Re: Solar power [was Nano-Rectennas]

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Tue Feb 01 2000 - 04:18:43 MST

On Mon, 31 Jan 2000, Eugene Leitl wrote:

> Where does methanol come from? From synthesis gas (CO+H2). Where does
> synthesis gas come from? Why, from fossil fuel, mostly methane, and of
> course reformed oil. At least nowadays. Photosynthetic methanol? Sure,
> some day, but not now.

Eugene, someday you are just going to have to prove to me that you
are a card-carrying Extropian. Sometimes the things you say leave
me doubting...

As I tried to indicate the market will take some time to develop.
The California Y2004 laws for non-polluting fleet sales begin drive
this forward. Once you get the car volumes high enough, translating
into low enough costs for fuel cells, then as the automobile fleet
slowly gets replaced a market slowly develops. Yes for the first 3-5
years you still pump in gas/alcohol from your gas station. But pretty
soon the Agriculture industry wakes up to the fact that they can grow the
fuel and do so (they do it now, but the market is still limited by
the fuel consumption technology). After that some bright entrepreneurs
wake up to the fact that you can grow it at home. Since one can see
the path, then some bright folks will push the last step
earlier in the process and you get Fuel@Home groups springing
up around the country.

Your perspective regarding the difficulties for PhoMe is justified
for today, but not in light of the path I've outlined above. Some
"mandated" requirements to drive fuel cell technology development is
necessary. Then the turnover time in automobile fleet replacement is a
constraint. The bacteria look difficult now, but in 10 years they will be
easy and the development costs will be cheap (I've done the numbers --
*unbelieveably* cheap).

The market development time will drive the fuel production methods.

> And MeOH distribution infrastructure by then
> will be dominated by these previously in charge of it, i.e. abovesaid.

Initially, no argument, but unless they get clever and get zoning
restrictions on Fuel@Home, I don't see how they can stop it. The Oil
and Gas industries haven't stopped the installation of solar hot water
in homes, but the penetration has been slow because the installation
is still a labor intensive process and that makes the payback time long.
The long payback times (10+ years?) really diminish the incentives
to get the loan, manage the subcontractor, etc.

Fuel@Home is somewhat simpler because it doesn't have to be tied into
the existing home infrastructure to the same degree. What will
make it fly is a kit that most do-it-yourselfers can install.
Then you could see automobile suppliers providing the kits as part
of the purchase package to make the sale a better "deal".
I suspect the average person annually spends 5-10 times as much on gas
as they do on hot water, so if you can get the kit cost down to
3-5x the average annual fuel bill I think its a no brainer.

Its worth noting that for many of the oil producing countries, though
this dampens their revenue stream from depleting natural resources,
many of them are relatively rich in land mass and renewable solar
energy. The question will be whether they build up their educated
populations (engineers, etc.) to levels that are high enough that they
can develop technologies that take advantage of this.


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