that’s generally used to describe the price of something that we’re thinking about buying or selling.  And it bands or stretches across a large range, from something that’s cheap on one end, up to that point where it’s too expensive on the other.

Now, what affordability makes me think about is, not only that initial cost, but also the lifetime cost of items.  So more than just that price, but the cost.  And there’s a whole science associated with the economics of that full lifetime cost; life cycle analysis.  And so those associated costs, often times unknown to us when we initially purchase something, are things that we now are starting to look at in a broader context.  And when you think that in my lifetime the population of our earth has doubled, that relationship between first time cost or price and that ongoing cost are getting closer and closer, so the consequences of those associated costs come home to roost a lot quicker.

John Stivers – Cap & Trade

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Cap and Trade is a strategy that involves not just government in setting greenhouse gas emissions and getting them down to where we think they ought to be, but also involves the players who produce them.  And the way it works is, it sets the cap, which government has to do, and then allows those of us that are industry to demonstrate that we’ve done better, and rewards us when we’re doing better than the limits and creates a marketplace because in this market of selling our offsets to somebody that is still above the cap rewards those who are innovative, that have been movers in the industry, that have gotten below their cap, and it penalizes those who are actually above the limit.  It doesn’t force them out of business like a straight regulatory regimen would, but it helps, in fact, finance the transition of those people that have the intellectual whereabouts to do things with less greenhouse gas emissions.

So if you’re in the business of making cement, which is fuel intensity to make that conversion, and let’s say you were the first to put in a solar cement plant, you’d be way below the cap, and those benefits of CO2 emissions that you didn’t produce, you could then sell in this marketplace of cap and trade.  And there’s an exchange in Chicago where this occurs.  Okay?

So it’s a value.  And it might be bought up by your competitor who is still burning coal or by some other industry that’s outside of that.  Or, it may be from someone that’s producing a product that’s actually pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, such as a forester.  So cap and trade is that combination of government setting limits and then adding an honest and fair marketplace where those people that are solving the problem are rewarded, and those people who are still in the transition can actually finance or pay in order to stay in business, and collectively we bring down the overall level of CO2 emissions.

Now, the real challenge gets back to government, quite frankly, because the politicians have to have the willpower over time to continue to bring the cap down if we’re going to get to where we need to be in order to reduce global warming.

John Stivers – Carbon Footprint

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

It would be great if we all knew what our carbon footprint was.  You can do it for your household, as an example.  You can do it for your business.  And it’s just basically a measure of the amount of CO2 emissions, or those other gases and so forth that go into the atmosphere, that we call greenhouse gases.  Those are measured in metric tons and generally there’s something in the United States, on a per capita basis, that we produce, which is about 19 to 20 metric tons per person.  Okay?

The curious thing, though, is it’s kind of like all the other tests that I have to take at this time in my life, whether I go see my doctor or whatever.  I want all my test results to be lower, as opposed to higher, at this point.  And it’s curious; the per capita emissions, or carbon footprint if you will, for Switzerland, for example, is about a quarter of what it is for the United States, even though their domestic income per capita is higher than the U.S.’s.  So it’s a lifestyle choice.  We make certain decisions.  We do things like insulate our house, use different fuels, and it’s easy to make these determinations.  Our use of carbon is almost directly related to the fuels that we consume.  You can go to the web and all the math formulas that it takes to figure this out downloads in the script right behind that pretty web page where you fill in the blanks.  It’s not rocket science.  So it’s very straight forward, so that there’s a way to save money on fuel, less electricity, changing out the light bulbs, insulating the house, your carbon footprint can come down.

John Stivers – Carbon Offset

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Carbon offsets are the financial instruments used in a cap and trade structure.  When someone is producing something with less greenhouse gas emissions or carbon production, they get a bogey that then has a value to those people that can’t get down to the cap.  Often times, like in the example of the cement industry, if I were to switch to solar, my competition is still using coal.  I’m way below the CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions for a ton of cement that I produce.  My competition needs to buy them, and this marketplace uses carbon offsets to reward me and allow him to stay in business, but at a price.

