Saturday, July 20, 2013

Homework #9--sites/conference review!

This past week, the class broke away from Villa Mariana and ESPM to visit two of Sao Paulo State's renewable plants, in addition to a Solar Expo and Bosch's Flex-Fuel engine manufacturing facility. We began tuesday morning with a trip to the CPFL Tanquinho Plant, which recently went "live" in 2012.  Located in the rural area of Campinas, the plant is estimated to produce 1.6GWh/year.  The facility uses two types of panels: monocrystalline and and polycrystalline silicon. I noticed many of the monocrystalline panels were fixed and face north-east, whereas the polycrystalline varied: some were fixed facing north, while others rotated on an east-west axis, which I found was cool. The polycrystalline panels have a efficiency peak of 14-15%, which is higher than the monocrystalline panels, yet more heat-sensitive, pre-disposing the polycristalline panels to efficiency depreciation during hot days.  That same day we visited the site where Bosch makes flex-fuel engines. We explored the facilities with technology built to develop and test flex-fuel engines for various brands of automobiles. Bosch engineers take regular gas-engines, and convert them into flex-fuel engines by developing idiosyncratic software systems and engine technology. Pretty tedious from the anthropologist's perspective.  What I found interesting during the lecture/meeting was the manufacturing forecast: Flex-fuels are predicted to peak in 10 or so years (2020-2025), before dropping back down to current levels as gas-engine vehicles develop better and better mileage systems.  Wednesday we attended a solar expo conference.  We wandered around in groups, exploring the different technologies being established by researchers/developers worldwide.  I saw an array of mono/poly-crystalline panels, fixed panels, flexible panels, batteries, solar windows, solar backpacks, solar grills, solar tents, and even technology built for testing/analyzing the performance of solar panels.  The level of modernization was stimulating, definitely got a nice buzz from it, and from the free drinks too! Finally, thursday we visited the Henry Bordon hydroelectric plant, built in 1920's.  The site consists of 16 turbines, that generate electricity using not the Francis Turbine, but the other one--yes the one that relies more on water pressure than water volume, and whose name escapes me. What interested me is that the majority of hydroelectric plants in Brazil abide by the courses of natural riverways, which is quite the accomplishment. Aside from this being the Tanquinho Plant's first year in use, it's evident that all of these technologies play effective roles in Bazil, as the country is seeking to produce more "self-reliant" energy to fuel its growing economy.  For instance, Brazil uses 75% of the ethanol it produces. America doesn't have nearly the renewable portfolio as Brazil, Brazil relies heavily on its hydroelectric and ethanol, for instance, whereas the U.S. is content with its natural gas abundance and petroleum importation. If anything, the U.S. uses renewables on a smaller scale.  Looking at hydroelectric plants, America has the fifth largest in the world--the Grand Coulee--generating roughly 6,800 MW of electricity at full capacity.  Brazil carries world's 4th and 2nd largest dams--Tucurui and Itaipu--generating a capacity 8300 and 1400 MW.  The Belo Monte Dam is in the process of being commissioned, and would be the world's third largest dam.  So in the Hydroelectric sphere, Brazil is huge, and this has its pros and cons. If the U.S. should adopt such an agenda, it should be weary of effecting the riverway's environment (fish migration, waterbed pollution, deforestation, methane release), while paying heed to social problems (resident displacement, access to water, mosquito infestations--which is real--, flooding potential, drought potential, and suffering drinking water quality).  The U.S. does have policies to help protect against such situations, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which basically keeps track of safety inspections while monitoring the dams' environmental affects.  However, the extent to which this policy's standards are held should be further investigated. But on the topic of the environment, the solar plant representative MOST expressed the company's concerns regarding environmental impacts; neither Bosch nor the hydro-plant expressed much regard.  And as for the solar expo, I assume environmental stewardship was simply Implied....

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