I have paid attention to the energy industry and within that the renewable generation marketplace as well as fossil fuels for close to a decade. I have seen gas rise from 89c a gallon to as high as $5 a gallon and back down to $2 a gallon. I have passively tracked everything from Chesapeake Energy coal mine deaths; to Richard Rainwater and South Carolina’s first lady of finance, Darla Moore investing in higher education and 21st century building techniques.
I have been fascinated with the growth of Solar City, Tesla, Toyota’s machinations with Hybrid’s and EV’s as well as the incredible shift in Solar photovoltaic technologies; from thin film’s emergence and downfall to the Chinese move to domestic support for 200+ Photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacturers.
I have constantly adjusted to US Government investment in private companies, (auto, banking, solar to name a few) Watched powerlessly as Utility resistance to any competition to the tried and true fossil fuel cap ex model stymied the growth of this promising technology and then been pleasantly surprised when my home state utilities did a 180 degree turn due largely to renewable generation costs dropping at 20-30% a year for almost the whole decade .
2015 marks a departure to everything I have seen in the past, this past week I was invited, for the third time, to an Investor owned utility campus to discuss solar integration. I now consider most of the people I meet on both sides of the energy equation in SC my friends or good acquaintances at the very least. Utilities have studied and supported Act 236 a comprehensive bill passed in 2014. While the total number of MW’s of power being introduced onto the grid is still small compared to base load it is the exact start I have hoped and prayed for since 2009 when I founded the Solar Business Alliance.
What will 2035 look like? I suspect that we will have 40 million electric vehicles nationwide, if gasoline prices ever hit $8 a gallon then we could double or triple that number. Driverless cars will be approved and regulated in most states and Re-charging stations will be almost as plentiful as regular gas stations. I predict that 20% of us homes will have PV installed on them and new homes will be mandated to have PV and battery storage with full grid integration installed as well.
In 2035 we should have retired 50% of the coal fired plants in the state and dropped the generation percentage from coal to below 20%. Renewables, primarily solar and wind should be 10-15% of total generation nuclear and natural gas will be the primary base load generation facilities but all new plants will be renewable coupled with ultra high efficiency natural gas and Utility sized battery storage capacities.
By 2035 computers or AI will be designing new generation power facilities and new generations of computers, improving PV output and size in alignment with Moore’s law. Nanotechnology will be integrated into new materials and processes enabling engine efficiency, nano-electronics and applied sciences we can’t even fathom today. The ease with which we have all accepted iphones, tablets and GPS will be mirrored in flexible material computing (a school bag with the capabilities of an ipad). implanted, integrated communication with the net, international fights on the morality of injected nano-circuitry based bacteria performing routine biological maintenance on human bodies will be raging.
Landfill resource reclamation will be an emerging industry as we look to salvage the mountains of waste we are burying today. In 20yrs from today recycling core building materials and integrating todays waste stream back into usable materials will be critical to the continuing to build out for 400 million Americans.
We should have landed on Mars by 2035 and have plans for a permanent Lunar station with the capabilities to build a new generation of space craft outside of earth’s gravitational pull.
I will be 67 in 2035 if I am lucky enough to still be alive. The kids of 2035 will grow up in different world than the one I know and love. Major urban centers could eclipse 40million even if they don’t, our drift away from being in touch with the natural world will proceed as we continue to domesticate earth to our will. I envy them the opportunities and challenges they will face. Their job will be to achieve 100% energy generation from renewable sources and re-purposing the vastly depleted fossil fuel supplies to advanced materials and lubricants.
I don’t want to wish away a single second of the the time between then and now but I am truly excited by the changes we will experience over then next 20yrs.