Alt Energy Smackdown

The question we put to them was this: Wind, solar or biofuels? Which do
you think will have the biggest impact first?

Like any group of people, our LinkedIn group is not without its wisecrackers. As Bob White,
president and chief engineer at Embedded Power Labs, put it: "Wind and biofuels
are simply different ways of harvesting solar power." While he's certainly
correct, we could just end the discussion saying that all life and forms of
energy on the planet wouldn't exist without the sun, so it's really all just
various forms of solar power. But what fun would that be? So, on with the
discussion ...

Weighing in on behalf of biofuels was Daniel
Johnson-O'Mara, an instrumentation technician at the University of Iowa Power
Plant. "Storage is the principle problem (when it comes to) megawatts of solar
and wind," he said.

Storage issues aside, biofuels definitely had its
detractors. "I usually get angry when I see someone mixing biofuel with
renewable energies like wind and solar," said Emilijan Iljoski, general manager
at EiP Elektronika Co. He maintains that biofuels are as polluting as oil or
coal, plus the fact that setting aside crops for biofuels manufacture leads to
food cost and production issues for humans worldwide.

Chris Stergiou, a mechanical and manufacturing system
engineer, doesn't consider biofuel a renewable energy source and therefore
gives his nod to solar. "Since it is practically unlimited, relatively low
efficiencies are tolerable as long as practical amounts can be converted with
minimum physical footprints," he said.

Taking a different tack on the discussion, Andrew Wright,
machine design and electronics sales at Wright Track Enterprises Inc., suggests
that it is not a question of which will have the most impact based on its own
merits as an energy source. Instead he contends the answer will be all about
which one experiences the biggest comeback (since none of them are new) once
people "finally grow tired of rising fuel prices."

Based on his own experiences in building an off-the-grid
home, Wright said that "while my county's building restrictions aren't
prohibitive, trying to get someone to insure the home has proven a challenge." He added that in North Dakota (where he's building), the "individual and business tax incentives for adding alternative energy sources
to your property were low to non-existent last time I checked."

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