Earlier this year I heard Dr. Daniel Nocera, a chemistry professor at MIT, give a lecture on the future of energy production and consumption for the planet by 2050. According to Nocera, the world's population will more than double its energy consumption over the next 40 years based on projections of GDP per capita growth and the consumption habits associated with that growth. Surprise, surprise, the surge in consumption is in part due to the emergence of China and India as economic powerhouses.
It wasn't our consumption that scared me. It was in the next couple of slides that showed the effects on global warming. We'll need to build one nuclear power plant every other day to meet just a portion of the overall demand that's a total of 8,000 plants.
But he had a better solution: solar. "More solar energy hits the Earth in one hour than we consume in an entire year," Nocera said. The problem, however, is that solar power can only be generated when the sun is out. So, he addressed the problem and has developed a way to more efficiently store solar power by splitting water molecules and storing hydrogen. Thus, a cheap and clean method for hydrogen production for fuel cells, which consequently emits water as a byproduct. (See Technology Review and EETimes for more details.)
The concept has already generated praise and could alleviate our dependence on foreign oil and reduce energy prices. Oh, and help address that little problem called global warming, which has already been characterized as one of the greatest challenges mankind will ever have to face.
Honda has already started to prepare for this breakthrough. Their answer is the Honda Clarity. The Clarity, which is available for lease, runs on hydrogen fuel cells and produces no greenhouse gas emissions.
But Honda is taking the concept one step further. Using Dr. Nocera's concept of storing hydrogen, they have developed a home energy system that converts your home into a micro power plant. Your roof is lined with solar panels that collect, store, and produce energy by converting excess power into hydrogen or selling it back to the grid. Honda's goal is that these home units will have the capacity to power fuel cell vehicles beginning with the Honda Clarity.
This means no more oil worries, more disposable income (from savings and sale of excess energy into the grid), no more smog, and less global warming, creating a more sustainable future for generations to come. The monetary savings alone are worth the trouble. Throw in all the additional benefits and it's like extra whip cream and a cherry on your ice cream sundae.
Now, we need Congress to renew the tax credits for renewable energy to encourage the production of more solar panels. But that's a discussion for another day.
About the author: Owen Glubiak lives and works in Burlington, Vermont. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.