Friday, July 09, 2010

"Green" energy

From The Air Vent:

They are instant solar, and instant solar doesn't have the energy to power your car/train/truck.  The energy density is not practical for cars.  This means that energy storage is the key.  Storing the collected solar power as oil, is the key advantage of biofuels, the maximum efficiency of photosynthesis is pegged at something like 9% but most of that powers the plant so your max efficiency of light collection by plant is very very low.  Besides that though, we really don't have a way to store other forms of solar energy efficiently.  Nature really doesn't either, so it takes millions of years time and the sun just throws a few gagillion extra joules at the problem.  None of this means that efficient (and safe) storage can't be achieved, it just means that we haven't figured it out yet.

I think that within reason that the numbers show, a 20% efficient solar collection makes good sense, this is just based on some rough calculation and some thumbnail guessing.  There are several companies which have achieved this kind of efficiency for solar, but my preferred number is a year round efficiency collected and stored.   Is this achievable in the future, in my opinion it's guaranteed in the future and probably can barely be done with certain technologies today but biofuel will NEVER make the cut. The god of physics said NO and there is nothing you can do about it unless you re-engineer chlorophyll.  I'm pretty sure we don't want to create quadrillions of microscopic plants which collect more energy, more easily, than anything on Earth but down the road our command of genetics may make it possible to control such a beast.  If it got out of hand, we could just make it sick or something.

Of course then you come down to the biggest problem of all —- cost.

In order to make instant solar a workable technology, we cannot as a species pay four times more for it than we currently do.  Our societies are barely out of the trees in my opinion, and we give ourselves far too much credit.  Science and energy have transformed our lifestyles to better standards than kings 300 years ago.  One way to ruin that standard is to limit our available and usable energy.  Of all things the greenies want to do, this is the most dangerous and frankly ignorant point.

Fossil fuels are a form of solar energy that's been stored over millions of years, and can be released much more quickly. It's concentrated. Until we have the ability to store and concentrate solar energy to the same degree coal and oil do, it just won't be competitive.

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