What can we do?
First and foremost it is important to keep a reasonable mindset when you research these issues yourself. Before you start exploring the reality of our energy and climate situation as detailed here and in the previous sections you must realise that many different views exist on the topic and we have chosen an approach that leaves some room for options. There exists a good number of people on the internet that do not see that we have plenty of options left. Unfortunately the one thing that is true for all views on the topic is that the options we have as a human race decrease daily if we do not radically change our lives.
Here are proposed solutions for two of our main problems, namely energy and CO2.
There is a plethora of other pressing problems going on in the world that also need our full attention. The work required is huge, will not make large profits but is a task that every human should undertake. It is acceptable if you can not join at the full possible extent but you can at least help spread the message and help inform others.
When proposing a solution to the energy problem, it is not far fetched to believe that our societies will later consume all this „green energy“ to enable us to consume all the other resources of this planet at a breath taking speed. This is called the „Jevons Paradox“: Setting resources free in one part of society leads to the consumption of these same resources in another. INTRENEX cannot solve this issue.
It is a problem which mankind has to solve and it will take quite a while until good solutions to these problems have been both found and implemented. We are in the beginning of an age where humanity has to learn how to steer the planet earth.
We should probably call it our Garden of Eden and we as humans will have to learn to be responsible gardeners.
Now let’s take a closer look at how fwe propose to solve the most pressing needs for our future – namely energy availability and keeping CO2 levels in the atmosphere low.
The size of the task is huge when we look at the main producers of CO2:
We must shut down all fossil fuelled power plants, as they contribute about 25% of global greenhouse gases. Agriculture (meat production) causes another 30% of emissions and the rest mainly comes from transport and heating. To shut down all fossil fuelled power plants we must replace 6600 GW of energy production with renewables.[Energy fundamentals]. When we agree on the fact that we will have to electrify our whole civilization, transportation and buildings are not far away. Agriculture emissions can only be tackled if we eat much less meat and stop cutting down tropical forests.
Looking at wind energy alone, we can for example talk about the largest wind turbine on sale today with a name plate capacity of 5MW. If we only take the capacity as a base, replacing 6600 GW of fossil fuelled power plants requires 1.32 million of the largest wind turbines available. That is a huge number and even a new renewable plant of 500 MW in size generates just 0.0075% of our total requirement. And a 500 MW renewable installation is massive!
If we estimate the construction period of one 5MW wind turbine as 2 weeks (when everything is highly automated) solving this with wind power will take hundreds of years. So you see we really need to make huge undertakings to solve this problem. It is not impossible but it simply is the very largest of mankind’s undertakings and going to Mars will be easy in comparison!
As the entire process might take something like 30 years (it is a good target to be finished by 2050) it is quite possible that we do not need to replace all fossil fuelled power plants as society might change in a way to consume much less energy per capita. On the other hand, this reduction in resource usage per capita has been proposed for a long time (since at least 1972, where it featured in the report „The limits to growth“) and there has not been significant change since then. But we will see. One thing about the future is sure: It is unknown!
The most efficient resource usage is not using anything!
Another important point is how much work we can do with the average of the installed maximum capacity. We do not only want to go to work when the sun shines.
The fundamental issue with renewables is that they can not always produce energy and the best locations to harvest them is probabaly not near the location of the consumers. So we here have some sort of a supply and demand question that we want to solve in that way that the cheapest end-price is achieved. This calculation has actually been made a long time ago by Dr. Gregor Czisch starting in 2001 and here it is explained in all details.
The area used for this calculation was large enough to include the western African Passat regions and Egypt for wind production as well Algeria for solar and so on. Wind potential lies in the north of the UK (meaning we do not need to go that far away) as well as the north of Russia. A huge wind potential also exists in Kazakhstan. It can serve as an energy hub between Europe and China.
The area that has been studied encompasses 68 countries with roughly 1.1 billion people. INTRENEX aims at implementing the results from this publicly available study thus supplying all these people with reliable renewable power for the lowest price possible. These calculations can also be made for all the other regions of the world and it is already clear that there exists enough „natural“ power in our atmosphere to deliver clean energy for all of mankind at a very reasonable price.
