CSC 190 Assignment: Energy Issues
You will be assigned one of the following problems.
Research the issues and make defensible estimates of the requested values
using the most directly measurable quantities you can find.
Use multiple sources as a check on reliability remembering that
averaging widely varying values is not a particulary good method
of combining conflicting information.
Common sources of conflicting values include
- Numbers that do not actually refer to the same quantity,
- Transcription errors,
- Misunderstandings by amateur authors on the internet,
- True lack of information,
- Optimistic bias by interested parties,
- Deliberate attempts to mislead (i.e. outright lies).
Write up your results, approach, and information sources,
and prepare to present them to the class.
On this project you are to work independently.
- How much recoverable fossil fuel (coal, oil, natural gas) is estimated
to exist on the planet?
How much energy would be produced by burning all of it?
What fraction of the total atmospheric oxygen would be consumed in the
If the entire population of earth used energy at the same per-capita rate
as the United States, how long would this supply last?
(If all the energy came from burning e.g. coal, how long would the
coal last, how long would the oil last, etc.
- How much recoverable uranium is estimated to be available on earth?
If this uranium were used in a conventional reactor (which mainly consumes the
U235 component), how much energy could be generated?
How much energy could be generated if the uranium were used in a fast breeder
How long would this supply last if the entire world population consumed
energy at US per-capita rates?
How much energy could be accumulated (per unit area per unit time)
using photosythesis - i.e. growing trees or other plants as fast as possible,
and harvesting the (dried) biomass to burn as fuel.
What percentage of the earth's surface would need to be devoted to
energy agriculture to supply the world's energy needs if its
population consumed energy at US rates?
How much of the earth's surface is potentially areable land?
How much energy can be generated from wind (time average per unit area)
in decent wind regions
(like Rochester, or the state of Iowa or Nebraska)?
How much surface area would need to be populated with windmills to generate
enough energy to supply word needs if everyone consumed energy like the US?
What does wind energy cost (e.g. per installed megawatt capacity)?
What would be the cost of enough windmills to supply US electrical needs
(averaged)? How does this compare to the US GDP?
How much solar electrical energy (e.g. per meter or hectare per year)
can be practically recovered with current technology (phovoltaic or
other methods) in a climate like Rochester? How about Arizona?
Remember that the sun does not shine all the time, and it is not
always directly overhead.
How much surface area would have to be covered with solar collectors
to supply the world's needs if the whole population consumed
energy at US rates?
What would be the capital cost of building enough solar-electric
capacity to supply current US electric needs (averaged)?
How does the amount compare to
the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?
Extra Credit (everyone).
The sun does not shine at night, and also some days,
nor does the wind blow all the time.
What options are available for storing solar- or wind-generated power
for times on the order of 24 hours?
What would be the capital cost of various technologies\
to store an amount of energy equivalent to 1 day's electrical
needs for the US?
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