Surplus of energy.

Imagine if there was an unlimited source of energy that could, in theory, supply far more power than what we currently use, and all we had to do was collect it.

Well good news. There’s not just one, but TWO such sources available to us, and we’re getting better and better at harvesting both. First, of course, is the sun. The general approximation is that in the space of about an hour, the earth is hit with as much energy from the sun as the entire human population of the planet uses in an entire year. 

Now clearly we can’t actually catch or use all of that, or even a large percent of it, but if one hour of global exposure equals a year’s worth of power, then we don’t need to. We could power the earth with far less than one tenth of one percent of that energy, and the good news is that we’re getting damned good at it. We don’t just have those standard blue-ish panels you see in fields or on rooftops (though those are great), we also have solar shingles, solar film for windowsspray on solar film for windows, transparent solar cells, windows that look like some kind of stained glass, but – surprise! – generate electricity when the sun hits them, and solar paint, and all that’s leaving out the various versions of solar thermal power collection.

I think you get the point – there’s a LOT of energy coming from the Giant Fusion Reaction in the Sky, and we’re getting better at collecting it and using it all the time.

The OTHER source is wind. Recently released research by the appropriately named Kate Marvel and her team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory indicates that there is enough kinetic energy in the atmosphere (wind) to run civilization 100 times over.

Once again, it’s not possible to capture that, and if we DID, it would probably have devastating consequences for our climate (and for us), but in case you didn’t notice the number, we don’t NEED to capture 100% of that. If we could capture and effectively store just ONE percent, that would be enough to run everything. Incidentally, the research showed that at maximum likely production, there would be measurable effects in the climate, but provided the wind farms were spread out, the effects would be minimal.

All of this is not to say that we can drop everything and focus on wind or solar. All the other stuff I’ve been talking about (and will continue to talk about) with biomethane, human power, and so on – all of that is still worthwhile. The point is that we really, REALLY don’t need fossil fuels of any sort, and we don’t need nuclear. All we need is to get started and implement renewable technology as fast as we can.

We have a surplus of energy, and we can use it to do anything we want. All we have to do is collect it, and put it to work.

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3 responses to “Surplus of energy.

  1. Pingback: Solving the power problem #3: potable water | Oceanoxia

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  3. Pingback: Off the deep end: An inexpert operator’s manual for dealing with climate change, Introduction. | Oceanoxia

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