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Case for Alternative Energy / State of USD / Peak Oil

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May 24, 2008 – Comments (20) | RELATED TICKERS: GEX , PBW , STPFQ

First let me say that this started out as a pitch writeup for GEX. Then I got to writing and it really turned into a blog. Let me also say that I am not down on oil, but rather that new alternatives should, and proabably will, be looked at in a new macroeconomic light.

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Case for alternative energy - Macroeconomics
Alternative energy movements in the past have come and gone. Solar initiative in the 70s and 80s never really took hold, nuclear is still a contentious issue. ... In the United States. Most of Europe has a thriving alternative energy infrastructure. Nuclear power accounts for about 75% of France's electricity, Germany has committed to a 100% renewable energy policy .  But what about the United States. Why have we lagged behind? ... The price of oil, obviously. One absolutely cannot discuss the state of alternative energy without discussing the state of oil. Oil is cheap, oil is plentiful. However, I believe the two 'is'es in the previous sentence are turning into 'was'es. So what are the changes?

Oil is plentiful: There is a lot of debate and a lot of disagreement on the topic. But maybe we are approaching Peak Oil. I am not going to going into a lengthy discussion here, far better and smarter CAPS players have discussed it in great detail. My favorite is this one  by rudolphsteiner. But the gist is: The amount of output of oil extraction and production will reach some peak and after that will taper in a terminal decline. Have we reached peak oil? I have no idea, but there are a lot of facts to consider on both sides, and no side can be fully discredited.

Oil is cheap: Now here is where things get interesting, sad, nauseating, hopeful depending on your stance. Oil is not cheap, nor do I believe will it ever be cheap again. The price of oil is always rising. It is always hitting new highs. Why? Speculators or Fundamental demand? Both and neither. Here is my take. There is a certain amount of speculation. There always is and there always will be in a commodity run up. Everybody wants a piece of the action. But is that the majority of the price, or is there also fundamental demand. I firmly believe that much of the price is due to fundamental demand. There are so many growing nations and economies that need oil. FourthAxis has an awesome response on bellard's blog regarding increased consumption and the changing of eating habits and what it means for global energy demand (see response 3) . I seriously doubt that even if US consumption waned that it would make a serious dent in global demand.

But I said both and neither, what is the neither? The state of the US Dollar. I started this off by saying that alternative energy has lagged behind in the US because of the price of oil. And that is the key. Oil is priced in USD. It is a very sad and very unfortunate fact that the USD is being debased and devalued by the current government's fiscal policy. The US Dollar Index is on a very steady decline. There is no reason for it to rise in the current environment. FED is printing money and trying to inflate the US out of its current economic dilemma. Again, smarter people than me have blogged about this. The most succinct and coherent blogs on this issue are posted by TMFSinchiruna. And now it is not only the FED that is 'pouring gas on the fire' of high gas prices (remember oil as priced in USD), but the US congress is embarking on a path of higher prices due to an ill-conceived lawsuit against OPEC.

The US consumer is now waking up to the fact that oil prices are high, not speculatively and not artificially, but due to global demand and weakness of the USD. People in are trading in SUVs for smaller cars, most gas-guzzling cars bought even a couple of years ago are selling for less than Blue Book, Ford is retooling it production to target more fuel efficient models, Toyota is selling hybrids in record numbers, etc. A skeptic might say, "So what! The late 70s / early 80s were so much worse than today. There are no long lines, no gas shortages." True. However, I believe that a major difference between the 70s/80s and now is back then, once OPEC turned the spigot back on, oil dropped like a rock. Why? Because the US was the biggest consumer. We had the lion's share of the demand and so the global demand was far less than global production capacity. My opinion is that is no longer the case. Global demand is rising. And I think the US consumer is beginning to change their mind about alternative energy.

