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James Ian Johnston

Introduction of realism into the capabilities of alternative energy proposals



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08 May 2010

Location: Energy

Faraday and Lenz gave us the equations enabling the practical means of generating electrical current. Thomas Edison made the leap of implementing a device used to power his “daylight lamp”. I think it is fair to say that the basic principles have remained the same to the present day. There would appear on the surface to be little need to add to these principles. For this, and other reasons, there is a fundamental challenge for anyone suggesting that the means of generating electricity could be improved dramatically. The experts suggest that if it could be done it would have been done before. Except that today there is a paramount need to improve efficiency and reduce the polluting effects of conventional fuels. These are perhaps things that were not a priority to the originators of electrical generators.
My only excuse for spending the last seven years before finding this is that I started my search from a position of ignorance in most matters “before the plug-socket” and have, I think, stumbled upon something that probably wouldn’t be found as a result of reading textbooks.


  • Dear James,

    I am aware of three substantial plans for how the UK could cover its electricity needs in a low carbon way in the future:

    (1) The former Labour government's nuclear power consultation documents: What they thought the answer was is given away by the title!

    (2) The DESERTEC project: Although the title refers to solar power generated from the deserts, the DESERTEC project documents actually contain a comprehensive plan for how several forms of renewable energy could be used to provide Europe's electricity. This project hopes to be generating power in 2015 and looks set to be the biggest electrical energy project in Europe. DESERTEC is virtually kept secret from the public in the UK (perhaps because it throws doubt on our government's nuclear plans) but is strongly backed by Germany where they are committed to phasing out nuclear power.
    - Desertec UK site: www.trec-uk.org.uk
    - Desertec main site: http://www.desertec.org/en/concept/

    (3) The ZeroCarbonBritain plan developed by CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology). This covers electricity and other forms of energy for the UK. This is an extraordinary piece of work to be led by a small environmental centre - and they are continuing to improve it.
    - http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/

    I cannot see where you explain your own ideas, but I hope you find these links interesting.

    Written by Don on 19 May 2010, at 21:29 Report this comment

  • Hi Don,

    Thanks for the comment. I don't get many. I sent the following to CAT today (Sun); thought you might like to read it.

    Thanks again...


    I’ve been looking for an opportunity since last September to share a project I’ve been working on for some time. I was unaware of your ZeroCarbonBritain plan until recently. I’m an individual, working alone.

    My take on the renewables front is that, without enhancements to the current energy to power conversion schemes, what I would prefer to call naturally replacing energy systems will not successfully replace hydrocarbons.

    I’ve built what might be called a modified PMG (Permanent Magnet Generator) and I drive it with a 12V DC motor via a home built PWM. I measure the angular velocity with a frequency meter fed from another bit of electronics and have a scope to monitor the output.

    What I’ve then attached is what I call a braking effect compensator. I’ve found a way of re-using the output before it is dissipated in the load. I originally thought I had failed so I started to modify the original concept (based around the fact that electrons travel a .75 times the speed of light) and experiment with differing configurations.

    Testing is on a comparative basis due to the lack of accuracy in the build. Loading bare coils with an appropriate resistance, taking measurements, then applying compensation and repeating the measurements. To date I have recorded a 30% increase in the angular velocity of the generator. What is possible at that point is to reduce the input power such that the generator returns to the performance level of the un-compensated state. On a percentage basis, the reduction in input power exceeds the increase in angular velocity.

    This weekend I have been testing for varying geometry and have some interesting results.

    One of the reasons for my hesitation in contacting anyone is my hands-on experience that sometimes it seems that something works but on further assessment actually doesn’t. Since September I’ve been testing and re-testing to ensure that such a situation doesn’t exist in this case.

    You will appreciate that the scope of such an enhancement to the performance of any generator in the field could be great (smaller more responsive turbines, the increase of power generation globally , reduction in pollution levels etc.) but what I feel is also important is that UK Plc should benefit by it. The general principles are filed at the IPO so what I need is a UK organisation willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement not only to protect me but also possible business interests of the UK.

    Following is a “Vision Statement” I recently posted to a site called “Our Future Planet”

    Most answers to questions related to natural forces concerning the planet are, out of necessity, compromises. We have to accept that what “went before” is history and the consequences of previous actions compose the questions requiring answers.

