Arnold Kling  

An Energy Internet?

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Richard Smalley writes,


Consider, for example, a vast interconnected electrical energy grid for the North American continent. By 2050 this grid will interconnect several hundred million local sites. There are two key aspects of this future grid that will make a huge difference: massive long-distance electrical power transmission, and local storage of electrical power with real-time pricing.

He points out that we need better battery technology, so that people can rely on power generated and stored locally. We also need more efficient long-range transmission, "permitting, for example, hundreds of gigawatts of electrical power to be transported from solar farms in New Mexico to markets in New England. "

He suggests that nanotechnology can provide the solution to these technical challenges. If so, then the electrical grid will start to look more like the Internet. It will be more robust, and people will be less dependent on any one source of supply.

Thanks to Randall Parker for the pointer.

UPDATE: Marty, in a comment, points to this article about an energy Internet. It differs in its technology emphasis from the Smalley piece. In a way, that serves to underline the issue in the discussion question.

For Discussion. How can the government best determine where to spend money on energy research, for example on hydrogen vs. nanotechnology?


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
mcwop writes:
For Discussion. How can the government best determine where to spend money on energy research, for example on hydrogen vs. nanotechnology?

They can't, because politics gets in the way. Look at diseases, their occurance in society, and waht is spent on each. The spending does not correlate with occurance in all cases.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

Inposing an Energy surtax upon Utilities and Auto companies Corporate profits, if they do not devote at least ten percent of their total Investment schedule to alternative Energy sources. Hey wait, that would not cost Taxpayers anything, and might even make some money. I would suggest and 8% surtax. Of course, Congress and President could not accept that. lgl

Donald Lacombe writes:

Why not have a type of electronic market where different technologies are bid on like the Iowa Electronic Market? There was a recent post about this on Marginal Revolution where drug companies are using internal markets to determine which drugs are worth persuing.

Marty writes:

This was an Economist article several months ago:

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2476988

But to answer your question, it can't. Are you trolling? The DOE should be abolished (along with the NIH, DOT, BLS, BEA and NASA - abominations all).

Bob McGrew writes:

Incidentally, your description of the Internet is incorrect. Although it was originally designed to be redundant and robust to a nuclear explosion, it's long since dropped the redundance. It's an economic problem rather than a technological one: it's simply cheaper to route all the fibers through one pipe.

As it is, the proverbial "construction worker with a backhoe in Iowa" could bring down the whole Internet.

It's unlikely that the economics of power-lines are any different: a power-line grid would probably be equally vulnerable to disruption in any one place.

This doesn't negate the main point that more efficient transmission is a good idea, though.

Rick Stewart writes:

For Discussion. How can the government best determine where to spend money on energy research, for example on hydrogen vs. nanotechnology?

If the government wanted to spend taxpayer money on energy research (I hope they do not) an efficient way to do it might be to simply match private investment in energy research on a 1 to 1 (better 1 to 1000, of course) basis. While this would result in too much money spent on energy research, it would otherwise not be distortionary, I believe (except for the sub-optimum investment in all other sectors of the economy, of course).

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