Alternative Energy Investments and Technology
The argument and points listed above are nothing new. And for US energy production / independence there is much more to consider, such as coal and natural gas. And again others have discussed these points more eloquently. But I want to focus on renewable alternative energy. Why I believe that the US is ready to make a quantum leap to reneweable alternatives and not simply transition to a natural gas and coal from a primarly oil based energy infrastructure is based on 2 reasons: Over the past decade (or less) the price of Oil has risen exponentially (as the USD has fallen), and the technology readiness level / viability of many renewable alternatives has risen dramatically. With these two macro trends coinciding, I believe alternative renewable energy is ready to take hold in the United States.

This is so much incredible technology coming available. Solar Electric (Photovoltaics), Solar Thermal (my personal favorite), Wind Power, Wave Power, Biogas / Biodiesel / Ethanol. I just want so talk a little about each:

Solar Electric is really making huge leaps in becoming close to 'grid-parity'. As far as manufactures there are tons of companies that I think are game changing and some that will not be around much longer. My personal favorite PV manufacture is Suntech Power Holdings (STP). They are one of the biggest manufactures of the standard polysilicon based panels. They have a huge production capacity, pricing power, have secured polysilicon contracts for many years, have huge contracts with the Chinese government, and their panels will be covering nearly every Olympic building in Beijing to be seen all over the world (very good press). First Solar, not so much. Not only is their stock horrendously expensive, but one of the main ingredients of their thin panels is Tellurium, an exceedingly rare and expensive element. And it is becoming increasing rarer.

Solar Thermal is such an awesome technology, because it is so beautifully simple. You have a crapload of parabolic mirrors (nothing fancy or special about the mirrors, very low tech) sitting in the desert to focus the heat up to a collector. The fluid in the collector is moved by the thermal gradient, this spins a turbine which turns a shaft, and voila! electricity. It is so simple. There is so much of AZ, NV, NM, CA and UT that is desert and gets so much consistent sunshine. There have been a few solar-thermal initiatives started, and there are more growing everyday. klemenv has mentioned Schott. My personal favorite is eSolar, because of the pre-fab modularity concept. You just make an array of these in parallel as space will allow, hook them together and you have a power station in the desert. Neither company is public as far as I know, but I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of this technology.

Wind. I love wind technology. When I first moved to CA, I loved seeing all of the wind turbines on the hills surrounding San Jose. Wind is plentiful and consistent in many parts of the country, and free. T. Boone Pickens has just made a major wind play. My favorite in the group is Vestas Wind Systems. Sure GE makes wind turbines too, but GE has its fingers in a lot of pies and a whole hand in financials. Vestas is a huge Danish turbine manufacturer and they have turbines all over the globe. They trade on the CPH. You can go through a market maker (which I don't like), or you can get exposure through some ETFs (see below).

Biofuels and Ethanol: First let me say that corn ethanol is one of the most inane projects in existence. Use food crops to create a near net zero energy efficiency process, and create / contribute to a global food shortage... Nice. There are so much more effective (but not as politically porkish) alternatives. StockSpreasheet has a really good blog about this. Camistocks points out the huge energy density and ease of conversion in hemp, which I heartily agree with. However, one that I love Jatropha. I saw this in Popluar Science a few years ago. It is a tough, hearty little seed that grows in rough climates like Mexico and Africa, and the oil content is 35-40% in the seeds and 50-60% in the kernel and is fairly easily extracted. BP is undergoing a Jathropa joint venture. There is much more interest being garnered in cellulosic ethanol in general.

The point is that there are a lot of alternatives, and I believe that the US consumer is becoming increasingly aware of these. I think (and I also hope) that this will turn into political will.

Besides individual companies and stocks, there are several ETFs that invest in alternative energy companies. My two favorites are PBW and GEX. Of these two GEX is my top favorite.

The reason I like GEX the best is its diversification. I think it is a little more diversified across these technologies. And its top holding is Vestas Wind System (which I am a huge fan on). So if you want to make a play for Vestas and get some alternative energy exposure, I would recommend GEX. My one complaint with GEX is that its top PV holding is FSLR, which I do not like. I would rather see STP right behind Vestas.