    This is especially true of two of the most important elements concerning the future, namely future power supplies and pollution. The industrial revolution and the events after that time have had the consequence of making us reliant on electrical power but we are entering a phase in our existence where we can no longer keep polluting in order to produce that power.

    Answers to the questions posed by such a dilemma are difficult to come by. Not least because we have become almost addicted to electricity and as a consequence have included it in virtually every part of our lives. The base products, mainly hydrocarbons, are dwindling but even if that were not the case we cannot afford the environmental price of burning them. We are told, by those who apparently know better than us, that replacement of hydrocarbons by new technologies is possible.

    A realist might accept that a proportion of the energy required to produce all the power we apparently need could be provided by means other than nuclear fission or, if ever refined, nuclear fusion. Even then, in the nuclear case, the base materials are a finite resource.

    It is my belief that the reason why there has not been more progress in the area of “renewable” (naturally replacing) energy sources is that the implementers know in their heart-of-hearts that these sources cannot match the required volumes of power output required to replace hydrocarbons.

    We all purchase and use consumable products in our lives; when that product gets to a level where it is almost gone then if we can’t replace it we will try to “stretch” it to the last. This is where my vision comes in for the future of the planet.

    There is an area of technology which, similar to most, has an Achilles heel in that the energy input far exceeds the realisable power out. Hydrogen gas can be sourced from several raw materials but is generally more conveniently manufactured using the process of electrolysis. As has been noted many times, using electricity as currently generated (a power station is only 40% efficient in itself) is extremely inefficient and therefore costly. There is the potential to use natural replacement input sources but if the process of conversion is so inefficient, what is the point of producing hydrogen?. This, I believe, is the reason why hydrogen has not been adopted widely. It looks good on the surface but, as with most other currently proposed solutions, if you dig deep enough there is always a snag.

    My vision involves taking one of the common denominators of electricity generation and increasing its efficiency to the extent that the historically fundamental relationship between input work and output power is broken. Reducing the cost of the input energy required to produce a gas such as hydrogen is equivalent to increasing the efficiency of the production process.

    The humble electricity generator suffers for it, electric motors rely on it. The braking effect as noted by Lenz in response to Faradays initial experiments is the cause of the high torque requirement, or high input work requirement, during electricity generation. If this could be compensated for in some way then producing hydrogen wouldn’t be the only winner. All electricity production employing a generator would gain.

    Paradoxically, the net result of creating what might rightly be called a hydrogen economy would be to allow naturally replacing sources to attain their rightful place in the global energy market. This is explained following.

    Given that the cost effectiveness of electricity production could be very much increased, the maximum quantity of an energy storage medium (such as hydrogen gas) could be produced and stored in a similar manner(there are differences) to natural or coal gas. Over a period of time there would be sufficient stored gas to consider converting the hydrocarbon fired boilers in power stations to hydrogen. This acts as an alternative to CCS and solves sequestration storage problems. All of this could happen gradually i.e. it doesn’t have to be a “big bang” approach. Funding of replacements could be spread over time.

    Naturally replacing sources which implement a generator would become more efficient, for example if the torque requirement of a wind turbine is reduced considerably then it is more responsive to low wind speeds and requires less separation. The size also reduces proportionally but more importantly the output could now supplement the stored hydrogen. Hydro-generation is similarly affected.

    There is another aspect which may be relevant depending on how certain experiments currently on-going turn out. To date, using totally unmatched components, there is a certainty of at least 1/3 saving in input energy. On-going are tests designed to ascertain exactly how much more of the braking effect can be compensated for. The prospects are good.

    If a large percentage of the braking effect can be compensated for then there is a situation where domestically produced electricity could be produced on a non-intermittent basis for either conversion at source to hydrogen or resale directly back to electricity companies using the feed-in tariff mechanism.

    Hopefully the reader will not discard this email out of hand.

    Thanks and Kind Regards

    James I Johnston
    07810 647312

    Written by James Ian Johnston on 23 May 2010, at 17:33 Report this comment

  • How would your ideas impact my ideas? Please read my project/proposal - the prospect of exploiting a bit of synergy here might well benefit both.

    Written by peter dunn on 21 Jan 2011, at 14:39 Report this comment

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