Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Even Coal Is A Renewable Energy Source If You Wait Long Enough!

If you think about it, everything on Earth is solar powered.  All the coal and oil in the Earth came from plants and animals millions of years ago that grew by the light of our sun.  The mechanisms that bring us wind, rain, and rivers are all powered by the sun.  Without the sun, we would not have any energy.  Solar power is the past, present and future of our energy production.  But this is a topic for another day so let's get back on track shall we? 

According to Wikipedia, the total global electric power consumption is 15 TW, (15,000,000,000,000 watts). The potential available solar power is 86,000 TW.  That's almost 6000 times more than we, the people of Earth currently need.  The available wind power is 870 TW and the available hydroelectric power is 7.2 TW.

According to Technology Futurist Ray Kurzweil, (in 2010)  the total amount of solar energy being produced every year is doubling every 2 years.  In 8 more doublings, he says that solar power could generate enough energy to supply all our energy needs.  

Not to say that he's right or that this will happen, but the stage is being set for a great paradigm shift in the way we power our homes, our cars and for that matter, world economies.  

Solar power alone cannot provide all the world's energy needs. We still need something that works at night and when it's cloudy.
The Eventual world wide renewable energy solution will be solar and wind power with hydroelectric acting as the regulator and battery back up for it all.

There are currently 60 planned or operational pumped-storage hydroelectric stations larger than 1 GW world wide.  These work by pumping water to an upper reservoir during times of excess energy production and releasing it to the lower reservoir during peak demand.  While most of these utilize conventional power plants to pump the water, solar and wind power is the next logical step.