PBW is very PV top-heavy. Before buying PBW I would recommend just buying STP instead. My feeling is that STP is the 'best in class' PV producer.

Wow, I didn't really mean to go on this long. I just kind of got on a roll.

Please, if you have any clarifications, suggestions, rebuttals, differences of opinion I would love to hear them.

20 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 24, 2008 at 10:49 PM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

Dupont has skin in the game as well.

5.15.08

Dupont Invests In Cellulosic Ethanol

 

 

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#2) On May 24, 2008 at 10:50 PM, a1japb (25.07) wrote:

For solar check out TIM-T

 

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#3) On May 25, 2008 at 12:34 AM, kristm (99.75) wrote:

No point in retyping all this, I still stand by my orginal comments. 

http://caps.fool.com/Blogs/ViewPost.aspx?bpid=27871&t=01002575315252242252

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#4) On May 25, 2008 at 1:04 AM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

madcow and a1japb,

Thanks for the info, I will check out both. 

kristm,

Thanks for the reply (and the original post). Yeah, I agree 100% with what you are saying. Corn ethanol is a horrible diversion that solves absolutely no energy problems and causes all kinds of food shortage problems.

The reason why I am a big fan of Jatropha is that it grows in rough climates and fairly poor soil where it is unlikely food would be grown anyways (Mexico and Central Africa) so it is not displacing any food crops, it can be harvested by relatively low tech means (doesn't require combines and heavy equipment) and it is being grown / produced in ways to benefit a community (growers can be paid to harvest seeds on otherwise unuseable land). The extremely high oil content is relatively easily extracted and is readily turned into biodiesel.

What is your opinion on the closed loop energy for a Jatropha system. Is it net positive or negative. Is this something you have looked at before?

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#5) On May 25, 2008 at 10:25 AM, XMFSinchiruna (27.58) wrote:

Jatropha is nowhere near as promising as cellulosic ethanol, IMO.

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2008/05/16/dupont-dives-into-cellulosic-ethanol.aspx

Celulosic ethanol makes use of what's leftover after a harvest or corn, sugar cane, etc. as the feedstock for fuel.  The GM/Coskata version can use an enormous variety of feedstocks.  The world will be willing to grow these edible / useful crops whether ethanol will result or not... but Jatropha will suffer from atrophy. :)

binv... excellent post!!!  Thanks for all the ideas!

I like JASolar (JASO) for PVs as well.

http://www.fool.com/investing/high-growth/2008/03/13/signs-of-spring-from-ja-solar.aspx

This re-tooling / downsizing that domestic auto makers are in the midst of... smells like long-term opportunity to me... if they would just make next-generation cars their sole focus. 

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#6) On May 25, 2008 at 11:14 AM, bellard (99.30) wrote:

Binv;

Great article, let keep this topic going in CAPS. If you have read some of my Natural gas blogs, you know how strongly I feel about the future of alternative energy sources.

The problem as an investor, is the best investments are not public yet. I personally know that competing solar firms/technology will be coming public over the next 18 months that may make the current solar public firms rather obsolete.

These first wave technologies typically have this problem. This is why I have not purchased and solar equities. I may try and get into some privates, before they go public.

I really find ethanol disgusting. It can't be piped, its corrosive, and it has a lower energy content per volume than biodiesel and diesel, and gasoline. - This ethanol technolgoy has been pushed down the US throat for one reason - to keep the price of oil high - yes the total energy in is equal or higher that total energy made available AFTER distribution of said product.....

Biodiesel will help, as we have Algae firms, and Jatropa oil are used for feedstocks. The US should move us to all biodiesel, since we already have ALL the diesel infrastrucure in place, and the diesel engine has the highest efficiency of all the current engine types...

I have sold most of my NG plays and now hold a sizable cash balnance  due to the large spike in prices. I will slowly redeploy that cash back into my NG equiteis on pullbacks, as I still think these equities have the best long term cash flows for the next 10 years......

