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Can we produce enough energy?

April 21st, 2008 Comments off

earthlights Harsh Patel sent me an article written by Nathan Lewis, a professor at CalTech that gives Lewis’s view on whether world can meet its current energy needs thru burning fossil fuels, nuclear power or other sources.  It’s a fascinating read though perhaps a bit on the technical side.

I was intrigued by Lewis’s analysis of the world’s inability to use current methods to power our growth.  When you think of the (roughly) 600 million people living by “first world” standards (US, EU) and the 2.3 billion people in China and India that are just coming into the western way of life, it’s not surprising that the energy consumption model is not tenable with our current energy production methods.

Lewis spends a lot of time analyzing popular answers to our energy needs (carbon sequestration, nuclear) and quickly points out how we’d have to build a plant a day to keep up.  He focuses his answer on solar power (as it’s free and clean) and fully admits that it’s a big challenge.

I took three key thoughts away from the article:

  • What are we going to do to make the cost of “cleaner” energy cost competitive with burning fossil fuels?  Some combination of regulation, policy change and market incentives have to make investment and usage of solar power on the same price level as oil or coal.
  • What will humanity do when it comes to slowing our population growth?  So far all of history points towards exponentially increasing population with commensurate increases in energy usage.
  • How do we match the recent VC investment boom in energy with a similar boom in government R&D funding?

Links: “Powering the Planet” by Nathan Lewis via Engineering and Science, Nathan Lewis’s other presentations

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Can Arizona become the “Persian Gulf of Solar Energy”? via Knowledge Problem

February 29th, 2008 Comments off

solarI read an interesting posting by Michael Giberson on a blog titled “Knowledge Problem” regarding Arizona’s aspirations around solar energy production and distribution.  Giberson talks about the geographic math around solar energy production (obviously with today’s capacities for solar panels) and what it would take for Arizona to become the “Persian Gulf of Solar Energy” which is a quote attributed to Arizona’s governor, Janet Napolitano.

It’s definitely interesting analysis.  Giberson’s blog overall was quite fascinating around the energy market, especially in light of recent outages.

Link:  Can Arizona become the “Persian Gulf of Solar Energy”? – Knowledge Problem

Categories: Energy, Link, Technology Tags: