This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
In principle, I'm not opposed to solar (or even wind) energy. What I'm opposed to are wild speculations. The problem with solar and wind has always been what to do when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow. In other words how do we store excess sun and wind energy to use it when needed. An ideal pairing would have been sun/wind to generate with hydro to generate/store. Every water reservoir is a battery waiting to be used. But the greenies will oppose hydro all the way for obvious reasons, so that's that.
Now comes this idea of storing energy by means of compressed air stored in caves, using the excess energy generated by sun/wind generators. That is seemingly doable but I'm sure the greenies will find ways to oppose it (they want to get rid of 80% of the world population and send the rest back to the stone age-they would want the caves for that )
But suppose it could be done, with all sun/wind generators and air storage caves located in the almost empty US Southwest, where they generate 80% of all the energy needed by the US. Just imagine all those caves full of compressed air stored there during the day for the US to use at night.
Then comes the mother of all earthquakes and and pries open those caves, leaving them full of leaks everywhere...
I hope they think about that when designing the system.
Jaime and brad,
Compressed Air is a joke, try as you will, you cannot get better than 20% efficiency from the system due to the Gas Laws, and Solar panels can just about produce the same. So a net efficiency of 4% is the result and you will always get much less out of it than you put into it energy wise.
But why even bother when nature, by example, has provided us with the technological elements for the perfect electro-chemical battery. We just need the 'wits' to be at least as smart as a blade of grass! Here, by the process of Photolysis and absorption of IR energy our finite store of Carbon is continuously re-cycled with almost 100% efficiency.
We too could re-cycle all our hydro-carbons, however, and here's the rub': plants take all day about the process, as they must because they are constrained in their chemical reactions to temperatures of 35oC max.
We need minimum process times of a few milli-seconds and if we use a temperature of 3,500oC we can recycle our energy carriers faster than we consume them.
The future of energy security then, lies not with nuclear technology, or mirrors in space, or solar farms, or wind farms. The future belongs to liquid and gaseous fuels. We certainly know how to burn them at high speed to give us the economics of high energy density, we are masters of exothermic processes, what we don't have is the technology for matching high speed endothermic processes which are an essential requirement for re-cycling chemistry. The solution to this will be provided by harnessing the Sun, no, not back where we started from, I mean the exploitation and applications of it's modus operandi i.e. Radiation Technology. With the high infra-red up to the ultra violet spectrum we have all the 'tools' we need because radiation energy can be absorbed and emitted at identical velocity, which is very FAST!
I leave you with the greatest problem of all; how to make it all commercially profitable where energy carriers cease to be a physical trading commodity, and how do you deal with the subsequent Political re-arrangement of the world map.
Happy Christmas to all and a 'Sunny' 2008