Smart Grids – The Energy Internet

I believe that science holds solutions to problems that never would be solved otherwise.  When it comes to energy, I want to see a giant energy network evolve, similar to how the internet is today.  I imagine a world where the roofs of people’s homes are covered in solar panels, and their windows are embedded with special nanotechnology which absorbs sunlight.  In my last post, I showed that if we build our homes with energy efficiency in mind, we’re pretty much already able to reach net-zero energy usage, where homes produce as much energy as they consume.  In my mind, that’s what true freedom is.  Everyone needs energy in today’s world, and ideally we want people to be able to produce as much of it on their own as possible.

All of these homes should be linked together in an information network, aware of all energy sources, and utilizing this energy in an intelligent way.  Unlike today’s energy grids, we need energy networks that are much larger in scale, capable of sending wind energy produced in South Dakota to the inner city of Chicago.  I want to see energy companies take a secondary role in our lives, with us capable of producing most of our power on our own.  I want to see a more decentralized model for energy.

For power above and beyond what we can produce, we should construct huge solar and wind farms in the best locations, and transmit the power to us where it’s needed.  And while we’re constructing that, we need to invest huge amounts of money into fusion research, which would allow us to produce practically unlimited amounts of energy by “burning” sea-water and converting it into massive amounts of energy using the same process the sun uses.  Stephen Hawking was once asked what scientific discovery he would like to see happen.  More than any other, he said he wanted to see fusion power come online because it would solve all of our energy problems and there is no pollution.

Science can solve so many problems if we’ll only fund it.  The free market would never create fusion power, but if we as a society, together, are willing to fund research into plasma physics and fusion power, we can overcome this obstacle and put energy problems behind us.

We need to be smarter when it comes to how we use energy.  However, the solution is not to live in small tiny homes, give up life’s luxuries, and forego running our air conditioning.  We need better technology which doesn’t pollute and doesn’t stress the planet.  That’s what science can bring us if we’ll fund the research.  Solar power is only going to get better, and we should combine this with a smart energy grid to distribute the power we’re all producing.

When I heard Governor Romney insulting President Obama for investing a lot of money into this sort of smart-grid, green energy infrastructure, I sat in my chair shaking my head.  The more we invest in this technology, the better.  This isn’t an issue of “freedom”, as if taxing the people to fund these very valuable things is nothing but stealing the fruits of their labor.  It’s about building a sustainable future of real growth instead of short-term gains which require us to massively pollute and pass on the burden to future generations.  Our current way of living is not sustainable and this is the direction to move forward.  The world knows this and they’re all moving in this direction as well.  It’s not a conspiracy with Obama paying off his buddies.  This is the way industry is moving and governments are trying to accelerate these developments in order to protect their environments.

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