Posting in Energy
Solar technologies respond to Moore's Law because solar panels are made using the same technology as computer chips. Carbon energy only benefits from the mass production economics of the last century.
Solar technologies respond to Moore's Law because solar panels are made using the same technology as computer chips. If you like thin film transistors you're going to love thin film solar cells.
There are even wind technologies that respond to the innovation driving Moore's Law, like direct drive turbines that are vastly more efficient than what came before.
That may be one reason why tech companies like Intel, GE and Google are driving the green revolution. They live with and understand the economics of Moore's Law in ways Exxon can't.
Carbon energy only benefits from the mass production economics of the last century. Improvements are arithmetic, not geometric. Doubling the output of a coal mine at this point means doubling the costs, doubling the number of trucks and the number of miners. The only Moore's Law effect in oil is Moore's Second -- as we go into deeper water and harsher environments costs rise exponentially.
The best Moore's Law effects may lie in efficiency.
PCs today are made exclusively with what we used to call laptop technology, not just because it's low power but because it means there is less heat within circuits. But Moore's Law effects also drive development of smart grid technology (which is computerized), and of sensors that can measure and respond to changing needs and demands.
As any form of energy rises in price, the payback from any move to reduce energy use gets a shorter payback period. The money I put into insulating my own home 3 years ago isn't all back, but every rise in natural gas prices brings that break-even point closer.
There is completely non-political acceleration throughout the green economy, in other words, that does not exist in the carbon economy. Research will only create further acceleration.
The carbon system is doomed.
NOTE: The first link in the story is to a piece by CNET's Martin Lamonica, at our GreenTech blog. This article was inspired by that piece.
May 7, 2010
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"Technological acceleration ...is the only thing that has prevented Malthus from being a successful prophet of doom." Sort of. Malthus decreed that 'population increases exponentially while food supplies increase geometrically'. He was wrong, of course. But then, "all generalizations are wrong, including this one". Somehow he didn't imagine we could produce so much grain with artificial fertilizer. For now. "methinks we depend a bit too much on our quick-wittedness for survival." Oh, it's not quick-wittedness. Some of us clearly see problems coming from decades away. Then we spend decades arguing with fools with their heads in the sand. For example, I'm a proponent of Concentrating Solar power plants. And yet I've had online arguments with particular idiots who claim it's economically impossible. Even though you can GO to Kramer's Junction, CA, and see it operating. If we move toward Concentrating Solar we can solve our energy needs quickly, before the problem gets worse. Instead of waiting too long and having to do something REALLY expensive and risky at the last minute.
"The following statement is fallacious: "Doubling the output of a coal mine at this point means doubling the costs, doubling the number of trucks and the number of miners."" No, it's not fallacious. If you want to double output, you have to MORE than double inputs. Given that the coal reserves are a constant, increasing output would in fact require doubling handling costs.
...is the only thing that has prevented Malthus from being a successful prophet of doom. But it isn't a given. As a species we have a disturbing tendency to make decisions based upon emotion, and to wait until the jaws of death are closing upon us before we take action...methinks we depend a bit too much on our quick-wittedness for survival.
It's not just Moore's Law and computers. Every form of technology has undergone multiple quantum leaps and complete revamps since the early 20th century, but one. Computers have gone from giant room-sized behemoths to personal systems I can carry around in a backpack, or even in my pocket. We've improved upon the Wright Brothers' airplane model and created jet planes, then space shuttles capable of traveling from the Earth to outer space and back. We've gone from rotary dial phones to touch-tone phones to cellular phones to smartphones. ...and yet somehow, our energy and our fuel has remained largely unchanged since the industrial revolution. If Karl Benz, inventor of the original automobile, were to come forward in time to 2010, he'd easily recognize our modern gasoline as the stuff his Motorwagen runs on. That's a disgrace to our entire species and our capacity for innovation. It's about time we get around to rectifying it.
"... Moore?s Law effects also drive development of smart grid technology (which is computerized), and of sensors that can measure and respond to changing needs and demands." When those sensors provide feedback indicating that more power is required from the grid, Moore's Law will play no role in the utility's ability to deliver that power. Moore's Law, as described above, will only be useful for energy conservation. The following statement is fallacious: "Doubling the output of a coal mine at this point means doubling the costs, doubling the number of trucks and the number of miners."