Buzzword of the month: Renewable energy

It’s Deja vu all over again. Renewable energy seems to be the topic of the day.

Some odd combination of forces are driving interest in renewable energies (many of the things that I discussed in my previous posting on bioproducts).

The web is cluttered with noise about bioproducts, solar energy, and other non-petroleum based energy sources.

Here is an article from discussing how VCs are now funding solar companies that they would not touch previously.

I like this article for several reasons:

Nanotech driving down solar costs: it talks about how solar power really needs to be a quantum leap more efficient before it will be widely useable, and how this may be achieved with nano-scale means. I would add that there may be some biological alternatives on the horizon as well if Craig Venter’s Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives manages to develop anything from their research.

It also quotes Sunil Paul, founder of Brightmail commenting that go “beyond just making money” – a favourite topic of mine.

I wrote a research paper back at UVic on Alternative energy sources, and had as my instructor, Dr. Fred Knelman, a major thorn in the side of the global nuclear establishment. I learned a lot from him and from that class. The biggest thing I learned was that renewable and non-petroleum, non-coal power was only capable of creating 5% of the global power that was required (and that was ten years ago). I probably have that number wrong but the point was that the energy density of these alternatives was not very high in comparison to oil, coal, and nuclear. And that was one of the primary reasons that they had not gone anywhere. The costs were relatively exorbitant to create the same amount of power. Until the economics become reasonable, there still exists very little reason for the global energy economy to shift dramatically.

I am looking forward to getting back into reading about these technologies to see what the past ten years has brought us and what new biotechnologies and nanotechnologies may yet bring us in this field.