Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Christian Buck - Alternative Energy

Christian Buck

Power plants all have similar components. They have a generator, a turbine energy source and an output. Often steam spins huge turbines, like in coal and nuclear power plants. In a hydroelectric plant, water from a reservoir rushes through a small opening spinning a turbine at the bottom of a chute (see fig.1).
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The turbine in all power plants is hooked to the generator, which spins; creating huge amounts of electricity that is connected to power lines.

In a nuclear plant, a reactor heats water to an extreme heat that spins the turbine. Coal power works the same, except that coal is the fuel that is burned to heat the water. See fig.2.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Christian Buck - Power Plants

Christian Buck

Power plants give us enough energy to supply our population of over 350 million people. Most houses have computers and televisions, both of which use enormous amounts of power. This energy allows us to communicate with one another via telephone and Internet. It takes electricity to maintain our modern lifestyles. With our population increasing every year, we need to build more power plants.
We have various options for producing power. We can use fossil fuels, coal, hydroelectric, wind, solar, or nuclear power. Each option has its advantages and drawbacks. Which is the best option to power our future generations?
Each option has its setbacks. As you may know, coal causes a lot of pollution. Fossil fuels are very expensive and we are running out of this valuable resource. Hydroelectric power is a possibility, but it endangers the environment and kills many species of fish. Salmon are going extinct because of dams that are blocking travel to and from the sea, and emitting hot water into
their fragile environment.
Wind, solar, and nuclear energy seem like the best solutions. Wind power will not completely satisfy our power needs, but it would help. Unfortunately, many people reject wind power because of the fields of wind vanes that need to be built. Solar energy is a popular source of power, but generally for private homes rather than large-scale use. If the amount of people who use solar power increases, then less power will be needed for the power grid, lowering prices for everyone else.
Nuclear power produces the most energy, but it creates dangerous nuclear waste. Nuclear waste can be stored and kept in a safe environment but sometime; a plant will have a meltdown releasing radiation into the atmosphere.
When we make a decision to build more power plants, these factors will have to be considered. Maybe we will have a more advanced technology that will enable us to build more efficient, safer power plants.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Christian Buck - Gas and Hybrids

Christian Buck

As you know, gas prices are rising at incredible rates. It is becoming more of a hassle to pay for
our cars. In our rush for a way to avoid paying too much at the pump, it is necessary to stop using so much gas. This means we have to use fuel-efficient cars, or hybrids. There is a possibility to use other fuel sources in the future, but so far there has not been a fuel that is an efficient enough alternative to gas.
Hydrogen is a fuel that has been considered, and received a lot of attention. However we are finding that it is less efficient than fossil fuels. Hydrogen must be turned into a compound before being used as a fuel; this procedure requires the use of fossil fuels. In the long run we are burning the same gas that we were to start out with, by turning it into hydrogen, which we burn as well. This is not substantially cheaper or more efficient, so we might as well use the same cars as we are now. There is the possibility of using green hydrogen, which doesn’t require the use of fossil fuels. Unfortunately green hydrogen is very expensive, the cost owould be between 6-8 dollars a gallon, and even after the price dropped from widespread use it would cost about 4-5 dollars a gallon.
Some other options are diesel, bio-diesel, and corn. The problem with diesel is the price is still high, and corn and bio-diesel would have to be grown. Growing bio-diesel to support our automobiles would need so many crops to be converted into oil that our nation would not have enough food to support itself.
The best option appears to be plug in hybrids. Many people that go to work, shopping and complete their other needs within the 30 miles of their residence could travel by electric power. This uses a tiny amount of fuel compared to conventional cars, which would lower the demand and price of fuels making travel cheaper.
We do not have plug in hybrids yet; we are close to producing a car that utilizes this technology. We might even discover other more efficient fuels that will allow us avoid using fossil fuels.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Christian Buck - Plasma and Fusion

Christian Buck

Fusion power is a source of energy that could possibly replace gas and nuclear power plants. Rather than split an atom, fusion power combines atoms in a process that creates energy. Fusion power is what creates stars. Large amounts of plasma and energy are created, giving off extreme heat and energy. Humans have not yet harnessed this form of energy because our technology is not advanced enough. However as technology improves, we can look forward to having an infinite source of energy created from artificial suns.
Fusion power is literally a endless supply of power. The best way we can generate power at the moment is in giant magnetic fields using plasma. Plasma is sometimes described as the 4th state of matter. It consists of free moving ions and electrons[1]. To use fusion power we use electro-magnetic fields that conceal the plasma. Energy moves freely within the plasma, which is collected and stored.
Fusion energy is a very viable way we can provide energy in the future. We should consider it as a possible solution, and is probable that we will be able to create large amounts of this in the future.

