Future of Energy - Part 2
In Part 1 of our discussion with NASA Langley Chief Scientist Dennis M. Bushnell, he put LENR (low energy nuclear reaction) at the top of his list of promising new energy sources, followed by bio-energy derived from halophytes, salt-tolerant plants that can be harvested for both fuel and food using what is now waste land and deserts.
In part 2, his next choice is "drill geothermal." He distinguishes it from conventional geothermal, like the well fields around Calistoga, California at the head of the Napa Valley, which utilize hot water relatively close to the earth's surface. Drill geothermal would, if exploited, tap into a far wider resource of 200-300C rock 2-5 km below the earth's surface, rock which can now be relatively easily reached with modern oil drilling technology that is today able to go down a 10km (6 miles). Today deep wells are already taping into these hot, but often caustic and corrosive liquids, but they presently aren't being utilized to generate power. More information on this energy source is available in an MIT published report entitled The Future of Geothermal Energy published in 2006.
Next on Bushnell's list is nano-plastic photovoltaic that generates electricity from sunlight and costs a fraction of what current silicon-based PV costs. While not as efficient and silicon, it is improving. Additionally, he notes, that the use of various types of solar concentrators can reduce the amount of solar PV needed to generate power; these can be optical concentrators or mechanical: polished mirrors or metal. Other promising solar approaches are solar thermal and solar hybrids systems, the latter which circulates a working fluid in conjunction with PV to reduce heat build up and utilize it for other applications.
He thinks high altitude wind generators promising, though tethering them will be problematic. Surprisingly, however for someone that works for NASA, Bushnell thinks the idea of space-based solar power is completely impractical for many reasons.
While all these technologies sound promising, we asked him what is the biggest obstacle to their adoption. His reply will surprise you. It has to do with the make-up of the human brain and its innate conservative defense mechanism. In Part 2 he offers a very sobering assessment of the state of America and the planet as a whole, noting that the planet passed peak oil several years ago. To listen to the entire 27-minute interview. use either of the two MP3 players in the right-hand column or feel free to download it to your computer for transfer to and playback on your favorite MP3 device.
US Deep (6km) Geothermal Resources