The crazy world of future electricity generation

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The crazy world of future electricity generation

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Image: Joby Energy

With all of the publicity surrounding the BP leak, crude oil is earning a very bad reputation indeed.  Hopefully some good will come out of the tragedy by persuading governments to look more seriously at using renewable sources of energy.

Maybe in a hundred years or so our descendents will look back and laugh on our dependence on the black stuff and the primitive ways that it was used to produce power.  Hopefully (if we are still around by then) our energy demands will be met by some amazing technology that we can only dream about at the moment.  Like these two seemingly crazy ideas that have been talked about on the web recently:

Solar panels on the moon

Image: Shimizu

A Japanese organisation, Shimz, has come up with this concept.  Essentially they aim to build a belt of solar panels on the Moon which will convert sunlight into electricity, which will then be converted into microwaves and laser power and transmitted down to conversion facilities on Earth.  Here it will be changed back into electricity or stored as hydrogen.

I’m hoping that all of the space junk between us and the Moon will not be an issue.  Would be terrible indeed if a laser beam reflected off an old satellite, missed the conversion facility and hit something that it was not intended to.

If you were wondering how we are going to get enough solar panels to build a belt nearly 7 000 miles long, don’t worry – remote-controlled robots are going to work 24 hours a day building them out of materials found on the moon’s surface.

This idea sounds crazy but who knows what we will be able to do in the future?  And this idea will supply enough energy to the whole population of Earth 24 hours a day with no pollution.

Airborne wind turbines

Image: Joby Energy

As discussed in this news story, many companies are looking into this technology.  It involves using large kites that act as wind turbines and fly at heights of around 2000 feet whilst being tethered to the ground.  Pretty logical idea of you think about it – wind speeds are much higher at altitude and they won’t be considered as a ‘blot on the landscape’ like more traditional wind turbines.

Potential problems that I can see are interference with air-craft and the danger of being garrotted by the cable whilst out on a countryside walk but I’m sure these are things that are being looked into.  To have a look at a video of the ‘kite’ in action look here.

Looking at new technology like this can be used as a part of a GCSE  lesson in electricity generation using renewable energy resources.

After going through the methods we use at the moment you could show students images or videos of the two future ideas here and ask them to think of advantages and disadvantages of each.

Students can also see if they can come up with their own future ways of generating electricity and present them to the class Dragon Den style.   I bet the ideas that a teenage mind can come up with would rival these in the crazy stakes any day!