I have included links that have more information on plasma and fusion energy:




[1] http://www.plasmas.org/what-are-plasmas.htm

Christian Buck - Hydrocarbons

Christian Buck

Hydrocarbons are some of the most important and common chemicals in our world. They power our cars, economy and lives. Some commons hydrocarbons are methane, butane, octane, propane, and in many other forms[1]. Hydrocarbons are combinations of hydrogen and carbon that tend to be very explosive making them ideal for fuels of all sorts. They also are a source of energy that we depend on, which is becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain.
Since 1978 the price of gas as risen over two dollars[2]. It is becoming more difficult to drill oil. As we extract more oil we are allowing more fuels to be consumed. We also deplete our supply of natural gas, forcing us to do more to reach the oil. As it becomes harder to get fuel, the supply will not be able to match the demand and the product will be too expensive to afford. The world is going to have to find a way to survive when our cars, appliances, power plants, and everything requiring fuel looses its source of power.
We are living in a world that has a time limit. We cannot always rely on the same resource. If we want to continue life with fossil fuels, we have to come up with ways to avoid using up our valuable hydrocarbons.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocarbons#Examples
[2] http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/images

Christian Buck - Carbon Dioxide

Christian Buck


Large doses of carbon dioxide (5% of the air content) are toxic to animals. Like carbon monoxide it is colorless, and can be dangerous. However we need small amounts of carbon dioxide to live. In fresh air the carbon dioxide content is 0.04%. Trees on the other hand, need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. The chloroplast converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. This makes trees a useful tool in diminishing the effects of global warming. It is a key part of life on the planet, but too much can be hazardous.

Carbon dioxide is a dry ice in its solid state. It has a melting point of –78.5 degrees Celsius (–109.3 degrees Fahrenheit). After this temperature it changes directly to a gas, bypassing the liquid stage, giving it the name “dry ice”. Dry ice is used for industrial purposes and to cool food items as well as fog for special effects. There are many other uses for dry ice, given its unique properties.

In our oceans there is a large amount of carbon dioxide. They are found in the form of bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is created through a reaction between water, rock, and carbon dioxide. Most bicarbonate is at the bottom of the ocean and will eventually draw the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the sea, but this will take hundreds of years because the bicarbonate must come to the surface for the reaction to occur.

Carbon dioxide is something we all have to deal with and is important to all life. We just have to prevent too much of it being released. We can do this through carbon sequestration. The Carbon Zero Project is an initiative to lower the amount of carbon dioxide we release. Part of our project is the planting of trees that help turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

All information was received from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide

