Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Earth: powered by the sun

Living on a warm, sunny island it's easy to imagine the benefits of solar energy. The perpetual, oppressive heat, the perennial use of sunglasses and the constant fight against the prolific jungle that passes for gardening in these parts are all reminders of the incredible power of the sun.

But what about colder latitudes? And how efficient is it? I hear that it's not very efficient.

I watched Elon Musk's announcement of Tesla's Power Wall because somebody on Twitter said it was the 'best keynote in the last 10 years'. As a presenter, Musk is no Steve Jobs, but the content was astonishing. One infographic really caught my eye: the square mileage of solar panels required to power the entire USA. After Googling around I found a global version:-
All our energy needs could be met by filling in those tiny squares. Of course it's not as easy as that, but when you consider the astounding feats of engineering we are capable of, like a set of man-made islands made to look like the globe, and you couple that with the impact of fossil fuels on the real globe, the fact that the solution amounts to pixel sized squares on a global map seems absurd.
But the real kicker is that the actual deployment can be much more flexible: rooftops of solar cells. And those marvellous Tesla Power Wall batteries.

In Bermuda there's only one road that has water mains. Nearly all domestic water comes from rainwater stored under houses. That's the legacy of the distinctive white lime roofs: primitive filtration. So there's no water bill. Imagine if it was the same for electricity. Whatever you think of the actual product, the Power Wall, as a concept, is an evocative proposal that will disrupt the utility industry.

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