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The Changing Face of Energy, as seen from an open source advocate

Today, I’m writing to discuss a paradigm that may be comprehended immediately by some, or require intense mulling by others. With no further ado, here it is. Solar Energy is the “open source” energy generation method.

Today, I’m writing to discuss a paradigm that may be comprehended immediately by some, or require intense mulling by others. With no further ado, here it is. Solar Energy is the “open source” energy generation method.

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With antiquities in the form of power markets scattered all over the globe, there are a few that are trying something new – something unheard of. Something called “Locational Marginal Pricing”, or LMP – if you are inclined to speak of the topic and hear the proverbial crickets – in deregulated energy markets such as ERCOT’s, which represents most of Texas, they will be rolling out this model by the end of 2010.

What is this madness you say? Essentially it’s a participatory model that seeks to create spot markets out of energy by economically punishing those who cause congestion on the transmission grid. Look at the traditional model of power, as a monolithic centralized beast, with coal belching 1000MW behemoths cranking full tilt 24/7. Then this power has to flow outward to the consumers. But the coal has to come from a mine, and surely its in limited supply. Then it has to be burned! Energy from the earth! But hold on… We can destroy this place at any time. Think back to the days when old Dutch would jabber on about Mutual Assured Destruction, Nuclear Winters, and my generation (author born circa 1981) as the one that may face Armageddon! What we’ve created for ourselves can also destroy us, but whats created us (negating any religious standpoints, and just to keep things neutral we’ll assume god created the sun) the sun not only will destroy us, but it created us. Madness you say! Launch the nukes at this mass murderer that will go on a killing spree in a few billion years. But they have no effect! Should we be scared? Should we seek protection? Or should we sleep with the enemy? Hmm… Lets jump back to the open source paradigm and step away from the parody on the psyche of the United States Government.

Take the open source model of software, whereupon there is a wide variety of participants working on one, or many projects with them evolving to become better, more efficient, and more competitive with every cycle. Kinda like the notion of evolution, if you’re so inclined. Really read into it, then come back and argue that the sun, and solar energy is NOT the open source of energy generation methods. I mean hell, you have a kid from Nepal that recently created a solar module that produced 18 watts of power by using, are you sitting down? Human hair! Yes, melanin, the organic substance that is responsible for various pigmentations in a wide variety of organisms is also susceptible to the same photoelectric effect as other traditional semiconductors, eg Silicon.

So, what I seem to be saying, is that if a kid from Nepal, and a publically traded company in America can produce power from the same source – one using hair, one using silicon based modules that have been refined over time to be more efficient – that what is going to happen is the continual decentralization of power generation, and an increasingly competitive marketplace. Imagine it now; the US government through immanent domain has everybody shave his or her head, so as to solve our energy crisis…. Wait, that sounds like something that could happen.

Anyhow, through traditional markets, solar photovoltaic’s has become an increasingly efficient method for generating power either centrally, or de-centrally. The methods of harvesting all this power can be deployed rapidly, creating jobs, and promoting the welfare of our environment by moving away from energy production methods that are soon to be antiquities. Here is why, Moore’s Law.

If you look back at how the introduction of semiconductor based computing took off at the pace it did, you’d be ignorant, or an idiot to not see that using the sun to produce energy is a viable means of solving this problem we’ve created for ourselves as a civilization. So lets plan on sleeping with the enemy while we can.

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-Ryan L. Jones

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