Quantitative Research Proposal on Alternative Energy, Research Proposal Example

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Research Proposal

Utilization of Alternative Energy Problems and Need for Alternative Energy

Introduction

In a world of limited resources to produce energy, fossil fuel and other alternative means to produce energy are vital to the lives of everyone on the planet.  Understanding how fuel is turned into energy through the transformation process and how energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes its state of energy is paramount when comparing and contrasting multiple energy sources.  Fossil fuels are used in almost every facet of transportation, heating, cooling and movement.  Alternative fuels are necessary to fill the void of the non-renewable fossil fuels used today.  Solar energy and wind energy are two renewable sources which are the current time are only restrained by technological and economic factors due to their near unlimited availability.

Alternative energy at this point in development does not meet the output requirements expected by the end user and consumer.  It is also difficult, in comparison to non-renewable energy sources, to produce the amount of energy needed, at the cost needed and within the scope of resources available without impacting the environmental balance of nature and habitation of humans.  The project would cover how deep and wide the impact alternative energy’s production, sustainment, delivery and storage have on the environment and how much change management would be required to ensure adoption and acceptance of the new methods to replace the old methods.

Definition

Energy is the ability to do “work” and any form of energy can be transformed into another form, but the total energy always remains the same.  It can be found in many different forms such as chemical, electrical, thermal, radiant, nuclear and mechanical energy.  Each of the types of energy is produced in by different methods of transformation.  Coal burning is a simple process for producing electrical energy.  During the process of burning coal at the coal burning plant chunks of coal are pulverized into dust and loaded into a coal burning chamber.  The chemical process of burning coal creates heat to be transferred to a boiler.  The boiler heats up through the heat transfer and boils the water to create steam.  This steam turns a turbine to create kinetic energy which in turns changes the kinetic energy into electrical energy to be used or stored for future use.  Another example of energy transfer would be driving a vehicle down the road.  There is a tremendous amount of energy use in multiple forms through this process.  In order for certain types of energy to form a specific purpose such as moving a vehicle down the road, multiple transformations of energy must take place.  Gasoline is introduced into the engine with oxygen and a spark to produce an explosion of heat and carbon dioxide.  This chemical reaction converts chemical energy into thermal energy and mechanical energy.  The heat and mechanical energy caused by the chemical reaction pushes the piston head down turning the chemical reaction into a mechanical energy and kinetic energy.  Through the rotation of the engine and transfer of heat and kinetic energy the vehicle is propelled forward.  It may appear that energy is lost through the process but as stated above energy is neither created nor destroy, it is only transferred and reapplied to other areas of energy.

In both the above examples of transforming on type of energy to another the source fuels were coal and gasoline.  Both of these fuels are hydrocarbon based fuels also known as fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels are created by the anaerobic decomposition of buried and dead organisms over the course of millions of years Most of the Earth’s fossil fuels were created during the Carboniferous Period (Site Berkeley), hence the term fossil fuel.  It is important to note that fossil fuels are also known as non-renewable sources of energy due to the long lead time in producing useable energy sources.  In some instances the lifecycle to create a fossil fuel would exceed hundreds of millions of years.  Fossil fuels are composed of carbon and hydrogen and can range from coal, petroleum to natural gas all depending on the mixture of carbon and hydrogen.  The main benefit of fossil fuels is their ability to produce energy.  The amount of fuel available with the amount it takes to use to create the amount of energy surpasses all other consumable energy sources available.  Fossil fuels are readily available, multiple uses and an exponentially greater amount of energy in comparison to other energy producing methods currently available.  Although other means for energy production are not currently feasible as a direct competitor to fossil fuels in the world today, tomorrow may be a different story.  Through the economic principle of supply and demand as the demand grows greater for a certain commodity and the supply shrinks with no way to replenish the prices goes up (Prasch, 2008).  As the natural resource of fossil fuels diminish and are no longer able to sustain our needs and cost constraints other methods of energy production must be implemented to fill the growing needs of the world.

One area which currently subsidizes the use of fossil fuel for energy production is solar energy.  Solar energy is created from radiant light and heat from the sun.  Solar energy can be defined as passive or active solar energy depending on how they are captured (Bradford, 2010).  Passive solar energy collection uses sunlight without use of an active mechanical system which rely solely on the thermodynamic properties of the material or system to operate.  An example of this would be a house pointing in the direction of direct sunlight thus gaining heat by allowing the sunlight a direct surface for heat transfer.  This type of technology would use the sunlight to heat things like water or air to be used for hot water or a houses heating system.  Active solar collection uses mechanical means to convert solar energy into another form of usable energy such as electricity or heat.  One benefit of active over passive solar energy production is that in the active technique with the use of controls the user can maximize the effectiveness and transfer of energy.  The upside to the active process can also be a downside when comparing to the passive method.  If a control fails the entire system could be useless for electrical and heat energy production.  In comparison to fossil fuels the main advantage to solar energy is the abundance and availability of sunlight.  The negative aspect is the amount of energy transferred from light to usable electric or heat energy.  In comparison the amount of inputs used to turn solar into electric energy far outweigh the amount of inputs needed to turn fossil fuel into electrical, kinetic or heat energy thus making it harder for production of solar energy to meet the demands already in place.

