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The new Renewable Industrial Revolution- nuclear power is so, so yesterday

Power of renewables is sweeping the world towards a new revolution, Business Live, 08 MAY 2017 – 05:57 MICHAEL POWERI am not going to write about nuclear power. By the end of this article, you will know why. The global economy is on the cusp of its Fourth Industrial Revolution. And like the previous three, this one will be driven by — quite literally — a concentrated burst of energy. In the early 19th century, the original Industrial Revolution was based on harnessing steam energy; in the late 19th century, the second followed with the employment of electrical energy; in the late 20th century, the third was built on the exploitation of computing energy. And, as will become all too apparent in the coming decade, the fourth will be rooted in renewable energy.

Such supercharged progress is born from mixing the most basic laws in the universe, thermodynamics, with economics. When humanity harnesses a higher form of energy, we are capable of doing much greater amounts of work with it. And much greater wealth results. There is nothing more to it. Nor less.

We are leaving the age when, to generate power, we exploited minerals that we found underneath the earth’s surface: coal, oil, uranium. Henceforth, we will increasingly access assets above the earth’s surface: the sun and the wind, with water and steam in various forms playing supporting roles. And not only is the harnessing of these energy sources essentially renewable, the side-effects in terms of pollution will be next to negligible. The production of these new energies will be extraordinarily safe. And the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be a game-changer because once renewable power capacity is installed, the marginal cost of energy production from it will be close to zero.

How soon will this happen? It is already happening. Trusted Sources estimate that, in 2016, more than 60% of all new energy installations worldwide were in the renewable space. By 2020, they predict that share will be 100%. Thus, within three years, the share of energy generation worldwide attributable to traditional sources will be declining.

Wind power is already having a huge affect in colder countries in the northern hemisphere: Scotland, Denmark and Germany have days when renewables, led by wind, provide all their energy needs. Solar power is starting to be used much more in regions between the 45° north and south latitudes, which embraces virtually all inhabited regions in the southern hemisphere. Our Cape Agulhas is 35° south.

While the whole world will participate in this revolution to varying degrees, industrially it will be driven by China………

Perhaps the most radical breakthrough has been made by using molten salt to absorb energy in the day and release it at night: Spain’s 150MW Andasol solar power station uses this method, doubling the power plant’s operational hours. It has been very successfully employed in Chile’s Atacama Desert, now dubbed the Saudi Arabia of Solar Power. The Karoo is SA’s equivalent of the Atacama.

One of the most extraordinary advantages of solar is that it can easily and cost effectively be installed on a micro scale, making it particularly applicable for emerging markets. A panel can work for just one household and not need to be connected to a grid. This has spawned a supply revolution in regions where grid coverage is patchy.

Companies connecting panels to mobile payment systems have flourished: Kenya’s M-Kopa is but one example. And the results of this have spread into many corners of society: one estimate has it that, because homework can now be done at night, exam results for children living in solar-connected houses have improved 40%. As the immutable laws of thermodynamics dictate, energy is translated into work! New sources of energy that become readily accessible to the poor are what make these industrial advances so revolutionary.

As with all previous industrial revolutions, the breakthrough in harnessing a new energy source spawns myriad secondary developments that are dependent on it. ……

Invariably there are vested interests connected to old energy that will seek to slow this coming revolution. But plans to install old energy capacity in a world fast migrating to renewables is economic lunacy. So, the reason I am not writing about nuclear power should be abundantly clear: it is so, so yesterday.


May 10, 2017 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable

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