Renewable energy is lurking in the background but doesn’t seem to be leaping forward as I once thought it would. Maybe that’s because it’s an idea with too many possible expressions of itself, like a river that has become a delta.
No clear single alternative has as yet emerged for transport. We can go partly electric with a hybrid, fully electric, needing to plug in every couple of hours or exchang battery packs. We could generate as we go with fuel cells using Hydrogen, but no support for these latter options exist so we still buy petrol or diesel vehicles.
Using existing delivery systems, we could go bio-diesel using vegetable oils (not sustainable), diesel fuel from algae but that’s still a long way off, or we could use 100% ethanol if we could brew enough of it.
Hydrogen generated by electrolysis on site at wind or solar farms (or geothermal or wave, or tidal or, or, or…) is another exciting concept that is hampered by lack of a delivery system. In other words, Hydrogen could replace oil, but with so few vehicles, there is little demand for Hydrogen and with no delivery system, miniscule demand for vehicles.
Honda has taken the plunge and released its hydrogen powered fuel cell car and
Gm has just passed a million miles of testing with its version, not yet released for sale and other carmakers are hurrying to get theirs ready.
But it’s still a chicken and egg conundrum. Before there is a widespread roll out of support infrastructure there exists the belief there must be a huge investment similar to national railway, a postal system or a high speed broadband system. However, unlike those clear cut needs, energy is a now a nightmare of competing technologies with so much room for expensive redundancies.
That may be the crux of the problem. Large scale commitment and investment is fraught with danger of error so perhaps we need a new paradigm.
Maybe the day of centralised power production and fuel delivery is passing and we will generate most electricity locally, fill our car with hydrogen from the house supply (Honda has one that generates house power and Hydrogen for the car running on natural gas) and if we have an electric commuter car, plug it in at home and top it up at the parking station, itself producing much of its needs from roof top panels.
What an exciting time for urban planners as solar passive accommodation uses geo cooling and heating, stores rainwater and reuses grey water for flushing WC’s from where it goes on to be processed into fertilizer. Solar arrays, partnered by unlimited charge/discharge batteries can supply buildings and hook up with existing grids to transmit low loss DC power between communities. Some dream while local government seems to be driven by developers and their high energy McMansions breed like bacteria on agar!
And aeroplanes? Well, Hydrogen powered planes may not be able to leap across oceans in a single bound and horrors, we may need to break our journey for refuelling in some Polynesian paradise that generates Hydrogen as an industry. While we wait, we could maybe take a dip in an ocean that has begun to give up its stored CO2. What an achievement that would be!