A few weeks ago, Tobias posted about the US military and eco-technology. In it, he jokingly suggested an eco-DARPA. As it turns out, the military seems headed in that direction, specifically with a space-based solar power station that would beam energy down to the surface.
The idea is that the Pentagon has decided that energy independence is now a national security issue, and as such falls under their purview. In addition, this orbiting power station would negate the need for long fuel supply lines. Units could have needed energy beamed down directly from orbit. Another benefit of having the military act as the early adopter is that prices should begin to decrease almost immediately, making it more affordable for commercial enterprises to license the technology for civilian consumption.
As with all things governmental, we’ll have to wait and see. This may just be pie-in-the-sky, it may be an enormous financial boondoggle for no-bid contracts, it may work spectacularly, or more probably something in between. But keep your eyes peeled on this one over at its very own blog.
(via DailyTech)) (image from NSSO/Pentagon pdf)
Whilst close to where I live the UK government is looking at proposals for the biggest tidal barrage in the world, elsewhere in Europe similarly ambitious projects are even closer to fruition. In Portugal the first ever commercial wavefarm is due to start any day now. A couple of huge wind turbines tapping into the vast wind energy of the North Sea have been a success and a farm of 200 of the 300ft high towers is now in planning, powering as much as a whole city. As I reported a few weeks ago, algae is looking more and more like the ultimate source for biofuels. Advances in nanotube growing and temperature controlled soldering are making big leaps in solar panel efficiency.
Even without the dual spectres of climate change and dwindling resources our future is likely to be wedded to many of these nascent technologies. When the Earth provides so much energy currently left untapped, it would be a shame not to use it. Economic centres in the future will be invariably tied to the amount of natural energy the environment nearby provides. It’s exciting to think that many of these technologies are reaching the point where they may soon be economically viable on large scale.
[photo from the guardian article on wave power]
From FuturePundit, we get a rough outline of the solar situation in the US. Basically, solar power is growing more popular, but the percentage of homes using solar power is still tiny. According to this article at the Wall Street Journal, various problems await homeowners looking to install solar panels. In addition to months-long waits, one of the biggest problems is that the panels are installed incorrectly, making them very inefficient.
Overall, though, solar usage is growing and expanding into markets beyond conventional home power. Golf carts, pool heaters, and solar water heaters are all becoming more popular. Other good news includes a move from solar thermal cells, where the sun heats up liquid that is used to make electricity, to photovoltaic cells which convert sunlight directly into electricity.
As a young, single guy who hasn’t lived in a place more than three years since high school, buying a house and making it energy efficient won’t happen anytime soon. I plan on keeping a close eye on developments, however.
(image via Beige Alert)
Sometimes commercial interests can actually be beneficial to the environment. Let’s say you own a sports stadium: how do you monetize that huge piece of real estate in the hours when there’s no events being held in it? Why not imitate AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and [beware pop-ups]cover the building with solar panels that will create nice clean energy you can sell back to the grid. That way, everyone’s a winner. [Engadget]