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Type: Journal article
Title: Keeping the energy debate clean: How do we supply the world's energy needs?
Author: Abbott, D.
Citation: Proceedings of the IEEE, 2010; 98(1):42-66
Publisher: IEEE-Inst Electrical Electronics Engineers Inc
Issue Date: 2010
ISSN: 0018-9219
Statement of
Derek Abbott
Abstract: We take a fresh look at the major nonrenewable and renewable energy sources and examine their long-term viability, scalability, and the sustainability of the resources that they use. We achieve this by asking what would happen if each energy source was a single supply of power for the world, as a gedanken experiment. From this perspective, a solar hydrogen economy emerges as a dominant solution to the world's energy needs. If we globally tap sunlight over only 1% of the incident area at only an energy conversion efficiency of 1%, it is simple to show that this meets our current world energy consumption. As 9% of the planet surface area is taken up by desert and efficiencies well over 1% are possible, in practice, this opens up many exciting future opportunities. Specifically, we find solar thermal collection via parabolic reflectors - where focussed sunlight heats steam to about 600?C to drive a turbine - is the best available technology for generating electricity. For static power storage, to provide electricity at night, there are a number of viable options that are discussed. For mobile power storage, such as for fueling vehicles, we argue the case for both liquid and gaseous hydrogen for use in internal combustion engines. We outline a number of reasons why semiconductor solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells do not appear to scale up for a global solution. We adopt an approach that envisions exploiting massive economy of scale by establishing large arrays of solar collectors in hot desert regions of the world. For nonrenewable sources we argue that we cannot wait for them to be exhausted - we need to start conserving them imminently. What is often forgotten in the energy debate is that oil, natural gas, and coal are not only used as energy sources, but we also rely on them for embodying many crucial physical products. It is this fact that requires us to develop a solar hydrogen platform with urgency. It is argued that a solar future is unavoidable, as ultimately - humankind has no other choice.
Keywords: Consolidated utility time; economics of energy; electrolysis; energy; energy efficiency; energy generation; energy policy; energy supply; hydrogen; hydrogen liquefaction; hydrogen storage; hydrogen transfer; hydrogen transport; solar hydrogen economy; solar power; solar thermal; steam turbine; sustainability
Description: ©2010 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. However, permission to reprint/republish this material for advertising or promotional purposes or for creating new collective works for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or to reuse any copyrighted component of this work in other works must be obtained from the IEEE. "This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder."
RMID: 0020100045
DOI: 10.1109/JPROC.2009.2035162
Appears in Collections:Electrical and Electronic Engineering publications

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