Monday, March 27, 2006

Global Warming - Christian Buck

Christian Buck

Global warming is a threat we hear about everyday. It has fueled large debates on the environment. Most people know what it is and that it is affecting us in some way. What is global warming and what problems does it cause? Is it a major threat to us, will it endanger our lives and lifestyle?
Global warming is the warming of our atmosphere through a large blanket of carbon dioxide and many other chemicals. Like a greenhouse, the heat from the outside world is conducted and stored, which has given global warming the name “the greenhouse affect”. Without some atmosphere of compounds like carbon dioxide, our planet would be like mars; unbearably hot in the day and freezing at night. Our atmosphere keeps life stable and alive in a protected space.
The problem we have at the moment is our atmosphere is becoming too thick. A thick atmosphere makes the temperature rise. As a result the polar ice caps are melting and the oceans rise. Plants and animals unable to adapt are dying at enormous rates. This has happened in the past as a result of natural events, but this time we are helping create another period of extinction.
Cars and their drivers add up to releasing 5.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year and when combined with heating, air conditioning, and other processes that require fossil fuels everyone adds up to releasing 18.7 tons of carbon dioxide annually[1]. The amount of people on our earth is still increasing. We already are supporting over 6.5 billon people. This means to figure the amount of carbon released each year we would have to multiply 18.7 tons of carbon by 6.5 billion people. This number does not include the amount of C02 released by the other species of animals on our planet.
When an organic object dies it decomposes. Decomposing is the act of breaking down matter into simple chemicals and in the process a lot of carbon dioxide is released. Every tree, blade of grass and every insect releases more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. We as humans are the masters of releasing CO2. We start fires, run cars and other tools powered by fossil fuels. Like other creatures we die and decompose. We are very responsible for global warming which in return is affecting our lives at this very moment. We can help reverse the process of global warming. If we can cut down on burning fossil fuel and organic matter, and come up with ideas for efficient energy we will reduce the damage we are causing to our planet. Planting trees can help as well. Trees and plants take in carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Massive deforestation is harmful but can be turned around with help from people willing to replant our forest and jungles.

[1] itest.slu.edu/articles/90s/hannan.html

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kate Costello - Grant Writing

Kate Costello

During the past two weeks, we have sent out our first two grants. This is especially exciting for us, as we have been working hard on developing a boilerplate grant and customizing it for each individual foundation since the beginning of the semester.
We applied to the Merck Family Fund for a three year, twenty-five thousand dollar per year grant to cover the start up costs of the Carbon Zero Project. This is to cover a faculty salary as well as startup costs, phone, internet, stationary and envelopes, ect. These costs are presently incorporated into the school budget, but as we expand we would like to not be so dependent on the school. After this three-year period, we hope that our business will be self-sufficient and sustainable. We plan to impose a 1% surcharge to the companies’ cost for certification in order to pay for these expenses after this grant has expired. However, as we are a beginning company, it will be a while before we have gained enough momentum to pay for our expenses without the help of a grantor such as Merck.
Additionally, we have applied to the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation for a five thousand dollar grant to fund the creation and maintenance of a website for the Carbon Zero Project. This grant will allow us to hire a web designer for our much needed website. The creation of a website will allow us to establish a web-presence beyond that of this blog. It will allow prospective companies to learn more about our project and potentially request more information while featuring the companies that are already signed up, while being more formal than the blog. If you would like to read the Merck grant, it is provided below.

Example Grant - Merck Family Fund

March 14, 2006

Jenny Russell, Executive Director
Merck Family Fund
303 Adams Street
Milton, MA 02186-4253

Dear Ms. Russell:

In the fall of 2004, students at the Vermont Commons School (VCS), a private, college-preparatory school for grades 7-12, began a project called the Commons Co-op. This project set out to reduce the energy usage and associated carbon emissions at our school. Carbon emissions are the leading cause of global warming, and by increasing awareness among our own community we hope to reduce carbon emissions. Within the school, this project reduced energy dependency by 18.3% in consumption alone and then went beyond these reductions, offsetting 100% of carbon emissions through carbon sequestration.

We began by making small changes such as installing energy efficient light bulbs, turning lights of when we left the room and unplugging appliances that were not in use. Through our efforts we planted 1500 trees to neutralize the remaining emissions produced by our school. In the fall of 2005 the group began to imagine greater prospects of energy conservation by expanding into the larger community. The new focus of this organization is to certify local businesses as Carbon Zero. This Carbon Zero designation is awarded to businesses that have neutralized their carbon output by reducing overall energy consumption, introducing renewable energy sources, and funding ecologically diverse carbon sequestration projects. Use of the logo provides companies with a valuable marketing tool. To label companies as Carbon Zero, members of our project analyze the companies electricity bills and provide them with strategies to neutralize their emissions. We began analyzing energy audits and writing business proposals for likeminded companies that would be willing to follow in our footsteps.

