Thursday, April 20, 2006

The future?

So, just what are the hopes for a stable-climate future, based on clean, renewable energy?

My sister Anne lives in a house in New Mexico completely serviced by the sun. With modest technological breakthroughs in photovoltaic roofing and cladding systems there is no reason why every building couldn't be energy self-sufficient in the relatively near future.

Motor vehicles can run on some combination of electricity and hydrogen.

All of which is good, but does not address the problem of a primary energy source necessary to produce the photovoltaic systems, batteries, hydrogen and electricity.

Wind power is unsightly.

The sun delivers to the Earth more than 10,000 times the global consumption of commercial energy. Our primary energy requiirements could be met by photovoltaics covering less than one percent of the land area presently under crops or pastures. Imagine sun farms raising electricity rather than food. For the moment, however, photovoltaics are less than half as efficient as their theoretical limit, and more suitable for secondary energy production.

Electricity or hydrogen from genetically-engineered bacteria? Worth investigation.

Nuclear fission? Practical and feasible, yes, but after Chernobyl an unattractive option, even without considering the problem of waste.

Fusion? This could be our "white knight," but will require a yet unimagined breakthrough, perhaps something of the nature of bubble cavitation. How about an international prize of 1 billion dollars for a practical solution to the fusion problem? That should get some creative juices flowing.

(Meanwhile,life goes on. My phoebe has produced a single egg.)