What Will Real Energy Innovation Look Like?

Back when Barry Soweto pretended to be an American president, he spent his terms in office trying to convince us that solar and wind powered electric generation installations were the future of the American energy strategy.  Because he was just an actor playing a part, he can be partially excused for espousing a policy that is pathetically absurd.

If you covered the planet with wind turbines, land and sea, besides killing off the bird population of the planet you would not solve the energy problems of the human population.  Wind by itself is a fluctuating power source.  As are photo-voltaic solar panels.  On their own they will not provide the kind of consistent supply of electric power that we expect from our electrical utilities.  That is why California, the land of fruits and nuts, that despises fossil fuels, has recently installed many gas turbine generators to augment the unreliable and inadequate “renewable” wind and sun-based generation.

None of this is to say that wind and sun-based power is valueless.  In places where there is substantial wind and plentiful sunny days there is power to be harvested.  But it should be used in an intelligent manner.  Storing that energy in a recoverable form would allow it to be accumulated into a valuable commodity.  For instance, if it was the power source for an electrolytic process for separating water into hydrogen and oxygen then that hydrogen could be stored and used later as a vehicle fuel, chemical raw material or for combustion to fuel electrical generation.

Or sun and wind generated power could be used as a source of power for water desalination plants.  The output of the plant would be controlled so that at night when only wind power was available a lower out put would be maintained and likewise in the day when clouds limited the amount of solar energy available.

But with these environmental energy sources careful attention should be made to the cost of maintaining the generation infrastructure.  I have been told that the replacement cost of the solar panels had been ignored in the Obama era installation of these panels willy-nilly across the roofs of unsuspecting Americans.  Just because the government decides to “give” you something for free doesn’t mean that the cost of these items make them sensible investments.  And the cost of maintaining wind turbines also must be reckoned in the calculation of their desirability as an energy choice.

And there are other energy sources that must be explored.  Geothermal energy has only seen limited exploitation because of the scarcity of obvious geothermal hot spots.  But if resources are made available to study how a more general approach could be taken there might be great gain to be made on this front.

But the most obvious source of energy has been available to us for almost a hundred years.  Nuclear fission thermal power stations provide enormously dense energy supplies in almost limitless capacity.  The fact that there are safety and waste management challenges in such a complex and new technology is hardly surprising.  The fact that people around the world have allowed themselves to be panicked into abandoning this technology says more about the low morale of the current human population than it does about the difficulty of harnessing this amazing natural resource.  After all radioactivity is the source of the sun’s power and in fact the nuclear fusion that powers the sun is a much more technically challenging process for humans to harvest than the heat coming off of a fission pile.  To think that radioactive energy is any more mysterious than electrical or chemical energy is to be a primitive undeserving to utilize modern technology, one who should be relegated to living in a cave and warming himself by wearing furs and daubing himself with mastodon lard, too stupid to harness the frightening technology of fire.

The good news is that more confident humans at some time in the near future will return to nuclear power.  If the West fails to be the ones to do it then they will see themselves eclipsed and will deservedly sink into the lower echelons of third world nationhood.  Hopefully before that happens the modern humans among us will rally the people and admonish them to man up.

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1 month ago

‘Real Energy innovation” will not require government support.

1 month ago

Nuclear or fusion would be the way to go, the energy density is fantastic. If you could convert the mass energy of 1 gram of anything, water even, into energy, it would yield just shy of 10^14th joules of energy. That is pushing the energy in 800,000 gallons of gasoline. That would power your house for 1000 years or a car for almost as long, all from the mass equivalence of one gram.

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