This past fall the Commons Co-op was renamed the Carbon Zero Project. We agreed to expand our original initiative; to increase awareness, reduce energy consumption, invest in renewable electricity sources and completely eliminate carbon emissions through carbon sequestration, to outside the walls of VCS. Through our project, we aspire to not only help the environment, but also improve a company's sales and educate the community about global warming and carbon emissions. This project presents businesses with a chance to cancel out their carbon emissions through ecological restoration, while providing them with a progressive marketing strategy. Our process involves a three-pronged approach to neutralize carbon emissions, beginning with reducing energy consumption, creating a plan that utilizes renewable sources and, lastly, planting trees to sequester remaining carbon emissions.

The Carbon Zero Project combines environmental education with a proactive effort to benefit the community. This class is now conducted using a business model; the teacher acts as the boss and students as employees. Whatever is accomplished is done by the students. With all the responsibility that students are given, we are actually running the company, and we are provided with invaluable pre-professional work experience in writing business proposals, analyzing energy audits and meeting with the owners of companies and presenting them with ways in which they can combat electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions. Our future expansion will not be possible without a full time faculty member to direct the students. Through our project, we aspire to not only help the environment, but also improve a company's sales and educate the community about global warming and carbon emissions.

We request a three-year grant, for $25,000 per year, from the Merck Family Foundation to fund our start-up costs, pay the salary of a faculty member who will lead the Carbon Zero Certification Project and hire an additional instructor to manage our correspondence with businesses. Our start-up costs will include mail, website, phone, internet access, and office supplies. We aspire for self-sufficiency. After this three-year period is complete, we will have enough companies enrolled to generate funds to pay for the project's annual costs, by imposing a 1% service charge.

Although the project is still in the preliminary stages, we have received interest from many local businesses, such as Middlebury College, Healthy Living Natural Foods and JDK Design, who would like to get involved with the Carbon Zero Project. We already have two local business certified as 100% Carbon Zero. We continue to perform energy audits, analyze electricity consumption as well as write and present our proposals to businesses, and hope to sign up at least five new businesses per semester. Until this point we have been able to fund our project through the budget of the school, and are taught by an existing social science professor. It is apparent that if we are to continue our progress, we will require alternate funding from programs such as yours. We envision this certification to be equivalent to the organic label. With all the media attention on peak oil, global warming and other environmental concerns, our project proscribes a course of action. In time our project will undoubtedly draw attention of many large businesses, as well as the media.

With your help, our project will be able to expand beyond the local community, become a sustainable business and after the three-year period, become self-sufficient.

Thank you for your consideration. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Will Hayden
Ninth Grade
Ian Hollyer
Ninth Grade
Kate Costello
Tenth Grade

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What's Been Happening

As the semester has changed, and a new group has taken over control of the Commons Co-op, we have been very busy and unable to keep up with current updates on our blog. I have decided that a basic report on what has been happening would be helpful.
· The new group has adjusted to their positions now and we are starting to make a lot of progress with our business. Over the last month or so, the business development branch has sent out over 35 letters to local businesses asking for their participation. As we wait for responses, we are continuing to research and more prospect businesses.
· The group of three grant writers has continuously been revising the introductory letter and crafting it into top form. It has been changed over and over again and revised many times. It is very close to being finalized and ready to be sent out to foundations so that we are able to get a full time teacher for this course.
· There are quite a few business proposals that are in the process of being sent out to companies who have agreed to participate in the program. In the process we have been able to finalize a 100% carbon certification with Outdoor Gear Exchange (OGE's Website). They are our first carbon zero certified company and we are very happy to have their support
· Two students have been working on a letter to enter us in a conference and get our name out to the public. If it all works out, we will have a great time and be able to display our project on a larger scale. The conference is called Sustainability Consortium (http://www.solsustainability.org/index.htm).
· Coveris, a consulting company, has signed up to help with energy audits and introductions to other corporations. You can see more about their company at their Website. With their help and the continued hard work of all the students, we are continuing to make good progress and expand our company.

Climate Change Research

Stumbling around the Internet today, I found a great site that allows you to compute data on climate change while you aren’t using your computer. So when your computer would usually be showing a basic screensaver, you could be helping to process the climate information. Climate change and prediction is an issue of great importance. This web site is trying to produce a valuable forecast of the 21st century’s climate.
You can find out more at http://climateprediction.net/