Energy quality the contrast between different forms of energy, the different trophic levels in ecological systems and the propensity of energy to convert from one form to another. The concept refers to our empirical experience of the characteristics, or qualia, of different energy forms as they flow and transform. It appeals to our common perception of the heat value, versatility, and environmental performance of different energy forms and the way a small increment in energy flow can sometimes produce a large transformation effect on both energy physical state and energy. For example the transition from a solid state to liquid may only involve a very small addition of energy. Methods of evaluating energy quality are sometimes concerned to develop a system of ranking energy qualities in hierarchical order.
At the same time many people have also recognised qualitative differences in the way things can be done by different entities (both physical and biological). Humans, for example have qualitatively different capacities than many other mammals, due, in part, to their opposable thumb. In the attempt to formalise some of the qualitative differences, entities were grouped according to distinguishing features or capacities. Different schools of thought used different methods to make distinctions. Some people chose taxonomic and genome structure, while others chose energetic function as the basis of classifications. The former are often associated with biology, while the latter with the trophic food chain analysis of ecology. These can be considered attempts to formalise quantitative, scientific studies of the qualitative differences between entities. The efforts were not isolated to biology and ecology, since engineers were also interested in quantifying the amount of work that qualitatively different sources of energy could provide.
According to Ohta (1994, pp. 90-91) the ranking and scientific analysis of energy quality was first proposed in 1851 by William Thomson under the concept of "availability". This concept was continued in Germany by Z. Rant, who developed it under the title, "die Exergie" (the exergy). It was later continued and standardised in Japan. Exergy analysis now forms a common part of many industrial and ecological energy analyses. For example, I.Dincer and Y.A. Cengel (2001, p. 132) state that energy forms of different qualities are now commonly dealt with in steam power engineering industry. Here the "quality index" is the relation of exergy to the energy content (Ibid.). However energy engineers were aware that the notion of heat quality involved the notion of value - for example A. Thumann wrote, "The essential quality of heat is not the amount but rather its 'value'" (1984, p. 113) - which brings into play the question of teleology and wider, or ecological-scale goal functions. In an ecological context S.E. Jorgensen and G.Bendoricchio say that exergy is used as a goal function in ecological models, and expresses energy "with a built-in measure of quality like energy" (2001, p. 392).
Receiver methods: view energy quality as a measure and indicator of the relative ease with which energy converts from one form to another. That is, how much energy is received from a transformation or transfer process. For example, A. Grubler used two types of indicators of energetic quality pars pro toto: the hydrogen/carbon (H/C) ratio, and its inverse, the carbon intensity of energy. Grubler used the latter as an indicator of relative environmental quality. However Ohta says that in multistage industrial conversion systems, such as a hydrogen production system using solar energy, the energy quality is not upgraded (1994, p. 125).
Donor methods: view energy quality as a measure of the amount of energy used in an energy transformation, and that goes into sustaining a product or service (H.T.Odum 1975, p.3). That is how much energy is donated to an energy transformation process. These methods are used in ecological physical chemistry, and ecosystem evaluation. From this view, in contrast with that outlined by Ohta, energy quality is upgraded in the multistage trophic conversions of ecological systems. Here, upgraded energy quality has a greater capacity to feedback and control lower grades of energy quality. Donor methods attempt to understand the usefulness of an energetic process by quantifying the extent to which higher quality energy controls lower quality energy.
If energy A is relatively easier to convert to energy B but energy B is relatively harder to convert to energy A, then the quality of energy A is defined as being higher than that of B. The ranking of energy quality is also defined in a similar way. (T.Ohta 1994, p. 90).
Nomenclature: Prior to Ohta's definition above, A.W.Culp produced an energy conversion table describing the different conversions from one energy to another. Culp's treatment made use of a subscript to indicate which energy form is being talked about. Therefore, instead of writing "energy A", like Ohta above, Culp referred to "Je", to specify electrical form of energy, where" J" refers to "energy", and the "e"subscript refers to electrical form of energy. Culps notation anticipated Scienceman's (1997) later maxim that all energy should be specified as form energy with the appropriate subscript.
The concept of energy quality enables the analyst to account for the previous indirect as well as direct requirements of energy flow. Such total energy flow requirements are analygous to cost in economic analysis. because the calculation of those energy requirements is based on a set of processes operating at optimum energy efficiency, the energy quality calculations are assumed to identify the total energy cost that is in balance with maximum utility.Odum, Wang, Alexander, Gilliland 1983, A manual for using energy analysis for plant siting, Report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, FIN B6155.
Ohta sought to order energy form conversions according to their quality and introduced a hierarchical scale for ranking energy quality based on the relative ease of energy conversion (see table to right after Ohta, p. 90). It is evident that Ohta did not analyse all forms of energy, for example, water is left out of his evaluation. It is important to note that the ranking of energy quality is not determined solely with reference to the efficiency of the energy conversion. This is to say that the evaluation of "relative ease" of an energy conversion is only partly dependent on transformation efficiency. As Ohta wrote, "the turbine generator and the electromotor have nearly the same efficiency, therefore we cannot say which has the higher quality" (1994, p. 90). Ohta therefore also included, 'abundance in nature' as another critierion for the determination energy quality rank. For example, Ohta said that, "the only electrical energy which exists in natural circumstances is lightning, while many mechanical energies exist." (Ibid.). (See also table 1. in Wall's article for another example ranking of energy quailty).
Like Ohta, H.T.Odum also sought to order energy form conversions according to their quality, however his hierarchical scale for ranking was based on extending ecological system food chain concepts to thermodyanmics rather than simply relative ease of transformation . For H.T.Odum energy quality rank is based on the amount of energy of one form required to generate a unit of another energy form. The ratio of one energy form input to a different energy form output was what H.T.Odum and colleagues called transformity: "the EMERGY per unit energy in units of emjoules per joule" (H.T.Odum 1988, p. 1135).
Wipo Publishes Patent of China Electric Power Research Institute, State Grid Corporation of China, Ming Zhong, Huaguang Yan, He Wang, Xiangjiang Yang, Xin Zhang, Hongmei Wang, Dezhi Li, Taoyong Li, Limin Jiang, Changhai Miao, Guixiong He and Zhaomao Zhou for "Electric Energy Quality Type Energy Efficiency Data Acquisition Terminal" (Chinese Inventors)
Apr 26, 2013; GENEVA, April 26 -- Publication No. WO/2013/056609 was published on April 25.Title of the invention: "ELECTRIC ENERGY QUALITY...