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Purdue Conference and the Battle for the Next Energy Alternative

August 19, 2010
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So in mid-July when temps and humidity were soaring in the Midwest, my wife and I headed southeast to West Lafayette, Ind., where I was to attend the Purdue University conferences that involve the latest technologies in HVACR and building sustainability - and my wife was to enjoy a few days of relaxing. (There was a Paneras and a Borders next to the hotel, so she was totally content.)

The Purdue concurrent conferences - dealing with compressor engineering, RAC, and high performance buildings - were terrific. Lots of interesting technical papers, some way over my head, but the ones that I understood equally fascinating.

About a week after the conferences ended, I finished the first drafts of four stories about the events and they came in at close to 4,000 words. And I really didn’t delve all that deeply into the published papers; just summarized in a broad brushstroke way what was being talked about. A lot of info was preliminary based on lab research and computer models. What will become reality for contractors and service techs remains to be seen. The main thing that comes out of the conferences is that a lot of research in going into ways to either make contractors and service techs lives a bit easier or allow them to better cope with regulatory changes - or both. There are manufacturers, universities and “think tanks” aware of you guys out there and they are working on the “better mousetrap.”

But I digress.

Along the way, driving down Interstate 65 (always under construction it seems), we passed through one stretch of road in which there were literally hundreds of wind turbines on both sides of the road. They stretched for as far on either side as we could see and for miles down the road. (The air was still that day and the turbines were barely turning. But that’s another story for another time.)

Of course, all that caught my interest because of the proposed wind farm near where I live in North-central Illinois. One complaint was that the ones near us would be ugly and mar the natural beauty of the landscape. And my wife and I agree that the ones along I-65 were indeed ugly and marred the beauty of the land. Fact is, they were big, tall, and a bit scary. Just to bring things full circle, while at Purdue I picked up a copy of the campus newspaper, The Exponent, and saw this item under the headline, “Synergetic Energy.”

Wind energy will soon be blowing solar energy away with wind turbines’ new high efficiencies, and its potential is supported by research.

The story went on to talk about Purdue’s own wind projects in conjunction with Duke Power. The writer’s contention that wind will overtake solar as the most popular alternative may be a bit premature. Fact of the matter is, one of the plenary speakers at the conferences I was attending on campus spoke highly of solar and, in fact, most of the roof of his house was a large solar panel.

So, now there appears to be a competition as to what source of alternative energy is best and what will dominate in the future.

Good thing I have a Sustainability Fair coming up in August that I can visit. I’m sure various vendors of alternatives will have their opinions. I’ll be writing about that in future stories in The NEWS as well as this blog.
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Solar energy

Steve Russell
September 7, 2010
One of the great advantages of solar that I never hear mentioned is the lessening of the solar load on the roof of a house. If your entire roof is a solar panel, the heat load from the sun will be put to use rather than adding to the cooling load.

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