If you’re not a social networker, you should consider investing a little more time to it. I am not a tweeterer, and this is my first attempt at bloggering, but I have taken a stab at the FaceSpace pages to reach out to my long distance friends. One of the benefits of these network sites, for me anyway, is that since I’m sitting in front of a web terminal for 9hrs a day already, I’m communicating more with friends “virtually”, than in person. One particular friend is a fellow I knew only in passing when he lived in my city. He had recently moved to Seattle for employment purposes. I remember thinking what a shame, as I perceived him to be a bright guy with a different background, but with similar world views; and when he left I thought I had lost a chance for some good conversation. Thanks, internet; because apparently Atlanta to Seattle is not too great a distance for valuable discussion.
Today he posted a link to an article, which I found very enlightening. So much so, that I was compelled to share it with YOU as well. This article, by Lisa Zyga @ physorg.com, includes a discussion with Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He offers a concise summary and comparison of what we now refer to as “alternative energies”: those which will finally eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels.
The white paper Abbot has written, which is the basis for Lisa’s article, is compelling in that it does not approach the topic of alternative energy in the typical trend of GREEN think. His analysis is very well based in a practicality/sustainability, cost/benefit viewpoint. The link is here:
The key points of the article are:
Abbot believes that a solar-hydrogen economy will be our salvation. He addresses all of the other sources of alternative energies, including a more widespread use of nuclear. Most major energy players want to move to nuclear next, simply because of the short term cost advantages. But if we are to learn anything from the recent financial collapse, it’s that short term thinking is simply no good.
Abbot demonstrates that solar is the clear cut way to go for one, indisputable factor: SUPPLY. Here’s some numbers for the crunchers: “Today, the world’s energy consumption is currently 15 TeraWatts (TW) (15 x 10^12 watts). The total solar energy that strikes the Earth is 166 Petawatts (PW) (166 x 10^15 watts). Even with 50% of this energy being reflected back into space or absorbed by clouds, the remaining 83 PW is more than 5,000 times our present global energy consumption. In contrast, the [other] sources of renewable energy (wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal) can supply less than 1% of solar power potential.”
Abbott calculates that, in order to supply the world’s energy needs, the footprint of such a system with pessimistic assumptions would be equivalent to a plot of land of about 1250 km by 1250 km – about 8% of the land area of the hot deserts of the world. With less pessimistic assumptions, the land area could be reduced to 500 km by 500 km, corresponding to 1.7 billion solar dishes that are each 10 meters wide. At massive volumes, if these Stirling engine dishes could be produced at a cost of $1,000 each, the total world cost would be $1.7 trillion – “which is less than the going rate of a war these days.”
Abbot then drops the cherry on top, and this is what got me: “…The point about solar energy is that there is so much of it that you only have to tap 5% of it at an efficiency as tiny as 1% and you already have energy over 5 times the whole world’s present consumption…what are we waiting for?”
5%, at 1% efficiency = 5x our present consumption. Total world cost: $1.7 Trillion.
What are we waiting for INDEED.
I read a great book about many scientific theories in many fields, can’t recall the title right now but it agreed with this proposal that the only solution to our energy needs is solar.
It proposed that in order for our society to make its next big evolution, enormous amounts of power will be needed and this can only be realized by harnessing the sun. With so much energy cheap and available, so many applications for it will be developed that carry society into a new era.
An added proposition was that solar collectors could be placed in space where of course solar energy is most powerful and uninterrupted and then transmitted back to earth.
Now you are preaching to the choir for sure with me. After universal healthcare reform, renewable energy is by far my biggest issue. The president is off to a great start with the stimulus and the budget in funding renewable energy. The climate and energy bill should focus more on solar and hydrogen than it does but that’s another key step in the process.
I prefer solar and wind myself as stationary energy sources and hydrogen as a portable energy source. Though you should Google “JET plasma fusion” which is another intriguing energy source. Like most new technology it’s a European project were they are trying to get net positive energy out of an plasma induced fusion reactor.
what I appreciated most about this guy’s perspective on energy was the “big picture” thinking he seemed to possess. he discussed each of the alt. energy options in terms of its efficiency, output, long term sustainability, environmental impact, and history.
the solar collector method has been online for decades, so it is a tested technology. the sustainability is practical, and the environmental impact is minimal. when you compare to the other technologies, which could certainly be used in localized applications, it is the hands down winner as a global solution. the money spent on nuclear seems a complete waste, particularly because of THE WASTE! *ha* funds could then be better spent on improving and securing the “grid”.
What will really accelerate this is when the next gen of solar cells is created that can produce exponentially more energy.
As it is, solar cells are not very efficient but as more money pours into research from their growing commercial use and government investment, that could happen sooner than later.