Energy production includes large and small-scale methods of producing energy for residential and commercial needs. Production encompasses large coal, nuclear or natural gas powered power plants. Energy can also be produced on a smaller scale by harnessing natural renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and water (hydroelectricity). These are a few examples of energy production processes. Researching sustainable methods for producing energy is crucial for sustaining the provincial, national and international energy demands.

Carleton’s sustainable energy research in energy production includes:

  • Air Pollution from Power Plants

Pollution is released into the air from the burning of fossil fuels for power generation. Pollutants released during combustion include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide release during combustion and have negative environmental impacts. Resulting detrimental effects include acid rain, smog, noxious gas fumes etc.

  • Biofuels

Biofuels are made from plants grown today. Biofuels include solid biomass (a renewable energy source from living or recent living organisms which can be converted into biofuel), liquid fuels, and various biogases. Biofuels offer a sustainable method of providing energy in large (commercial) or small scale (residential) settings.

  • Combined Heat and Power Generation

Electricity production automatically produces excess heat, which often is released through methods such as cooling towers. Capturing and making use of this heat production makes the system much more efficient. Combined heat and power generation (CHP) utilize the heat released during power generation for building heating systems or pre-heating hot water. Micro-combined heat and power generation (micro-CHP) utilizes the same methods on a smaller office or residential scale.

  • Fuel Cells

A fuel cell is an alternate method of generating electricity. Fuel cells use a fuel, such as hydrogen, which undergoes a process in which negatively charged electrons disassociate from the hydrogen atoms and follow a circuit creating electricity.  The waste product from a hydrogen fuel cell is water. Other fuels can be used in a fuel cell, but these are often hydrocarbons. Fuel cells can be used in many areas requiring power, including vehicles and residential settings.

  • Gas Turbine Power Generation

Gas turbines can be used to generate power, and typically requires natural gas as a fuel. Due to the burning of a fossil fuel, there are negative environmental impacts associated with gas turbines – such as the release of carbon dioxide. The use of gas turbines for power generation can arise during the peak hours – hours considered high-use times of the day. During these hours, peaker plants help to supply energy to the grid. Gas turbines used as peaker plants often have lower efficiency as they are only used for short periods of time during high use hours. Overall, gas turbine contribute to power generation but aren’t necessarily a sustainable source based on the fuel used to power them.

  • Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is a method of generating electricity through a process called nuclear fission. Simply put, the process splits an atom into smaller parts during which energy is also released in the form of heat. This heat is incorporated into a power plant to ultimately produce electricity. Nuclear energy in Ontario currently uses the CANDU reactor system, a Canadian design which uses deuterium (heavy water) to moderate the reaction. Research in nuclear energy is based on Generation IV reactors, which aim to increase safety and efficiency of the reactors. Supercritical water reactors, which use supercritical water as the working fluid, is currently being researched at Carleton University.

  • Solar Energy

Solar energy is a sustainable energy source from the sun, available year-round. Solar energy can be used for many applications such as heating, cooling, and electricity. Solar energy research at Carleton includes solar thermal systems, the implementation of solar panels for residential or commercial application, seasonal storage of solar thermal energy and the optimization of devices used in solar energy (photovoltaics).

  • Waste to Energy

Utilizing waste as an energy source is an efficient method to make use of waste products that still have some value. Processing waste in an effective manner can produce usable energy sources and products thereby reducing the size and negative environmental impact of a landfill.

  • Wind Energy

Wind power makes use of the energy of wind and moving air for useful power such as electricity. Wind turbines spin due to wind velocity, which in turn causes a rotation in a turbine. This rotating turbine creates electricity. Wind is a sustainable and renewable form of energy. Research to improve the efficiency of wind power systems is being completed at Carleton University. Such research includes improving the aerodynamics of the wind turbine blades, developing control system, and optimizing the layout of wind turbines in a wind farm to reduce effects between turbines.