The Future Of Energy

When humans first appeared on Earth, the only power they had available came from their own muscles. As time went on, they learned to harness the power of animals to till their fields and the wind to cross the oceans, but mankind still relied on muscle power to get things done.

Watt Steam EngineThen along came James Watt, who gave us the steam engine to do our work for us. Life was good. The discovery of petroleum spurred machines called automobiles and airplanes. Electricity became our friend, allowing us to do virtually anything with the touch of a button. Life was very good, indeed.

Sadly, the supply of petroleum on Earth is not infinite. In less than 200 years, mankind will burn through most, if not all, of the fossil fuel that took millions of years to produce. The question is no longer if we will run out of fossil fuels but when.

Power is prosperity. It is the answer to poverty. If there were enough power available, at little to no cost, to meet the needs of every person on Earth, what wondrous things might mankind accomplish?

Fortunately, the is such a power source and it is just 93,000,000 miles away. It’s called the sun. It’s free. It’s non=polluting. And it will be around for a billion  years or so. If climate change is the most pressing problem confronting mankind for the foreseeable future, solar power is the answer.

PrismJust last week, new advances in nano-technology were announced that will make tomorrow’s solar panels twice as efficient as the best panels available today. Nano-technology may even allow future panels to harvest the infrared radiation from the Earth after the sun goes down.

Critics are quick to point out that solar panels do not work 24 hours a day and that some of us like to read or watch TV during the night. The response is that during the daylight hours, solar panels can produce more electricity than is needed. This excess can be stored in a number of ways.

Batteries are an easy solution, but batteries have some drawbacks of the own, the most important of which is that they are hazardous to the environment when they are produced and when they are disposed of. Just recently, eco-friendly batteries that rely on vegetable matter and iron have made news.

Water TowerOther methods include using the extra power during the day to pump water uphill into a storage area. Later, the water is released to turn generators while it runs back downhill. Think Hoover Dam, here. Apple has just filed for a patent on a system that used excess energy to heat a fluid. Later, that heat is used to create steam to spin a turbine.

Enough sunlight strikes the Earth every minute to meet the needs of all 6 billion people currently alive for an entire day. The means to harness that power is within our grasp. Isn’t it time we got busy providing abundant non-polluting energy for all people instead of fighting wars over the last few drops of fossil fuel?


About Steve Hanley

Totally enamored with my family, my grandkids, and seeing the world.
This entry was posted in Energy Policy, Solar Power, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Future Of Energy

  1. redwallaus says:

    Some great points there, not sure if you have seen it but there is a TED talk about creating environmentally friendly batteries by building them in the country in which they are needed rather and using locally sourced material to further save on the embedded cost to the environment. I just finished a post on using solar over coal in our homes as well

    • Steve Hanley says:

      Thank you for sharing your thinking. I believe the future will see far more local power production. More than 50% of all the electricity generated every day is wasted due to transmission losses from the generating station to the ultimate user.The other half of the equation is to deal with the waste created by consumption and the production process locally. Shipping our trash to Africa is not a long term solution.

      More importantly, we need to view our Earth as our home, not a dumping ground. I am often mindful of a short ditty written by Yip Harburg many years ago:

      God made the world in six days flat. On the seventh, He said “I’ll rest.” So He let the thing into orbit swing, to give it a dry run test. A billion years went by, then He took a look at the whirling blob. His spirits fell as He said, “Oh, well. It was only a six day job.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s