Re: Solar power [was Nano-Rectennas]

From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Tue Feb 01 2000 - 15:43:40 MST

Robert J. Bradbury writes:

> 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...
(Pst! I'm a crypto-entropian agent, spreading the corrosive doctrine
of dynamic pessimism!)
> As I tried to indicate the market will take some time to develop.

Sure, but I was talking about near-future. Methinks I saw a methanol
refueling station a few weeks ago. If future infrastructure will we
developed with methanol in mind, we could have gas stations which also
could double for methanol refuelling, without any corrosion problems.

> 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

First onboard methanol reformers, then directly methanol metabolizing
cells. Yes.

> 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

I'm not sure the renewables will play a major role in the
picture. Biomass takes land to grow, usually creating denaturated
habitats. Also, synthesis gas production from biomass is less
convenient then coke, oil or methane. Methane, especially als
clathrate (methane hydrate), seems to be highly plentiful. Renewables
might just have a hard time to compete. And then direct photosynthesis
will arrive, as well as microwaved power from the skies.

> 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

Why aren't we seeing any ?

Because they undermine the customer/ISP relationship. Customers can
create their own networks, by virtue of operating a box on the top of
their houses. I don't think it's a coincidence Nokia bought them, and
keeps the technology off market.

The energy providers will try to actively suppress proliferation of
such empowering technologies. This might seriously delay deployment.

> 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).
I don't think you could ever harvest high-proof methanol hooch from
bacteria directly (i.e. without further destillation, which is a
pain). You rather need immobilized, stabilized enzymatic systems, a
kind of photosynthetic panel fixing (ideally atmospheric) carbon
dioxide and water to directly produce methanol from captured photons.

> 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.
It is actually good that the fossil people think methanol is not the
enemy. At least initially they will help to roll out the
infrastructure. After they realize what is going on, it will be too late...

> 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.

Great. How long until you can buy such a kit? 30 years? 40?
> 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.

Currently there is no evidence for this. They still have plenty of
time, however, and surely enough financial resources to buy any
technology/specialists they need.

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