Time for Free Electricity from the Sun
The US government launches a Manhattan-style project to build the infrastructure to capture and convert solar power into electricity on a national scale. Once in place, take down existing carbon fuel-based energy plants and turn the solar power stations over to the utilities to distribute the electricity [on the grid] at ‘no cost’ to the consumer. Once the mechanisms are set in place to collect it, the raw material will always be free, it is overly abundant today, and it will always be available.
‘No cost’ really means taxed at a small amount for the government’s expenses and ‘surcharged’ at a small amount for the utility’s expenses and profit. The more we use it, the more they make.
Both of these add-on taxes would be fixed; but while the government has a fixed income the utilities have a way to make more profit with improved delivery efficiency, additional power-generating stations and more electrically driven products.
I suspect the actual numbers will work out to about 1 cent/kw tax and 1.5 cents/kw utility surcharge; 2.5 cents/kw combined.
The commercial and private sectors will no longer be punished or restricted from growth (or decreased profits) by the rising cost of energy (since it remains stable).
This will have negligible effect on the oil & gas industry during these waning years, as their products will always be needed for alternative products (other than fuel to produce electricity) and other products such as chemicals, plastics and transportation needs.
Their products are in short supply today. It would be impossible to flood the market with their products before they run out so they would stay profitable, and we/they don’t have to go to ‘extremes’ to find the last drop.
Facts & Support:
Every study done (and most scientists in the world) will tell you that in the not-to-distant-future (100 yrs or more) the only really viable worldwide energy source (for generating electricity) for this entire planet is electricity generated from solar power.
This doesn’t mean that Thermal, Hydro, Wind and others forms of generating electricity will become obsolete, it means they will become regional based on cost-effectiveness and (maybe) eventually phased out.
They will also be needed for years to come as a way to generate electricity when & where the sun is not shining.
If converted to electricity, the average daily megawatt amount of solar energy hitting the US is enough to run this entire country for well over a year, so we are not talking about a lot of surface area nor needed efficiency. Most of these plants could be smaller in scale and regionally based.
Our economy, who we are, where we live, and what we do for a living is all based on what we pay for energy. The cheaper and more abundant the energy, the faster and bigger we can grow as a nation. If we continue to buy energy (especially from other countries) other economies will grow at our expense.
Right now the utilities make money by the selling two products: the delivery of their product (electricity), and the profit of buying and then reselling that electricity.
If they were given a flat rate at which they could deliver electricity at, then the price would remain stable and they make a profit no matter what. They could increase their profit margin by increasing the efficiency of how they deliver it.
The whole world’s economy suffers when the cost of non-renewable energy sources become scarce or unaffordable. This is particularly true in the colder geographic regions; they are punished because of where they are located. Entire economies are driven into recession and whole industries die because they cannot compete with non-energy driven/dependent industries.
People and businesses would have a monetary reason to conserve if they wanted to. Right now the only reason to conserve (beyond helping the environment) is to help some one else’s pocket book (much, much more so than your own). There would be no reason to ‘conserve’ electricity (because it’s free) and there would not be any ecological damage due to a lack of conservation. We would not have to do without.
The US Military and the Industrial Military Complex could play a very active role it the set up and operation of this project, as well as gain valuable technological advantages in the evolution of this concept (much like the actual Manhattan project). It’s a better investment than bombs or bullets in the long run too.
Free electricity could even help provide an economic means and incentives (with an unlimited supply of free energy) to help remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
It has a ‘ZERO carbon’ footprint.
Burning fuels to produce electricity is not only a short-term solution [at best] but it is counter-productive to the environment. But we cannot grow if our power supply does not grow with us. Solar power is free and unabated. An economy that is economically restricted (by region or product) due to rising energy costs, or a short-lived energy supply is doomed to fall way behind (or even fail) just as ours seems to be doing.
Electricity is clean [when derived from non-combustion sources] and the infrastructure already exists for its use and distribution for all aspects of using it, and soon including transportation as well. (This solution would even speed up the re-invention of the electric car, and if electricity were free, so would hydrogen be). The US economy and the environment all suffer because of our dependency on foreign oil and natural gas.
Right now this dependency may prove fatal, economically and ecologically. And while we cannot do business without oil, we can remove it from the economic equation of growth, health & prosperity with the use of existing technology today. This can all be done without diminishing returns or at the expense of any business in America today (including the US tax base) except for the business of mining coal. However the coal-powered stations themselves would still make money distributing the electricity. (They just no longer have to pay themselves to dig up their power supply.) Furthermore, if we did this as a nation the rest of the industrial world would have to follow or they would soon be relegated to diminishing returns.
In today’s dollars it could be cheaper than either the real Manhattan project or the 1960’s space program; all of the hardware and technology already exists, and we could probably do it for less than one year’s worth of military expenditures in the Gulf. It would make for a stronger military as well because they would have more locally available fuel for those things that are not powered by electricity.
Michael Brace is a founding partner in EV World & Associates, LLC, a newly formed, independent electric vehicle technology consulting group with offices in Los Angeles, Omaha, Cincinnati and Blacksburg, Virginia. For more information, contact managing partner Sam Smith.
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