 

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#7) On May 25, 2008 at 1:54 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

Sinchiruna,

Thanks for the read and the response! Yeah, I really like cellulosic ethanol because of the signficantly higher energy output from the raw material. And you have a really good point, that most of the raw material would just be waste anyways, so it is not taking up any land for crops because you eat the crops and turn the waste into fuel.

I am a big fan of Jatropha because of the hardiness and the fact that it would grow where most other crops would not anyways. It hopefully will continue in areas like Mexico and Central Africa. Ideally, these areas may become biodiesel oil production centers, maybe pumping the oil to refiners near ports to be turned into biodiesel.

I think both are two aspects of a clean alternative energy infrastructure. Both ethanol and biodiesel have beneficial differences. Maybe the US doesn't have to transition to an either / or infrastructure. Please let me know what your take is for this scenario:

The US will grow crops for food production regardless of the energy content for ethanol. So it stands to reason if we have this product anyways (food production waste) we should go ahead and turn it into ethanol. We get the benefit of an energy source that we really had all along anyways. And the ethanol can be blend with gas for more efficient combustion.

Biodiesel is a superior product in many ways. Diesel is an exceptionally efficient combustion process. Biodiesel can be made in a very environmentally friendly fashion. Biodiesel production can be structured to add a huge economic gain to countries that need it (Mexico and central African countries).

So what if the US built half of its auto fleet to take advantage of ethanol / gasoline and half to take advantage of biodiesel. (I am just making up ratios of course, it would be dpendent on the economics of the situation). Its segreagation would be very similar to the fact that most gas station have several gas pumps and a few diesel pumps.

What do you think? Again, the economics would have to bear out. But based on my contention in the original post, I believe the days of cheap oil are gone. Global demand will no longer allow for cheap oil, nor will the decline of the USD (well, at least no more cheap oil for the US). So I think the US is at a stage where these alternatives will have to start being invested in because a) it makes sense for the future and the environment and b) the price of oil is too high.

Also, thanks for the tip for JASO!

Regarding the US automakers, yes I think it is a long term opportunity. But I hate that it came about like this. That the crisis is forcing a change vs. managament being proactive and anticipating the problem. My family (for a couple of generations) has worked for GM all their lives. My grandfather worked at GM Central Foundry until he retrired, my dad work at GM Central Foundry until it closed down and he was reassigned. I have have a lot of interest in US automakers being successful, and I wondered why hybrids were never really invested in seriously by the big 3. All the real advancement comes from Toyota and Honda. I try to chose fuel efficient domestic cars (I have a Saturn SL with 160K miles and still gets ~38 mpg). The Chevy Volt is a cool concept, but what I am really looking for (and hoping for) is some leadership from US automakes.

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#8) On May 25, 2008 at 1:56 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

bellard,

Thanks! I appreciate the response. Actually, most of the above commentary and questions can be directed to you too. I would especially be interested on your take on the economics side of things. Of course with the caveat that corn ethanol will not exist in the future (because it is stupid) and is replaced with cellulosic ethanol.

Yeah, I have read your blogs, and I am forced to concur with you: that the near term direction (5-10 years) will still be natural gas and coal. Which is a shame. 'Clean' coal is more fiction than fact. Sure coal is a realistic necessity for the near term, but there are so many health risks associated with all the coal plants. madcowmonkey's most recent blog discusses this: It's not as if enough energy at a ... 

I think the algae angle is another really cool concept, and is very promising. All the microorganisms can perform the chemical conversion for us!

I am also vaguely remembering a science-fiction-ish type article in some magazine a few years ago where a concpet was something like an bacteria battery for portable electricity. I am proabably not remembering all the facts, but it goes something like: you put sugar or some portable dry fuel into a very small tank (maybe a couple of cubic centimeters) and the bacteria breaks it down into some type of alcohol. Then this feeds into a set of small turbines. The turbines are actually MEMS devices. What is cool is that I wrote a paper on these in turbines years ago in college. Caltech or Calpoly found a way to etch microscopic turbine parts (compressors blades, turbine blades, shafts, etc.), each a few micrometers across, and they all run on air bearings. The air at microscopic scales exhibits very unquie properties. And so all of these microscopic "powerplants" drive some electric motors and you have portable electricity with a very high energy density.

