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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

9.27.2007

Biodiesel, Solar and the French Fry

Yes, yes, we have all read about the $2.4 billion Florida Power and Light (the FPL Group) is investing in major solar energy projects. Announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, the gigantic utility company will be investing in solar thermal, a smart network to monitor energy management and to launch a new consumer education program, along with products that consumers can buy with their own money to reduce energy usage.

FPL is working with a California startup called Ausra Inc., to build a 300 megawatt generating solar thermal facility. It will begin as only a 10 megawatt project and then may expand the project later. (interesting note from the Ausra web site, a 92 x 92 mile solar thermal panel--probably a panel is a tad incorrect—could provide 100% of the electricity needed by United States. Hmm. . .that’s 8,464 square miles? Let’s see, the sun generates 1387 W on a square meter of area on Earth, a square meter = 1/16092 square miles, factor in 33% efficiency, that’s ummm, well you do the math. . .or check out Wikipedia’s article on solar luminosity.)

In the meantime, there are local governments here in Florida that are not waiting for their utility company to sell them energy. In Largo, Florida, just north of St. Petersburg, the City wants to launch a program to recycle cooking oil and grease into biodiesel fuel.

It’s an environmental strategy that makes sense since the City hopes to provide an incentive for folks not to pour grease down their drains, which, according to Irvin Kety, the city’s environmental services director, will decrease the City’s expense to clean out all those lines. It seems that the City spends considerable time cleaning up grease cleaning grease from sewer lines. An entire grease abatement industry has emerged to deal with used deep fat fryer oils generated from all that fried food we eat. This grease is a major contributor to clogging our sewer systems as well as our arteries. (an aside – pouring hot water into the drain along with the grease does not prevent clogging.)

The City of Largo proposal, reported in the St. Petersburg Times, will establish a drop off point where residents could turn in their cooking grease and the City would contract with a private provider(s) to convert the used oil into fuel for cars or trucks.

Just imagine, if Tallahassee adopted this, heavy traffic on Tennessee Street could smell like McDonald’s french fries. Oh, wait, it already does!

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