Energy Update

Wired posted this article regarding a company, Ausra, which claims that it could power 90 percent of the US grid using current solar panel technology, 9,600 square miles, and yet-to-be invented 16-hour power storage technology.

Ausra also states in the article that it can generate power at prices competitive with natural gas power generation. The key obstacle to solar is its cost efficiency, but, if this is true, possibly not for long.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil is bullish on solar, recently making this predection:
"We also see an exponential progression in the use of solar energy," he
said. "It is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means
multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we'll meet 100 percent of our
energy needs in 20 years." (Link)

Just under 10,000 square miles doesn't seem like much of a problem. In a few years, even less land will me required. If you supplemented solar with clean technologies like nuclear you could avoid having to invent 16-hour storage.

Obviously, there are other obstacles. I also wonder about the security risks of solar power. We would to ensure that it is sufficiently distributed and redundant. Those fields of panels just feel more vulnerable than the typical coal-fired plant.

There has been talk of a revolution for so long, but it seems we are getting closer to the real thing. Oil prices are the critical factor. While the current gas prices are painful, they may be our best hope for eliminating the need for oil. As Amory Lovins has noted when discussing the decline of whaling oil as a fuel source in the 19th century, "The whalers were astounded that they ran out of customers before they ran out of whales." (Link)

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