John Stivers – Carbon Sequestration

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Carbon sequestration.  There’s a fixed amount of carbon in the world and the trick is getting it in the right place and keeping it out of that wonderful little atmosphere that allows us to live on this planet.  Now, that can be…  That carbon can be in the emissions of our tailpipe on our car, or it can be in the tree behind me.  And the objective is to capture it before it gets into the atmosphere, or to pull it out of the atmosphere by planting trees or potentially taking it and putting those emissions, say down in an oil well, where it’s trapped in the ground.

John Stivers – Climate Change

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Climate changes are actually a politically correct euphemism, if you will, for global warming.  It’s the effects that we have caused as humans to our atmosphere, through the release of CO2 and methane, that will increase, and has increased, the temperature of the small band of area directly above our heads.

Now, it’s something that we can address, as they say, globally by acting locally.  The CO2 level and parts per million today is 375 or so.  Now that level is the same parts per million that we measure when we’re inside a classroom or an auditorium to see if we’re comfortable, if we’re staying awake.  And the heating and air conditioning systems have gauges that do that quite regularly.  And if you get up to about 800, everybody starts dozing off.

Now for our planet, that same measurement that’s being done on those air handlers on the roof of your building, should be measuring for the earth, not 375 or so that we currently have, but we need to get it back down to 350 parts per million.  And the consequences of global warming are something that starts locally, with what we’re driving, what we’re burning and so forth.  And within a very short period of time, when you think about the world as a whole, it average out.  And so our impacts here affect everybody around the world.  So it’s a geopolitical thing.  And the evidence is right there for all of us to see.  We’re getting 100 year rainstorms almost every summer today, and that’s an example of why it is a climate change.  But it’s really global warming that we need to address.

John Stivers – Distributed Generation

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Distributed generation is a concept where more and more people start to provide not only their own power, but share it with other people on the grid. It’s sort of the “dream” of the smart grid. And the thing that detractors from distributed generation are often times saying is these alternative sources of energy aren’t always available. So, when the winds blowing, may not be when the air conditioner is asking for the electricity. So what we need to remember is those people that are making those claims often times for nuclear power aren’t telling us is that their industry produces the same volume or amount of power nonstop. Whether the demand is above their production level or below it.

So what we need to really talk about is how to put capacitance into our electric grid. Now what does that mean? That means the ability, like a battery, to store it up and then turn around and let it go when we really need it. And the nuclear power industry has been doing that. Just a couple of miles up the road from us is a stored water facility. Where the utility at night when more power is being produced, pumps water up to the top of a big plateau and reservoir and then in the afternoon when it is hot in the summer time and the demand is the greatest, they turn around and it runs a turbine and produces electricity. Now that capacitance power, is it something that not only those people that are advocates for wind and solar need, but if we also had the strategy for more nuclear power going forward, we need it as well.

And one of the things that hasn’t come into the conversation is that in the United States only about five percent of the power that we use has gone through this capacitance for going into the battery and coming out. But in Europe, it’s six times that. It’s about 30 percent of the power that they use. It’s set up that way. That’s the discussion that we need to be having, is how do we provide incentives in the marketplace for that type of service connected to power generation. Then the discussion as to what we use can be based on the true cost to our society. And the cost to build those facilities for capacitance aren’t nearly as much as the cost to put up the wind turbines or definitely cheaper than the nuclear power plants.

John Stivers – Green

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

I’m old enough to remember Roy and Martin in Laugh In, and they used to go get their funk and wagonals.  Well, if you looked up green in the dictionary, initially it’s a color.  And as you get further down in those definitions, you start to see how words are often associated with other words, such as washing.  So green washing is something that’s, unfortunately, prevalent among, you know, manufacturers and advertisers and marketing agents and so forth.  But there is hope.

More and more of us are figuring out what’s really involved in saving the planet, and as a result, when we hear green washing our antennae go up and we immediately know, these guys don’t get it.  And it actually allows us to keep looking until we find those producers of products and services that do get it.

So green, it’s a broad term.  It has a lot of meanings.  But I’m trusting in those of us who have taken the time to figure out just enough to spot the green washing, so that we can get on with the agenda of basically doing the right thing.