To accomplish this task, a new power transmission grid has to be built capable of transporting huge amounts of electricity over large distances. This technology exists and is called „High Voltage Direct Current“ Transmission or HVDC Transmission for short. These lines can transport huge amounts of energy at a maximum loss of about 3% per 1000 km
. That loss is not a big problem because it only occurs when the lines are operated at maximum capacity. Usually the lines will not operate at maximum capacity for the entire time, so the losses will considerably smaller and the sources we choose for our future energy production will be so bountiful that it does not matter if we loose some 10 % over 3000 km
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. Not all the lines will be 3000 km and there will be consumers and producers in between allowing losses to stay well below 10%
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. But in addition to the base costs of the renewable installations we will have to build a new „Supergrid“ that can move energy from where it is being produced to places where it is being consumed. INTRENEX is the name for this Supergrid: International Renewable Energy Grid.
Looking at the world’s situation we can estimate that we might need to invest probably 10-15 trillion Euros for the entire globe. Current global GDP is roughly 80 trillion Euros, so taking just one fifth of our annual „income“ will provide enough capital to pay for the job (unless doing it will take a significant time). If we spread that sum over some 30 years, only a moderate annual sum will have to be spent globally, but that still is much more than we are currently spending on a yearly basis for renewables. The rate is rapidly increasing but should double at least 2 more times.
Is that such a big problem?
No. The issue here is the current policy was an appeasement of the world’s political systems to give some money to the renewables sector and hope the problem will solve itself. The governments had no real plan to alter our entire civilisation. What that really means was only accepted recently in the Paris agreement. Now we only have a half-baked solution in most countries with the subsidies system, where both governments and economists have discovered that this is way too expensive and inefficient. There has to be a new masterplan, as INTRENEX proposes. If that plan had been followed a long time ago we could be nearly finished with it today. We propose that all stakeholders on this issue come together again around the INTRENEX proposal and work on this with combined forces.
The second point is that no person in the world will hand out 15 trillion Euros and say: “just go ahead, let’s see if it works”. There is a possibility that the world’s banks will jump on the bandwagon if we can prove that our proposal works on some reasonable prototype area with real world problems and implications.
Desertec is a similar large-scale undertaking which already had plenty of industry support but when it transpired that there was not enough profit in it agreements were cancelled.
The main problem with Desertec was that they concentrated their efforts on CSP technology (Concentrated Solar Power). This has the advantage of creating huge amounts of energy on a reasonably small installation. They use mirrors that are moved during the day time which concentrate the sun’s rays on to the centre of a tower to heat up some fluid which runs a steam turbine. The high temperatures in this process result in a high efficiency factor. The plan was to build units suppling 2GW at a price of about 5-8 billion Euros. Just 3000 of these plants would supply the entire electrical energy demand for the world. There only has been one small problem: Heating up known materials under high pressure in the concentrator is very difficult as it suffers from enormous heat stresses, and there was no good solution to be found for this issue. That was one reason why the installations became uncompetitively expensive. Desertec does not follow the numerically optimised results from the study by Dr. Czisch and until today promotes a lot of CSP. These plants are still quite expensive and it is better to start using wind energy instead of waiting for technical improvements in CSP technology. Due to the heat problems with concentrated solar power in towers, currently the goal is using solar trough plants with oil as a heat exchange flud. The problem here again is first the thermal efficiency is much lower as the maximum temperature is only one third and second the parabolic mirrors have to be cleaned every once in a while what makes for quite hugh operating costs. One advantage is that some of the heat can be “stored” for the evening hours and the plant can still operate when the sun has set. Still these plants cost about 5 times the price of wind turbines on a per kW basis. INTRENEX is not linked with desertec.
What we can see is that one similar large proposal already had a number of problems and it will cost us a huge amount to convince investors that they should join our mission. As you have read in the previous sections, we do not want to promote a solution that ends in endless consumption. This approach has not yet entered the management boards of large scale investment firms. But they have the same data that we used for this project and maybe they will come to the conclusion that the solution proposed by INTRENEX is the best solution so far and might want to join in on a large scale
. Our mailbox (email@example.com) is open to all!
So now, what exactly is the plan ?
INTRENEX has a bold plan to solve the issues that we laid out above: