Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Northern Alabama
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Re: Sailing a technological breakthrough?
Sailing cargo ships are probably not in the future; see nolatom's post #6. I'm guessing hydrogen, derived by solar-powered water fission, then re-combined in fuel cells, will be the fuel of the future.
People who are interested in electricity generation should understand a few things about generation efficiency:
1) Thermal conversion, like coal-burning steam boilers with steam turbines is constricted by a fairly low theoretical efficiency. And by 'theoretical' I don't mean 'speculative,' I mean maximum possible, if all other losses are eliminated. Thermal conversion, even with it's low theoretical efficiency, is OK if there is lots of cheap fuel and society is willing to accept the by-products of combustion or other heat source (like nuclear waste).
2) If you have a clean and free energy source, like wind or solar radiation, the conversion efficiency doesn't matter so much from the viewpoint of fuel consumption. It does matter, however, in terms of the size of the generation plant required to convert wind or light into a significant amount of electricity. This brings us to:
3) Renewable energy sources are so diffuse that even if the efficiency of conversion was 100%, we would still need to commit large portions of the terrestial surface to collection equipment. I'm not an expert on cargo ships, but I am an expert on buildings. We could cover our non-residential buildings with 100% efficient photovoltaic arrays, but still need auxillary power. There is simply not enough incident light on buildings' surfaces to power the loads that we are accustomed to. I'm guessing the same goes for cargo ships. They will need all the wind they can catch just to move. Any other energy collection will reduce their speed. This leads to the conclusion:
4) We simply must reduce our power demand or continue to burn fossil fuels until we no longer can, then we will reduce demand by force. Generating and storage efficiency improvements will not save us; continued load side reduction, forced by law if necessary (like illegalizing incandescent light bulbs), is imperative. Anybody who says that reduction in energy consumption will harm the economy is either lying or has believed lies they heard. For the last twenty years, at least, the energy conservation industry has been a robust sector of the free market economy. I know because I'm a person who is making a good living at it. The government subsidies that are supporting otherwise non-supportable activities are ..... well, that's a topic for another discussion.
Last edited by jwing; 02-27-2014 at 10:31 AM.