Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Begin the Beginning

There is an English Group called Carbon Free that has issued a new report. You can purchase it here.

On any given day, the solar energy falling on a typical oilfield in the Middle East is far greater than the energy contained in the oil extracted from it. However, while oil provides a highly concentrated source of power, solar energy is distributed over a wide area.

Collecting energy from a wide area is an activity usually associated with farming, and an agricultural, as opposed to an industrial, model should be used for the harvesting of renewable energy.

Large areas of land will be used for energy generation over the next two decades, and this opens up opportunities for the agricultural sector and next generation energy producers.

Some farmers are already active in the energy market: either selling biomass for conversion into electricity or fuel or renting their land to wind turbine operators.

Carbon Free sees Wind energy, which in some cases is already profitable, expanding steadily and highlights the trial in Dakota of a hydrogen refuelling station powered by wind turbines as a potential application for energy farming in rural areas.

The report explains that improvements in the equipment used to farm solar energy depend on advances in semiconductor technology and that the market will therefore follow a boom-and-bust growth path similar to that of the IT industry.

CarbonFree suggests the market may stabilise with the arrival of third generation photovoltaic devices constructed using advanced nanotechnology.

It predicts that companies such as Konarka and Nanosolar will carve out a niche within this market and eventually drive down the cost of photovoltaic devices to the point where solar energy farms are self-financing.

Nanotechnology-based materials that extract hydrogen from water when exposed to sunlight are identified as a technology that, while still at research stage, will provide a step change in the farmed energy market.

CarbonFree suggests that the price of conventional polycrystalline silicon based devices will remain too high for large-scale deployment. However, it does see large-scale energy farming trials – sites with effective areas up to 1km² - being worth in excess of $600 million to manufacturers of thin film and polymer based photovoltaic technology.

The report recommends that renewable energy producers should aim to be competitive in a market where oil is priced at $30 per barrel. It warns that the current high price of oil will either trigger a recession or encourage radical energy conservation programmes.

It also notes that oil producing countries are unlikely to invest in renewable energy farming, despite having access to large areas of hot arid land, while the activation cost of the equivalent of a barrel of oil per day of renewable energy is an order of magnitude higher than that of a barrel per day of extracted oil.

CarbonFree warns that while the farmed renewable energy sector will grow slowly over the next decade, it will eventually have both a political and geopolitical impact. The rural economies within countries will be empowered and global companies will move operations from Europe to countries within the solar belt, where they can take advantage of low cost renewable energy.

The report states that conventional energy companies, especially those with experience in chemical and agrochemical production, are well placed to exploit any wide-scale use of polymer based photovoltaic devices by the agricultural sector.

It also suggests that, if the price of polymer based photovoltaic technology falls sufficiently, farmers could install it on their land in the same way as they deploy polythene to accelerate crop growth."

Even though I have not read the report,

I am certainly encouraged by its existence.

It sounds very much like the kind of future we need.

However, with the developments of power paints,

every man made structure

that receives significant quantities of photonic energy

should have their surfaces coated with these

photonic/electronic surfaces.

So, their model, although encouraging,

is probably not where we want to go.

We should build our homes and structures

so that each one of them "lives" in their own environment.

Of course, there will be solar fields, and wind fields,

And there will be heliohydrogen production farms too.

And there will be an electric utility that will be connecting it all,

distributing the energy to your car, your home, your store.

You may buy low at night and sell high in the afternoon.

You may even chose to power your home with your plug in hybrid.

The new model of the future is not the unidirectional model of today.

It will be an integrated system of vehicles, mass transit, buildings,

power plants, and energy fields,

combined with efficiency, telework, and teleplay.

It will begin the beginning.


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*art courtesy of Harry Palmer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This vision is so clear and I suspect it will become a reality.

Thank you for your work

11:43 AM  

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