Alternative power sources now represent more than just a drop in the bucket to the energy pool, which is why EE Times will cover them more closely in the coming months. That's certainly something that some of our war-wary readers want to see. If the possible conflict with countries in the Middle East and Asia has brought anything new, it's that our readers aren't timid about asking how world politics will affect power reserves big and small. The epic struggle over black gold - the implied connection "with liberty and justice for oil," as my grandfather used to say - is getting too large to ignore.
Right now, fuel cells appear to have the inside track as the power source with the best word-of-mouth. They've been applied for some time in the larger systems, and early indications show they could be ready in good variety as portable power sources before year's end. That's at least a year ahead of predictions that were made three years ago.
Meanwhile, even the oil companies are running ads implying the use of alternative power. Writing for an engineering book addressing real-world design, I've not as closely followed the progress of wind, solar, geothermal and the rest, nor the sources for small-scale systems. But now seems like the right time for doing so.
Feature articles of this sort will complement coverage of power management, which itself has become so much a part of the power area. On the other hand, in the past my writing on alternative power exposed a distinctly bipolar audience. Letters ranged from "need full coverage" to "why are you recklessly championing this cause?" When I think about those letters, the words of jazz bassist Charlie Mingus spring to mind: "What's so funny is some people think a composer is supposed to please them, but in a way a composer is a chronicler, like a critic. He's supposed to report on what he's seen and lived."
Doing that without hype is what separates the technical press from the broadcast media. As such, it gives us an insight into what the experts are doing, and what that means to you as a designer.
Which leads to another suggestion: All future power conferences should start setting up strong sessions centering on the new era of alternative power sources. To me, its arrival is a virtual certainty, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and should not be taken as an editorial position of EE Times or any of its other editors, publications or Web sites.