We have more than enough energy to satisfy our greatest needs and desires. It's out there in the environment -- in the sun on our faces, the wind on our back, the vibration of the freeway, the rattling of trains, the surf eroding the shore, the atoms we split, the garbage we rot, and the coal we burn. The only problem is that it's not where we want it, when we want it. Our goal for the 21st century should be to fix that problem
Mobile technology, computing technology, communications technology and related items have really changed the world over the last 20 years. What's the next step?
If we can develop dramatically more efficient, less expensive, and (ideally) more eco-friendly battery technology, we can change the world again in the next 20 years.
Improved battery technology can drive electricity costs down. Imagine being able to charge your home's batteries at night when powerplants are underutiltized. Power can be cheaper in the off hours, and we can eliminate a lot of the Brown-Out and rolling Black-Out problems parts of the country face on hot summer days.
Electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla family of cars are giving us a viable alternative to gasoline, but they still are limited in range to about 100 miles for the Leaf and under 300 miles for the Tesla. Imagine battery technology that's good for 1000 miles.
Combine those vehicles with off hours charging and household batteries and we get world changing benefits. Even charging cars with electricity from coal powerplants produces less greenhouse gas than driving on gasoline.
These two battery solution gives us even more benefits, though. Storing power locally gives us better disaster preparedness. When powerlines go down due to wind, rain, or hurricane, household batteries can keep the lights bright and the refrigerator cold.
Alternative energy solutions at the local level, whether those solutions are roof top solar panels or home sized windmills become much more viable with the right battery technology.
Large scale alternative energy solutions, again, whether they are hydro-electric, geothermal, solar, wind, or wave action are all more viable when we can efficiently store they energy.
And back down to the small scale, as we migrate more and more to cloud computing, keeping those laptops and smart phones charged is critical.
I'm not sure if it's just a question of more efficiently scaling our current technology -- of making refinements to what we already have -- or if we need massive conceptual shift in areas of chemical and electrical engineering that I know nothing about.
The company that can master battery technology -- the country that can master battery technology -- will own the economy of the future.
Battery technology isn't sexy. It's not exciting. It rarely makes headlines. But it should.
Our nation's infrastructure and ecnomy depend on it and demand advances in battery technology.
The question is, how do we capitalize on it?