Renewing Renewable Power

I’ve had plenty of discussions with people about renewable energy sources. Some people have interesting ideas about how we can overcome the many challenges presented by trying to harness energy sources. Some people have just provided me with more information about the topic. Some people have strong opinions about how we should deal with our energy needs.

I say “harness” for these types, because you can’t just go collect a bunch of stuff and make the energy on your own time. We don’t have control of many of the renewable sources of energy. We cannot control the winds. We cannot control the currents. We cannot control the clouds, the rain, or the rotation or tilt of the earth.

Much of the world is outside of the control of humans, and this creates a great deal of challenge to our plans of harnessing energy. In my limited knowledge of how our power grid works, I do know that we have to adjust the energy in the system based on the demands of those using the system. This is one of the ties that keeps us on fossil fuels. I don’t recall where I was told this, but I’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it used as a reason to only convert partially to renewable resources.

One interesting idea that was presented to me when I was still in high school was an idea about using hydrogen power to fuel many of our devices. The challenge here is that in order to get the hydrogen required to power our vehicles, we need some source of power. Well, traditionally, that would mean that we would burn fossil fuels in order to generate the power required to get the hydrogen. We can all see the issue with this. The idea presented to me had a solution to this. Use a solar power plant to provide the energy required to make the hydrogen.

I had a thought while driving home from my brother’s house the day before father’s day 2012. I was driving along and saw two windmills in the sky. One has been running for a while, and the other is one that is new and hasn’t been started yet. I started thinking about the idea that these sources are not controlled and must be balanced with the sources we can control. Fossil fuels can be controlled, and we use them to balance the system and keep it under control. I don’t believe that this is the answer, since it keeps us tied so heavily to an energy source that we know will eventually run out. I don’t want to argue with anyone about the amount that remains. Perhaps there is enough for fifty generations or only two. The key is that humans will outlive our sources of fossil fuels and need to develop better energy sources.

We need to take a different approach to controlling our power grid. Instead of making sure that it has the power required when the need arises, we need to have the required power the whole time. Instead we should be using the excess when it’s available to power for the future. To put energy away for new things.

Imagine that you have a solar power plant out in the middle of nowhere. Obviously “the middle of nowhere” has very limited energy requirements. Use the excess for something else. Use the excess to power to get the hydrogen power to fuel cars. Then if there is a spike in “nowhere”, and it needs more power. You just slow the production of the hydrogen. Perhaps we need to look also into storing the power in batteries (I know this has been investigated before).

It seems like our ideas for our power system are not looking at new approaches. People keep trying to come up with better ways of creating and harnessing renewable sources of energy, but I think the real challenge we need to solve first is how best to integrate. If we keep allowing people arguments against these sources of energy, we can never win the battle, and we must move to sources of energy that are better and longer lasting.