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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Stage 5

The energy return on energy invested (EROEI) argument glazes over lots of eyeballs. Newberry provides a fresh perspective on what it will it take to make this concept sink in for the majority of people. I like his idea of amplification, which sounds a bit like perpetual motion at first glance, but in fact refers to using energy sources that provide a bootstrapping mechanism and that we can depend on for the long haul. Essentially, the argument goes that investing in amplification mechanisms (as a trivial example, a large magnifying glass facing the sun) which allow us to concentrate the only endless supply of energy we have into a sustainable path forward. Anything less than this simply depletes the finite energy supplies we have at our status quo rate (see Jevon's paradox for a rationale).

Engineers invented the concept of amplification to make loud music, transmit radio waves, and detect signals from deep space; if we start to frame this idea correctly, we might get creative juice from other segments of the engineering and scientific community who can add their own fresh perspective.

As Newberry implies, we have to add the "Life Cycle Analysis" to BushCo's "Bottomless Well" approach before we can turn the corner. Unless we start using the non-renewable energy to explore other options, we might leave here holding an empty bag of energy and no way to use the only reliable source left: the SUN.

4 Comments:

Professor Blogger SW said...

I've been working on concentration solar photovoltaic systems for over twenty years now. You would not believe the resistance to the very concept, particularly within the photovoltaics community. That is beginning to change, but it is a very slow process.

7:32 PM  
Professor Blogger SW said...

To follow up on that a bit, this is always one of the complaints about the solar resource. That at about 1000 watts/m^2 it is diffuse. The thing is that the devices we make are quite happy, indeed happier to operated at watts per centimeter instead of milliwatts. All we need is a cheap reliable way to give them what they want and provide thermal management.

Years ago, this seemed like a complicated expensive proposition, but as times change, these things begin to look much simpler and cheaper.

This has the potential to drastically affect that EROEI for the system as a whole.

7:48 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Just keep at it, SW. I didn't quite make 10 years in the semiconductor field. You are our only hope ;-)

10:26 PM  
Professor Anonymous Stentor said...

Here's another eyeball-glazing site for those who are into self-punishment, but it is an eye-opening look into what the energy picture is going to look like for the next fifty years, plus it explains perfectly why we have oilmen in the White House writing foreign policy.

It's here.

4:37 PM  

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