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Concentrating On The Important Things – Solar Thermal Power

Big Gav, The Oil Drum: Australia/New Zealand
While we spend a lot of time talking about traditional energy sources based on depleting resources that are extracted from the ground, I think its important to remember that the fastest growing sources of energy are solar and wind, and that these will never run out. As M King Hubbert put it regarding solar power in particular :

The biggest source of energy on this earth, now or ever, is solar. I used to think it was so diffuse as to be impractical. But I’ve changed my mind. It’s not impractical…This technology exists right now. So if we just convert the technology and research and facilities of the oil and gas industries, the chemical industry and the electrical power industry-we could do it tomorrow. All we’ve got to do is throw our weight into it.

Both Stuart Staniford’s recent “Powering Civilization to 2050” post and (to a lesser extent) Scientific American’s “Solar Grand Plan” concentrated on using photovoltaic solar cells to provide the bulk of our energy needs. While both thin film and traditional silicon based PV cells seem to set new efficiency records every couple of months (a CIGS cell recently reached 19.9% efficiency in lab tests, and multi-crystalline silicon PV cells recently reached 19.5% efficiency), the most promising mechanism for large scale solar power generation seems to be solar thermal power (often referred to as concentrating solar power, or CSP).
(3 April 2008)
“Everything you ever wanted to know about Solar Thermal.” One of Big Gav’s round-ups of information, with multiple links and photos. Also on his personal blog, Peak Energy. -BA

`Silver Bullets’ for Solving the Energy Crisis #1 – Put Oil Companies to Work on Geothermal Energy

Energy Tech Stocks
Every energy expert says there is no single “silver bullet” for solving the global energy crisis. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of silver bullets, each one of which might solve a part of this crisis, and do so in a way that makes investors a lot of money. has loaded up its six-shooters with silver-bullet solutions to different aspects of the energy crisis which, in its opinion, aren’t just technologically feasible but, just as important, politically and financially viable as well.

Silver Bullet #1: Get major oil and gas exploration and production companies to concentrate on geothermal energy.

Thanks to new technology, the number of sites where the earth’s own heat might be captured and used to turn water into steam for clean-running power plants has grown tremendously. Nobody yet knows the full extent of geothermal’s potential, but it could be huge. With the world expected to need 100% more electrical generation capacity by 2030, and with coal and nuclear bogged down politically by environmental concerns, there is a critical need to drill geothermal wells that goes way beyond the abilities of the small number of companies currently focused on this energy sub-sector.

U.S. Democratic president candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to pay for “green” energy development by taking away oil and gas companies’ existing tax breaks. But to Republicans this constitutes punishing Big Oil at precisely the time when its exploration and production skills are needed to find more energy. A silver-bullet solution that might be acceptable to both sides would be to give Big Oil tax breaks for drilling for geothermal energy in exchange for eliminating some on the breaks dedicated to oil and gas exploration and production.
(24 March 2008)
Next article in this series:
Silver Bullet #2: Quicken Deployment of Stop-Start, Mild Hybrid

Australian IT Expert Bruce McCabe: Global Businesses to Spend $600 Billion on ‘Green Accounting’ (Part 1 of 3)

Energy Tech Stocks
The cost to global business for the information technology that will be needed for sustainability accounting and carbon footprint measuring will come to nearly $600 billion over the next few years, three times what companies spent preparing for Y2K, according to Bruce McCabe of Australian IT research firm S2 Intelligence Pty Ltd.

From his firm’s offices in Sydney, McCabe told that the growing number of regulatory initiatives by governments around the world, together with market forces being driven by a global population increasingly aware and concerned about pollution and global warming, will force companies everywhere “to measure with much more fidelity” their impacts on the environment “if they want to do business.”

McCabe, whose firm has just issued a green IT accounting forecast entitled “The Future of Business 2008-2018,” said the cost to businesses will range from $2,000 to $3,000 for a small firm that will need simply to upgrade its software and purchase relatively inexpensive equipment such as smart meters, up to as much as $50 to $100 million for a large multinational company with a large network of suppliers and distributors that will need a new sophisticated computer network to keep track of thousands of separate actions.

Although businesses everywhere are about to get hit with a big new expenditure, McCabe emphasized that they should make up much, if not most, of their outlay as this new equipment lowers their energy costs by optimizing a business’s energy consumption.
(26 March 2008)