Coal and other fossil fuels have been the energy foundation of the industrialized world, providing the power to essentially move the earth, allowing us to reorganize virtually everything to suit our own perceived purposes. But all of this energy comes from someplace, and that someplace is the sun, or, more specifically, the sun from millions of years ago. In the case of coal, it comes from plants that captured solar energy, were ultimately buried, and are now being dug up in the form of coal to release that stored up energy. (It’s much the same with oil, except that oil comes primarily from the remains of ancient animals that ate some of those plants.) These fossil fuels are efficient and convenient stores of energy, ready to burn whenever and wherever needed, including in power plants where coal is used to generate nearly half of all the electricity produced.
But more than energy is released when coal or other fossil fuels are burned, and therein lies the problem. When those plants were living things, they also captured carbon from the air, using the sun’s energy to combine carbon with hydrogen to form the compounds that eventually became coal. When coal is burned, that ancient carbon is released back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas that is causing so much consternation today. Going through the massive process of shutting down all of those coal-fired power plants, and bringing online wind or solar or other renewable sources is daunting and expensive. Power plants based on combustion are a tried and true technology all over the world, not requiring sunny or windy days to operate efficiently, but coal is also the single biggest air polluter.
Viaspace, a renewable energy company, has found a way for the world to continue enjoying the proven convenience and dependability of combustion-based electricity with none of the downside. Viaspace is the proprietary holder of Giant King Grass, one of the highest yielding biomass crops in the world. Rather than using unpredictable and difficult to transport waste materials for renewable power sources, the idea is to use Giant King Grass as a dedicated and controllable energy source. In various parts of the world, it can be grown right alongside the power plants it is designed to feed, or it can be pelletized for easy transport anywhere it is needed. But, most importantly, Giant King Grass is carbon neutral, meaning that the CO2 emitted when burned is offset by the absorption of CO2 during its growth. In effect, Viaspace is able to grow its own coal.
For more information, visit www.viaspace.com
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