Discussion Central

Expand all | Collapse all

Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

  • 1.  Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 26 days ago
    This venue has been a means for discussing global warming and man made pollution of our world.  It is easy to say that solar cells and wind turbines are more eco-friendly than fossil fuel power plants, etc.  On the surface that is apparent.  However, what we don't see is what goes into making solar cells and wind turbines.  How does that compare to extracting crude and refining it to make a variety of fuels and lubricants, some of which may be used by the wind turbines.  As I contemplated this issue, I wondered if it may be possible to establish a basis for energy efficiency or consumption.  It would make making decisions on choices much easier if each choice was listed as equivalent quantity of CO2 or energy (Btu or kcal or whatever may be chosen).  This would not be a simple thing to establish because it would require establishing the energy required to extract minerals and crude from the ground, then processing them to make basics to be used in manufacture of solar cells of turbines and blades or batteries (for hybrid and electric vehicles), etc.  Then the making of the systems would need to be analyzed, then putting them in place for use, and finally the use itself.  Most claims are based on the final step (use itself) and ignores what is required to get it to the consumer.  In addition, maintenance and life expectancy would need to be factored in.  Obviously, there is a broad range of efficiencies in all of these steps, so some weighted average would need to be established.  Also, I don't expect something like this to be established quickly.  But wouldn't it be nice to have the numbers so we could say driving a traditional gasoline car would add X lbs of CO2 per 100 miles, driving a hybrid vehicle would add Y lbs of CO2 per 100 miles and driving an electric vehicle would add Z lbs of CO2 per 100 miles?  These figures would include making the vehicles and the electricity used to power them, and it would vary with the model and make of the vehicle.  This could be extended to non-travel items as well.  Not only would it provide a basis for making informed decisions on our lifestyles and choices, but it would also be a means for informing the public on potential consequences for their choices.

    I recognize that there is a possible circular problem here (you have to use equipment to extract minerals to make the equipment used for extraction), so some basis would need to be established.  Nevertheless, I think it is an interesting idea and welcome your thoughts on it.  Does anything even close to this exist?


  • 2.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 25 days ago
    I would encourage you to look into the world of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). There is a lot of great work done on these types of problems, even dealing with the "circular problem."

    Also, consider that you may be struggling to find resources because of your choice of terminology. I would suggest that what you are referring to is more commonly know as "energy intensity" or "carbon intensity," not "efficiency," which has an entirely different meaning in this field.

    This most certainly exists, I am working on it right now at EIA, and it is not a lonely area. The resources are so numerous I don't even have time to list them for you here, which is why I have instead suggested some key terms for you to search instead. Keep looking and you'll find it!

    ------------------------------
    Elizabeth Sendich
    Lead Industry Economist
    U.S. Energy Information Administration
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 25 days ago
    Elizabeth, you are correct that "Efficiency" is not the best word to describe my thoughts. I recognized that but failed to replace it. My interest is in having some measure of energy consumption associated with the many decisions we make each day. I have not investigated this area, but it sounds like a lot of work has been done on it. So is it possible for it to be compiled to provide the public with a total impact of our choices?

    Sent from my iPhone





  • 4.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 25 days ago
    "So is it possible for it to be compiled to provide the public with a total impact of our choices?" The short answer, no.

    Longer answer, there are far too many products used in everyday life by far too diverse an audience to cover everything in a single source. More over, ask yourself, even if such a wonderful online LCA tool did exist, who would pay for it? Currently you can access wonderful scholarly work on LCA, but it is housed in journals because it is academic work; it's paid through research funding. There are a limited number of think tank/NGO types that do some of this type of work, but they often have a core mission that will lead at least some of their audience to question their motives/bias. Certainly some product makers will provide you with some "sustainability" information, but again a question of bias arises.

    Sadly, it's not a simple question so there are no simple answers.

    ------------------------------
    Elizabeth Sendich
    Lead Industry Economist
    U.S. Energy Information Administration
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 25 days ago
    Joseph, that is an interesting chapter.  I noted that petroleum products are needed for the construction of an operating wind turbine.  For example, it cited the turbine blades as being made of fiberglass and polymers.  So, considering the entire life cycle, what is the energy cost (or CO2 emissions) to generate 100 kw of electricity from wind turbines versus from a traditional fossil fuel power plant?






  • 6.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    FELLOW
    Posted 25 days ago
    ​Robert,

    Great topic and very timely with many of the current world events unfolding before us as we observe! From retreating glaciers in Alaska to flooding waters in Venice, Italy we are seeing many recent global climate change effects.

    in regards to evaluating the manufactured impact of advanced alternate energy systems relative to the end use of those systems I would recommend looking at the system "life cycle" evaluation. For example with wind turbines and their life cycle impact please refer to the following link:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221926189_Life_Cycle_Analysis_of_Wind_Turbine
    This may provide you with more information you are seeking.

    ------------------------------
    Joseph Yurko, PE, FAIChE
    Past Chair Cleveland Section
    Associate Project Lead
    Xellia Pharmaceuticals USA, LLC
    Cleveland, OH, USA
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Basis for Measuring Energy Efficiency

    SENIOR MEMBER
    Posted 25 days ago
    Agreed, very appropriate and important questions.

    However, if / when we get these carbon footprint numbers sorted out, will they be useful?  And how long is that going to take?

    Also, it's going to be a moving target.  Technology is changing constantly and who knows what the next solar panel, wind turbine blade, or storage battery will be made from?

    SOLUTION: carbon tax.  Think about it.

    ------------------------------
    William Stuble PE
    Design20FIRST
    Cora WY
    ------------------------------