EARTH DAY 2019.
It shouldn't surprise you to learn that all of the efficient and renewable energy technologies being employed today will be considered old technology in just 10 years. There isn't such a thing as "planned obsolesence" in energy technology, as the auto manufacturers were once accused of. It’s just that energy research continues at a determined steady pace, so what seems cutting edge today will be just "old", but still useful, a decade from now.
Energy is clearly in a period of transition. The world knows we need clean sources of energy and sources that don't cause wars. But the world also needs more energy to drive growing and prospering economies. For the two fastest growing energies – wind and solar – deployment will have to accelerate at a much faster clip in the next ten years (and beyond) just to keep up with global economic growth, once we get beyond the current slump that is. (Which will happen.)
In ten years, green technology now gaining acceptance could be commonplace. Highway-capable electric vehicles are one example. Another is high temperature superconducting (HTS) electric transmission cables for power grids. These exotic nitrogen-cooled cables are now commercially available and being built into a few scattered small projects. This technology, such as manufactured by American Superconductor (AMSC) of Devens, Massachusetts, can carry as much as 10 times the electric power as ordinary high tension cables. Further, HTS cables don’t need to be strung on monstrous environment-altering towers. The cables can be buried safely underground in a Superconductor Electricity Pipeline that needs only a fraction of the right-of-way required by overhead high capacity cables.
The U.S. is planning new transmission lines from areas of high potential renewable energy resources to populated areas that could utilize clean power that could be generated. Are utility planners considering incorporating these cutting edge HTS cables at any portion of these projects? They should. HTS power transmission was once just a dream. Now it’s a commercialized reality.
The same wires, by the way, that are spun to make HTS electric transmission cables can also be used in motors and generators to make them lighter and more efficient. American Superconductor is including the wires in superconducting wind turbine generators and ship engines.
It seems feasible that the green energy landscape in 10 years could be completely different than it is today with the introduction of totally new technologies that are now only on the benches of research labs.
Anyone who didn’t see the 60 Minutes (the CBS television news show) segment “Cold Fusion is Hot Again” which aired on Sunday, April 19, should take the time to view the video or read the transcript available on the 60 Minutes website.
As the news story goes, after the first announcement of the discovery of cold fusion was trashed by the scientific community 20 years ago, research continued in labs around the world. Scientists involved with the research now say that they’ve discovered excess heat in a reaction using palladium in a bath of water containing deuterium energized with an electric current. The extra heat, the scientists interviewed for the program say, is the result of a kind of nuclear affect, not necessarily “cold fusion.” The reaction could result in a new source of clean energy for the world.
60 Minutes says that, "At least 20 labs working independently have published reports of excess heat - heat up to 25 times greater than the electricity going in."
If this is all true, the world in ten years could be dramatically different than it is today. We’ll be driving electric cars that don’t need recharging but have a nuclear battery that needs swapping every few years. We’ll have laptop computers that never need charging. And the technology could be used as a one-for-one replacement for fuel rods in nuclear power plants, without the radioactive waste. Or we could all go off-grid and have clean, radiation-free nuclear power plants to provide heat and electricity for our homes.
All the above, and more, if the technology pans out that is.