As with solar energy, wind energy is generated through the use of a natural occurring phenomenon called wind.  Wind energy is the kinetic energy of wind as it flows across the earth.  Theoretically to capture all of the wind energy, zero wind should leave the mechanical tool used to transfer the energy.  Currently wind turbines are used to transfer and capture wind energy.  Wind turbines are used to transfer the kinetic energy of the wind into ultimately electric energy to be used or stored for consumption in other applications.  As a replacement for fossil fuels, wind energy is a plentiful and renewable source of energy only limited by economic and environmental factors for production (Manwell, 2009).  Some advantages over fossil fuel include winds availability, usability and costs.  Since wind is free and cannot be controlled by a single entity it is usable by all societies despite their economic status thus leading to development opportunities to other countries hindered by oil based economies.  Some negative aspects of wind power in relation to fossil fuels include: startup wind farms and their costs, noise pollution, landscape pollution and very large wind farms need to be created to meet the demand of energy consumption.

Problem Statement

Based on the above discussion, it is possible to identify a multiple variables within the problem of providing the vast majority of the world’s energy through non-renewable resources.  As will be discussed later in the project and review of literature, parts of the multifaceted problem encompass the affordability, adoption and sustainability of the alternative energy source such as durable and efficient solar panels at prices consumers can purchase.  Currently the pressure to relieve the use of nonrenewable energy sources is not felt by the end consumer in a direct correlation to which the consumption rate will deplete the resources.  The cost of producing renewable energy and the uncompetitiveness of generating this type of energy have hindered free market development as well as coupling detractors from each type of renewable energy development such as hydro for river habitat destruction, wind for avian mortality, solar for desert overdevelopment, biomass for air emissions, and geothermal for depletion and toxic discharges (Bradley 1997). The types of materials and availability of these materials such as those which make up the solar semiconductor may not be available in twenty years (Durham University 2011).

In essence, the ultimate goal of the end user is to have a source of energy that is affordable and provides the needed energy output with minimal invasion to their lifestyle.  The purpose of the research is to dive into the impacts of the utilization of renewable energy sources so that areas of concern can be mitigated with effort, funding or technological advances and show how renewable resources and how energy transformation is an ever evolving process much like the business practices throughout corporate American and the need to update and modify business models to meet consumer demands.  In essence, creating a sustainable and scalable energy production framework is necessary to provide the energy for the growing needs of the world.  Understanding the effects the new energy sources have on the environment and energy process would make or break the renewable energy project depending on how it is conducted or utilized.

The importance of the research lies within the ability to mitigate risks and take a proactive approach to the issues that arise from changing the entire energy production environment.  As the end consumer views their energy they want the same productivity, availability and reliability afforded to them in their current state.  Transitioning behind the scenes will require the knowledge and foresight in what this research project offers through proofing the hypothesis.

Purpose

The purpose of this study, then, is to explore the wing-to-wing impact alternative energy production, sustainment, delivery and storage have on the environment and society as a whole.  This information would provide the data to formulate information to make informed decisions on the energy project facilitating objective and purpose definition.

Primary Objectives

  1. To determine the relationship between renewable energy production and impact on the environment.
  2. Compare and contrast renewable and non-renewable energy production’ process life cycle. In addition to the impact and comparison is it also relevant to have a view into not only the shift between energy sources as a whole but also the small incremental change necessary to stay flexible and not locked in by one depleting energy source that cannot keep up with the current demand.
  3. To determine process for energy production as a whole and how adapting to new resource needs and technological advances impact current production models.

Hypotheses

Based on a review of literature as noted later in this proposal, one major hypothesis will be the basis for this research but should encompass all of the touch points for renewable energy production and it results both positive and negative. The first hypothesis is involves renewable energy sources impact on the environment.  If new sources of renewable energy are proliferated into the current energy production model, then the environmental impacts will impact the environment in a negative way

Definition of Key Terms

Fossil Fuels – Non-renewable resources produced by anaerobic decomposition of dead and buried organisms.

Non-renewable resource – a natural resource which cannot be recreated (produced, grown, generated, transferred) to meet the consumption rate  Examples are coal, natural gas, petroleum which are considered fossil fuels

Renewable Resource – a natural resource with the ability of being replaced through natural processes with the passage of time

References

Bradford, R. (2010). Solar revolution, the economic transformation of the global energy industry. The MIT Press, 89-113. Print.

Bradley, R. (1997). Renewable energy: not cheap, not “green”. Cato Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-280.html  

Charles, T. (2011). Recent advances in solar energy and potential applications. Journal for Young Investigators, Volume 22 Issue 5.

California Energy Commission. (2001). Renewable energy study. Renewable Energy Program: Consultant Report. Retrieved from http://www.energy.ca.gov/reports/2002-04-03_500-02-016.PDF

Durham University. Research project aims to make solar energy technology cheaper. ScienceDaily, 14 Jan. 2008. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080114101837.htm

Freeman, M. (2001) Who killed U.S. nuclear power? 21st Century Science and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/spring01/nuclear_power.htmlz

Green Investing. (2011) Disadvantages of renewable energy – drawbacks of different alternative energy sources. Retrieved from http://www.greenworldinvestor.com/2011/04/01/disadvantages-of-renewable-energy-drawbacks-of-different-alternative-energy-sources/

Manwell, A. F., McGowan, O. G., & Rogers, A. L. (2009). Wind energy explained, theory, design and application. John Wiley & Sons Inc. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/feeds/volumes?q=0470015004

Prasch, R. (2008) How markets work: supply, demand and the “real world”. Northhampton: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 3-13. Print.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010) Annual energy review: 2010. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/ /aer

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