Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taking solar past the peak

As the peak oil as a concept enters the mainstream, and as oil prices continue to ramp up, discussions of alternatives to oil are flourishing. One way of grappling with the latter is to expect a variety of solutions being deployed at once.

Another way of talking about alternatives is to pick one out as the leading solution. Here's one claim for turning the world's energy production to solar. "Solar" here means both photovoltaic and thermal (cf that blogger's earlier post).

The author draws heavily on Ray Kurzweil's argument that solar should become our leading power source: . Kurzweil imagines solar first becomes competitive with oil, then taking off into Moore's Law-type efficiency increases.

The comments thread to the first post brings up one large obstacle to "the Solar Singularity": power storage.


Tom said...

Bryan, I agree with that commenter's mention of storage, it is the bugaboo of all the solar/wind energy proponents (myself included) and has to be dealt with. I'm sad to see his reasoning justified with such weak shots at electric cars and global warming but I guess that's to be expected.

What he ignores in his attempt to shoot down good ideas is the grid nature of mainland power and the built-in advantages of distributed generation.

I don't think it is a matter of eliminating all other forms of energy but a more efficient balancing of supply based on regional strengths combined with very aggressive efficiency requirements and the kind of design changes that have been long overdue.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

Thank you for the comment, Tom. I think your third paragraph (balancing) is a good description of what we're likely to see in the next decade.

Can you expand a bit more about the grid (paragraph 2)? What advantages will play out in the next few years?