Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS)
Reducing fossil fuel plants’ carbon dioxide emissions
CCS technology aims to reduce the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel power plants. CCS works by isolating the carbon dioxide from the emissions stream created when power plants generate electricity. The CO2 is then compressed and injected deep underground, where it is permanently stored. New technology is being developed to help the energy industry use CCS more cost-effectively and better understand the long-term effects of underground storage on the surrounding ecosystems. Preventing a large amount of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere is important for the environment, as carbon dioxide contributes to global warming.
CCS is being explored around the world. In the United Kingdom, the government has promised to help fund the country’s first CCS coal-fired power plant, and CCS technology is already being used in China, the US, Australia and other countries.
Researchers work to increase solar, wind and other renewable power sources
New technology is also being explored to make renewable energy sources—such as solar, wind and hydropower—more effective for meeting today’s growing energy demands.
Solar power is generated using several different methods, with technology playing a big role. Solar energy doesn’t work at night and sometimes not even when the skies are clouded over, so technological advancements are needed to make it work all the time. One technique involves moveable mirrors focusing the sun’s rays onto a receiver containing molten salt; the salt is heated and flows through the receiver to power a generator. Another technology includes installing heat-absorbing materials that collect and store sunlight during the day and then release the heat at night.
Research into making wind power more cost effective and efficient is also under way. Wind turbine design has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades to reduce collision with birds. Turbine blades are now solid, so there are no lattice structures that entice birds to perch. Also, the blades’ surface area is much larger, so they don’t have to spin as fast to generate power. In the US, the Department of Energy recently granted $8 million to University of Minnesota scientists for research into wind turbines, field experiments and more. And according to a 2009 report by the European Wind Energy Association, the European Union added more capacity in wind power in 2009 than any other power technology Europe’s five-year UpWind program (ongoing from 2006-2011) is a massive research and development project aimed at developing improved wind turbines that can be used for large-scale wind power in the future. The goal is to make turbines bigger and better to generate electricity to more European homes and buildings.
Offshore oil companies use wind turbines and solar energy to provide power to their offshore platforms rather than consuming oil.