Friday, October 19, 2007

Sunny Bookmarks

I need something like a cross between bookmarks, a blog, and Google Reader shared items.

Green power: How California's PG&E is transforming itself into the very model of a modern utility company

This article was sort of surreal in that it's describing things like PG&E planning to produce electricity from ocean waves among other things, which five years ago seemed to be about fifty years away.

Perhaps just as important as where PG&E gets its power - where the wind blows, where the waves crash, where the sun shines, where the cows poop - is how it plans to share it. Instead of generating electricity in colossal centralized power plants and pushing electrons into homes and businesses, energy distribution in the future may be more a matter of give and take, of energy managed over a web that draws electricity from wherever it's abundant and sends it wherever it's needed.
I first read about the idea of an energy Web like the Internet in The Hydrogen Economy. This book seems to have gotten not-so-great reviews, but I think the guy is a genius. He describes how the communications, energy, and transportation industries evolved together in history. Now that would be the Internet, the coming electricity-net, and future smart transportation. And how the evolution of these industries also evolved corporate structure. And before we invaded Iraq, he pointed out that the oil reserve-to-production ratio (the number of years that reserves will last at current production rates) in Iraq was 526, while other Middle Eastern countries were far behind at about 50-100, and the United States at 10. (Thanks to Amazon book search.) However, I don't think hydrogen as fuel is going to happen anytime soon, although an interesting concept as a carbon-less hydrocarbon.

Chatroom: SunPower Co-Founder Swanson

Okay, so what industry has been growing at a 40% rate consistently for quite a few years? That's doubling every two years. This reminds me of a story in a childhood math book, where a king thought a servant was a fool for asking to be paid 1 gold coin on the 1st day, doubling every day for I forget how many days. 1, 2, 4, 8... sounds little! But then the illustrations showed that pretty soon he had to wheelbarrow the gold coins.

So solar as a percentage of U.S. electricity generation is something like 0.015% of the total right now (based on this EIA data), but hey, if it actually doubled every two years, it would be at 100% in 25 years....

Solar's Day In The Sun: The big hurdle has been finding a technology that can match the low cost of fossil fuel. John O'Donnell thinks he has that licked
For O'Donnell, the journey began in the summer of 2005, when he heard a talk by Nobel laureate Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Chu said that everything you've heard about climate change is wrong. It is much worse than people know--and every engineer should be working on it."
"John sounds a bit like a crazy scientist," says Lane. "His brain is so sharp and his IQ is so high, he just doesn't know what is coming out of his mouth. But all the stuff he was talking about a year ago, we now are all saying. We need him to keep pushing it forward."

For solar power, the future looks bright: Solar energy is now very real. And at hot companies like SunPower, the 'green' that matters is money - by the billions

For Swanson, who has spent his adult life working on solar power, more is at stake than the company's future. He's looked at the science of climate change and has visions of diasporas, conflicts, and starvation. "Given the huge downside risk," he says, "I can't understand how one cannot be worried."

Could the excitement over solar power turn into another bubble? Credit Suisse's Cavalier, who's been in the energy business for 24 years, doesn't think so. "The reason I do not believe it is a bubble is that I honestly believe that climate change and greenhouse gases are not going away," he says. "And there are a lot of cars yet to be driven and a lot of lights still to be lit all around the world."


Lady M said...

Hi, I like the idea of an energy web.

I saw these produce bags and thought of one of your earlier posts: