Energy 2011-2020, and beyond

Heating & cooling, transportation & internet, entertainment & cooking – where would we be without all of this ? We: 7 billion people today, may be 9 billion in the year 2050.
No wonder "energy" again and again becomes the most important topic in "bild der wissenschaft", my monthly science read.
Here is a collection of a few interesting facts around that topic from the latest edition:

. In 2011 7500 megawatt of electric power based on photovoltaic systems have been installed in Germany, getting us up to 24 gigawatt – one third of what is installed world-wide.

. 25 gigawatt have been installed world-wide in 2011

. It has been said that silicium technology will be dead for photovoltaic soon, but technology innovation in this sector throughout the last 2 years has made this technology still vital to produce electrical power out of solar energy. Concentrator cells are a new means to bundle more solar light and increase the efficiency of photovoltaic technology. Silicium based photovoltaic cells could be made much cheaper, since they don’t need to be of the same quality than those used for computer chips.

. Analysts say that in the year 2020 solar cells worth 100 gigawatt of electrical power will be produced, requiring the usage of 800.000 tons of silicium.

. USA still is the largest producer of nuclear power world-wide, France another large one, while Japan of course – after the desaster in March last year – does everything to get rid off it. Similar in Germany. Just read in the news paper today that the nuclear power plant in Biblis will be dis-assembled starting 2016; this most likely will take 10 – 15 years !

. Germany plans to have 35 % of our electrical power produced based on renewable energy in 2020, 80 % in 2050 !

. It is expected that the demand of electrical power world-wide will increase by 70 % until year 2030. Installed electrical power will grow from 5000 gigawatt to 10.500 gigawatt which means: 8000 new power plants ( while 2000 reach their end of life ) world-wide. Every third of the new power plants will be built in India or China.

. Coal will play an important role even in the future, because it is cheap and still sufficiently available. It will make 30 % of world-wide electrical power generation. Problem of course: its carbon emissions. CCS ( Carbon Capture and Storage ) will become an important technology to deal with that, like cleaning emissions of power plants and storing carbon below ground.

I recall a statement made in "bild der wissenschaft" one or two years ago: an area of 500×500 kilometer in the Sahara would be sufficient to produce enough electrical power for the entire world – even for 9 billion people. But how to transport that electrical power from there to every place on our planet ? The production of power might not be our biggest challenge. Distribution, storage and smart usage are where a lot of innovation is needed for our future.


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