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Solution to the world's energy problems:

  1. Feb 9, 2015 #1
    Okay, this is almost totally a repeat of an earlier post, titled "YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis." Rather than reading though all 1046 posts, I think I'll just start a new one and specify what I want you guys to post.

    Below is a table including an overview of all the main technologies groups like the NREL are looking at. I did leave out one of the most obvious solutions, which is conservation of energy (as I feel this is kind of goes without saying that there are ways we could cut the usage of energy in several areas.)

    upload_2015-2-9_13-49-40.png

    So, here's the best data I could collect. If anyone has a legitimate dispute, send a link and I'll check it out. Most of them are from sources like wikipedia and government and international energy organizations, so I trust them. Also, for those of you who are going to try to point out that solar is $0.70 per Watt, I have to point out that is only the cost of the cells, not the panels, not the inverters, not the wiring. Once that's all factored in, it brings the cost quite a bit higher (typically).

    So, here's what I want from you guys. If you could choose to develop only one of these technologies, which one would you choose? That doesn't mean the others aren't necessarily worth pursuing, but what technology do you think is our best best for the future's energy needs. As an example, we can't stop drilling oil tomorrow, or our society would grind to a halt within a month or two. So, this doesn't mean give up on these technologies that are already in our infrastructure, but long term, what is the best we can do?

    I'd like to hear what you guys think. Please support your conclusions with data and information in the form of figures, tables, graphs, plots, numbers, and links to sources if available (I kind of gave mine, as I said, you can look them up yourselves and do a fact check if you need). I'll go ahead and post my idea first.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2015 #2
    I guess I have a funny answer on this one. I think as far as our short term (and long term) advancement of science, we should focus on fission. And, I think some kind of nuclear reaction will be our long term solution as far as energy needs are concerned. We have a long ways to go before we can control nuclear reactions as well as we can control chemical reactions. However, I think in the short term, carefully comparing the figures I collected, I think I like the idea of using wind turbines to bear the main load on our grid. There are still two problems with this:

    1. EMI can mess with electronics, radar, and even cause illness in people and animals that are nearby. They need to find a better way to shield the EMI from the generator.
    2. During the middle of the day, the winds die down, and can't carry the grid. This means, it needs to be combined with solar or natural gas fired turbines (that have a short start-up period).

    So, that's my thinking. Research wind to overcome the last few obstacles with the technology, and once those are overcome and we have the needed infrastructure, focus our research efforts on nuclear energy and anything that has direct implications or applications on nuclear reactions.

    (P.S. This doesn't count as a bump, since I posted this just to divide it from the instructions for the thread.)
     
  4. Mar 17, 2015 #3

    tech99

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    In the UK we have a lot of offshore wind generation, but it does cause harm to the coastline and is running into opposition. There are environmental problems with most of the renewable options - even with the necessary power lines. The only one which might be OK in this country on a few sites is tidal power from lagoons. We will just have to cut down on energy usage.
     
  5. Mar 17, 2015 #4

    Evo

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    This table of yours doesn't make any sense to me. Where are your supporting facts? Sorry, but I con't see any. Is this supposed to be meaningful for any part of the world? I don't see how it could be. For example, natural gas costs are very different in the part of the country I live now from where I moved, and the costs vary with the season. What are you basing such specific costs on?
     
  6. Mar 17, 2015 #5

    Drakkith

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    You need to remove dark energy/dark matter and negative temperatures from your table. Negative temperatures have nothing to do with this and harnessing dark energy/dark matter is so utterly far beyond our capability that there's simply no reason for them to be on your table.

    I'd pump a few dozen billion dollars into fusion research. Or more.
     
  7. Mar 17, 2015 #6

    russ_watters

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    I've given up on fusion. We've spent billions and decades on it already without making it work and I see little benefit over fission, so I don't see why we should bother.
     
  8. Mar 17, 2015 #7

    Drakkith

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    Because we're making progress.
     
  9. Mar 17, 2015 #8

    russ_watters

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    I can't parse that. Making progress vs what? Where we started, perhaps, but I'm not sure that matters unless we can measure how far we are from the finish line. Think of it this way: if you're 2km into a race, but you don't know if it is a 10k or marathon, you don't really know where you stand. Serious fusion research has been going on for, what, 30 years*? How many more decades will it take? 3? 10?

    And again, "making progress" is only a good idea if the end goal is worth reaching and I'm not sure it is.

    *Edit: Oh, I was way off. A google tells me the idea of a tokomak for containment of a controlled fusion reaction was first proposed more than 60 years ago. Maybe as an engineer I should be more optomistic, but fission went from pure science research to practical power production essentially seamlessly/instantly. But while the physics of fusion have been understood almost as long as fission, the engineering challenge has been so far insurmountable.

    Edit2: And even if fusion power is ever realized, I wonder "what have we won?" What will it look like economically versus what went into making it happen and how will the individual plants perform economically?
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  10. Mar 19, 2015 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    I agree on the fusion angle though am a non-expert in the topic. Having spent a lot of time reading up on it and reading various discussions I don't see what advantages first generation commercial fusion would have over the current generation 3.5 or in-development 4 fission reactors. If a form of aneutronic fusion was developed then maybe but given the proposed timelines by projects like ITER it seems like commercial fusion is still decades away. Nuclear power and renewables are with us now.
     
  11. Mar 19, 2015 #10
    Hmmmmm, apparently it won't let me edit the post, which I would gladly in order to clarify my original meaning. The last option(s) were meant to be more of an idea of where the next paradigm shift will come from. As most of the paradigm shifts that have happened in the past, there have been implications to science that have ultimately affected technology and society. Those were just meant to be conversation starters, but apparently they've just made my post look less legitimate.

    I guess the only thing I can say in rebuttal is, since nobody on these forums knows what the next paradigm shift will be, they can't say it won't have implications on our understanding of dark matter and dark energy or negative absolute temperatures. It may be unlikely however, but I think until the next paradigm shift happens, nobody can say for sure how it will be connected to things we already know, or think we know. That's kind of how physics works, learning rules, and then the exceptions to them. I might have chosen two fields that are unlikely to have exceptions to them, but I think getting reamed for it is a little overboard. If I could reword it, I would say, what area of research would you fund in order to trigger the next paradigm shift in order to find new ways of looking at our relationship with how energy works.

    Not to jump on the bandwagon and get after Drakkith, but I kind of agree. Not a whole lot of progress has been made, that I'm aware of. I hear France is still optimistic in getting things closer to a sustained reaction, and collecting the data they need to do so. If they did though, awesome, I just wouldn't bet on it at this point. Then again, I'm a lowly mechanical engineer, and my understanding of nuclear physics is rudimentary. So, if the next "paradigm shift" in energy is fusion, great.
     
  12. Mar 19, 2015 #11
    I'm sure that a lot more could be done with hydroelectric(tidal).
    It's very efficient, and unlike other renewables, it's output is more or less predictable,
    I'm sure there are many parts of the world where the local geography is suitable and doesn't pose serious engineering and construction challenges.
     
  13. Mar 19, 2015 #12

    berkeman

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    That's not how the PhysicsForums works. We do not allow speculation here. This thread is closed temporarily for Moderation...
     
  14. Mar 19, 2015 #13

    berkeman

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    Because the OP has not provided the sources and justifications for his table (as requested in Post #4), this thread will remain closed.
     
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