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In the developed world energy abundance is being achieved through consumption of cheap, high-energy fossil fuel sources such as coal, oil and gas. This provided the energy required to drive the Industrial Revolution and improve the living standards of millions of people. However, rapid exploitation of such non-renewable energy sources has had adverse effects on the environment, including global warming, air and water pollution, and ocean acidification. There exists an inequitable access to global energy resources, and increasing political and social stresses resulting from an economic dependence on oil-producing regions.
Future energy systems need to provide energy abundance while being sustainable and non-polluting. Energy production should be distributed, diverse, intelligent and highly integrated into technological, industrial and domestic systems. Technologies will be evaluated on their ability to efficiently and cleanly provide abundant energy and [open-source] designs are preferred.
The planning stage
Energy in the broadest sense is intrinsically linked to all systems and will be the common thread connecting housing, agriculture, water and waste treatment, industry, automation, and transport. Hence, energy production, monitoring, efficiency, and use, need to be carefully considered during the design stage of the city. The ideal scenario for a “stand-alone” community such as the RBE10k city is to produce as much energy as possible from waste products (human waste, food waste, waste heat), i.e. “energy recycling” and the renewable sources available at the location (e.g. solar, wind, hydro).
Energy abundance will be created by intelligent and efficient generation, monitoring and use. As much as possible, the city will operate as a closed cycle incorporating the “cradle-to-cradle” ideology where all “waste” is considered as a “food” for either a biological or technological cycle. For example, food waste is converted to compost for agriculture, or human waste is converted to methane for cooking or electricity production. The energy needs of 10 000 people need to be estimated considering the following areas.
- Electricity, heating
- Electricity, liquid fuels, hydrogen…
- Water and waste treatment
It is likely that there exists no single energy production technology that will meet all the needs and requirements of the community. Various sustainable technologies will need to be implemented. In the first case the choice of technologies will be limited by the budget of the project and availability (level of development, patents/licensing). Well-developed and benchmarked technology (e.g. solar and wind) could be used in conjunction with emerging technologies (e.g. fuel cells, combined heat and power). All systems will need to be evaluated with respect to the following issues:
- Provides base-load or variable generation?
- Impact of manufacture (energy use, environmental problems)
- Single purchase cost
- Ongoing costs such as maintenance and consumables (e.g. hydrogen for fuel cells)
- Open-source design available?
The following energy production technologies will be evaluated for their feasibility. Follow the links to see more information about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Once all the information is collected, a brief comparison table will be included.
- Solar (photovoltaic)
- Solar updraft tower
- Combined heat and power
- Fuel cells
- Fuel production
Energy efficiency and monitoring
During the design process it is important to consider energy efficiency and use within all components of the city. Continued upgrading and optimisation of the energy systems could be achieved via monitoring and “intelligent integration” with other systems (e.g. waste heat, heating, lighting, telecommunications). Energy can be saved through sharing resources and appliances (for instance using a beamer to watch film and television).