Jason Barton

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Natural Gas and Alternative Energy: A Promising Combination

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Washington Free Press

posted Mar. 28, 2010   

Possible benefits include drought-protected electricity for Seattle

by Martin Nix

Natural gas is used to heat homes and to generate much of the nation’s electricity. It’s a very effective fuel, and there’s no shortage of it domestically. It can even be made from urban compost and forest residues.

Another benefit of natural gas is that it is “clean burning,” at least in comparison with most other fuels. The emissions from Natural Gas are basically half water vapor and half CO2, with practically no other pollutants. The CO2 emissions can be greatly reduced by integrating alternative energy technology.


Conserving gas in this way also helps to keep line pressure up in the pipeline. Part of the problem with natural gas distribution is pipe diameter size. Pipes can only haul so much natural gas. In the winter, when the natural gas utility is overloaded, it can cause a drop in line pressure. Solar hot water systems help relieve the overload. This lessens the need for gas infrastructure improvements.


Another way to reduce consumption of gas is to have an aggressive greenhouse and window-replacement program. Some homes now have four panes of glass, instead of just one or two. This reduces the amount of heat escaping. It also has another bonus: the home is quieter from outside noise.


Cogeneration is a system that uses natural gas not only to generate electricity on-site, but also to heat or cool the site. Equipment can be retrofited to existing commercial buildings, like laundrymats, which have a constant high demand for hot water. Grocery stores have a constant energy demand for air conditioning, especially in the summer. The heat from a natural gas electrical generator is recaptured to drive a hot water boiler or an absorption-cycle air conditioner. This makes natural gas more efficient, in that it uses the same amount of energy to make both heat and electricity. Electricity is almost like a free bonus.

Read the entire article here.