10:33 – I’m still hard at work on the prepping book, but I need to take some time off to build some science kits. Kit sales this month are running slightly ahead of last November. Two-thirds of the way through the month, we’re at about 80% of last November’s total sales, so if the trend continues we’ll end up at about 120% month-on-month. Then comes December, which is a pretty heavy month, so we need to get finished-goods inventory built up for that.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a good column posted about the US-China climate deal and its effect on the oil industry. I agree with the substance of his arguments, but I think he underestimates the impact of solar on petroleum. Forecasts are nearly always wildly optimistic over the short term and wildly pessimistic over the long term, and I think that’s the case here. The question is, how long a term?
Solar is poised to become a major source of electric power. We’ve known for a long time that this would happen eventually. Insolation on every square meter of the planet’s surface amounts to about a kilowatt. The only questions have always been how to convert that solar energy to a useful form–i.e, electricity–and how to store that electricity.
As to capture, the science is already there. We have the science and increasingly the technology for very high-efficiency solar panels. The real problem has been storage. Back in the 70’s I read a book on storage batteries by a guy named George Vinal. It was published in something like 1907, and the technology had hardly changed during the intervening 70 years. It’s changed massively in the 40 years since I read that book. Revolutionary advances have been made in the labs, and are now working their way into mass production.
So now it’s just a matter of engineering and manufacturing, and we have plenty of good engineers and factories. Even now, you can walk into a Home Depot and buy a pretty impressive solar array. They’ll even send a crew out to install it on your roof and connect it to your battery bank. Costs are plummeting, and more and more people are adopting solar power for part or all of their power needs. In many areas of the US, solar is already at “plug parity” with utility power. As costs continue to drop, solar will continue to displace utility power. My guess is that in 10 years solar will be commonplace, and in twenty it will have largely displaced electric utility power all over the US. The utilities will go down fighting, of course, but down they’ll go.
All of this is to the good. Better that every building is self-sufficient in electric power, including for cooling and heating than that we continue to build large power plants and run millions of miles of wire to distribute that power generated centrally. And far better that we cease consuming fossil fuels and instead leave them as feedstocks for chemical manufacturing.