Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lost opportunities and a bright future

I attended the SC clean energy jobs forum today. Great event hosted by USC, Duke Energy and the Nature Conservency.

The panel discussions had thought leaders in business, research, energy policy, and Govt.
Despite that I came away from the event frustrated again that I missed a golden opportunity. The audience was not given the opportunity to ask questions accept through a moderator. But USC president Harris Pastides asked for anyone to stand up who knew where our future energy would come from. It was, ironically a USC professor who articulated what I already knew. The earth is a closed-system, nothing comes into or leaves our atmosphere but energy from the sun in the form of photons. Therefore we do not have sustainable sources of energy except sun based energy, period, end of story.
Every other source of energy is intermediate, if we do not figure out how to harness the sun’s energy directly before we exhaust all of the sun created fossil fuel then we will return to the stone age. This is why I support research and development for solar energy.

We have Jim Rogers whom I admire and respect talking about 250yrs of coal reserves, but this is only true if we stop exporting coal to China, can get every last lump economically and we do not increase our energy usage over time. We currently have 1.6 billion people without reliable energy on earth, I suspect we have 100yrs of coal reserves that are viable. If we invest in two more generations of coal plants we hand a defunct, combustion based generating system to our kids without a paddle.

We had wonderful and exciting discussions on nuclear energy, nuclear is a good bridge technology, something to buy us time nothing more. Nuclear fuel is challenging, not domestic and storage requires Eon’s of commitment by the federal govt which we currently don't have.

I am a realist, solar is challenging, the sun only shines on half the planet at a time, its harvesting today is inefficient compared to fossil and nuclear fuel today. Estimates from Duke are that it can supply 15% of our energy with today’s technology.

Currently in South Carolina solar provides .001% of our energy and we are a sun state!

Fossil fuel and Nuclear power don’t need our help and they don’t need to be defended and compared to solar every step of the way. We are a 95% fossil fuel economy, what we need now is for thought leaders to pave the way for serious research and development of solar in SC, NC and every other state in the nation. The clock is ticking, with 50yr energy generation cycles we can’t wait any longer.