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Solving the energy problem

Tamim Ansary has a great article on MSN Encarta today about the possible future of energy. The last page of the four part piece details a very interesting idea called “distributed generation”:

Let’s say you have a solar generator on your roof and a hydrogen-making mini-plant in your basement. Anytime your solar generator makes more energy than you’re using, the excess flows to your basement and makes hydrogen.

Later, when the sun isn’t shining, your fuel cells kick in and you draw down on your hydrogen supply.

If your hydrogen tanks fill up, the excess energy flows into the grid. When the grid has more power than it can sell, the excess goes to big electrolyzers that store energy as hydrogen on a commercial scale. The massive fuel cells then emit energy as needed to keep the overall supply constant.

In this system, more or less everybody produces energy. They sell to the grid when they have more than enough. They buy back when they’re running a deficit.

In such a world, there is no point in anyone conquering Saudi Arabia, toppling Washington, D.C., or invading the Indonesian Archipelago. No conquest would give any conqueror control over a protoplasmic energy web fed by the entire human race.

This idea must borrow heavily from distributed computing–it even uses a similar name. What a great adaptation! With this model, everyone would be encouraged to have their own power-generating equipment, to save on energy costs in the long run. This would then feed the system for everyone, balancing out over the whole world.

I like it!

I hope that solar power can become more efficient and also come down in price. (I’m not too sure about wind power, because it affects birds and who knows what all else that travels through the air.)