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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(05):22-25. doi:10.1115/1.2008-MAY-1.
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This article highlights that like everything else wind power is biggest in Texas. But plans to erect thousands of large turbines have utilities scrambling to build a new energy infrastructure. To take advantage of its wind potential, address the state’s fuel diversity problem, and demonstrate sensitivity to regional environmental issues, the 1999 Texas legislature established a “renewable portfolio standard.” This standard sets a goal of 2000 MW of new renewable electricity generation by 2009. Compressed air energy storage (CAES) uses off-peak electricity from the grid to compress air that is stored at high pressures in natural underground repositories. When needed, the compressed air is raised to the surface, expanded in two phases, and then mixed with natural gas. The combination is ignited, turning a gas turbine and producing electricity. Naturally arched salt domes of the type used in the Huntorf and McIntosh plants are not common in West Texas, so the Shell-Luminant CAES plant will use salt beds instead.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(05):25-29. doi:10.1115/1.2008-MAY-2.
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This article reviews potentially radical advances in gas turbines that came in all shapes and sizes in 2007. Gas turbine production is now a $30 billion industry, one that has been dominated, except for a stretch in the late 1990s, by commercial and military aviation. In its 70-year history, the gas turbine has become one of society’s most important and versatile energy conversion, which is relatively inert. Fuel converted to power through a gas turbine is as kinetic a substance as you can find, and one that can create great wealth. In the $21.8 billion aviation market, nearly 80 percent is for commercial aircraft engines, while the dominance of electrical generation in the $10.5 billion non-aviation market is even greater. New aircraft represents advances for commercial aviation, but commercial jet engines are themselves the key to future growth of the airline industry. While the aviation market has seen steady growth over the past decade or so, the non-aviation market for gas turbines has a noticeable production spike.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(05):32-35. doi:10.1115/1.2008-MAY-3.
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This article discusses design equipment built to withstand rigors of life in the ocean. Equipment called upon by the offshore industries undergoes hard use in the face of nature. Engineers in the offshore industry rely on finite element analysis (FEA) because of the demands of their business. Many engineers call upon the analysis technique to ensure that the equipment they design can withstand the unique ocean rigors and the dangers inherent in the offshore environment. Many offshore companies run FEA analysis to calculate that their equipment will function properly under conditions unique to the industry, like lifting heavy equipment in confined areas. Engineers rely on simulations and analysis to ensure that they have the basis of their design correct and that the equipment they create will function for two decades. While simulation will never totally replace the need to verify results by testing a prototype, analysis is useful in a number of ways. A prototype may run successfully, but actually be very close to failing. Engineers have no way to know that unless they also look at analysis numbers.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(05):36-38. doi:10.1115/1.2008-MAY-4.
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This article focuses on the fact that even as energy and commodity cost increases, working efficiently has been made a bigger priority than ever for small manufacturers, wherein the power consumption is being scaled back. The share of the United States’ energy supply going to industry has dropped steadily over the past few decades. Returns on energy-saving investments are pretty good, but proposals for making those sorts of investments are often held to an incredibly high standard. The recommendations that are most often adopted, such as reducing the temperature of water used in a process or repairing leaks in lines and valves, pay back the initial investment in a couple of months. While energy costs can be cut significantly—even easily—it is an expense that many managers find easy to overlook. For most manufacturers, the cost of energy accounts for just a small percentage of their overall expenses.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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