Now this is really science fiction, but it seem like some of the discoveries and technolgies being devoped over just the past 2 years are making scenarios like this one just slightly less fictionish.

Good times!

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#9) On May 25, 2008 at 8:26 PM, bellard (99.30) wrote:

Binv;

Just think, over 60% of all the oil and gas in the earth came from Algae - Algae is the carbon fixing system the earth uses...

I still have hope that coal can be user cleanly in diesel engines. I know the current CTL is dirty - but with enough time and money - I am confident CTL could be clean. Keep me updated on any more new technologies....

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#10) On May 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM, Tastylunch (29.37) wrote:

Really dig the post man, lots of good info. Rumour is nanosolar could IPO this fall. They could be a great solar play if they do. Their tech looks pretty impressive and the google guys are bankrolling them.

http://www.nanosolar.com/ Report this comment
#11) On May 26, 2008 at 12:38 AM, camistocks (< 20) wrote:

Great post! 

Hemp can also grow in very unfriendly territory. Look at Morrocco.

You can use the seeds for biodiesel and the rest for cellulosic ethanol. 

But, what about electric cars driven with solar energy? There are already experimental cars that only use solar energy as power source. Of course the development is not as far as to make cars for everyday use by the public. This is a second step somewhere in the future.

What is now available are solar panels on the roof of your home or on other buildings. These be powered by the sun and the surplus energy could be stored in batteries. You can then recharge your hybrid/electric car overnight. 

In a second step  when solar cells are more efficient (in 10 years or so) there could be cars that are only powered by solar energy. You would not even need to pay for this. On rainy days you could recharge your car by connecting it to the batteries of your home or to the power grid. This energy could come from solar thermal powered utilities.

Sounds like utopia, but as technology progresses everything will be possible. Nobody 100 years ago could have imagined where we are now. Not even 40 years ago. What will be in 20 years?

BTW, there are also huge artificial islands being developed that float in the sea and are full of solar panels. Unfortunately I don't have a link. It was in my newspaper.

And finally the last thing I have read are gigantic solar panels in the orbit that would send the collected energy by microwave to the earth.

OK, I need some sleep now. 

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#12) On May 26, 2008 at 1:10 AM, kristm (99.75) wrote:

Other sources of ethanol may be more viable, but anything that consumes a resource needed for something else (farm land, timber, corn, potatoes, whatever) is going to cause more harm than good. And it has to require a minimal amount of processing in order to be both fuel and cost efficient. I've not really investigated any specific types of ethanol beyond what is derived from corn.

My personal vote woud be behind using garbage/biodiesel/etc.to generate the fuel - biomass, sewage, sawdust, what have you. Using a fuel like that wouldn't consume a resource needed for something else and biodiesel or sawdust-derived ethanol woud require fewer changes to the existing fuel delivery infrastructures and vehicles. But I'm not sure if the country naturally produces enough used grease or sawdust to meet energy demands. A gas derived from sewage or garbage would be more plentiful and sustainable.

We'd be much better off if the market could decide this issue for itself instead of depending on government subsidiaries to push corn-derived-ethanol, resulting in nothing more than a lot more people in 3rd-world-countries starving to death.

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#13) On May 26, 2008 at 1:43 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

bellard,

That is a really good point. The Earth has so many mechanisms to deal with imbalances. Bacteria and algae are responsible for most of the oxygen production and carbon fixing in the Earth’s early history. It is so cool that we are now figuring out ways to utilize these tools to create clean energy. Imagine what it will be like when we figure out how to utilize photosynthesis industrially :)

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#14) On May 26, 2008 at 1:44 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

Tasty,

Thanks man! Yes, and that is an awesome point about Nanosolar. This is a game changing technology and I will be watching the IPO closely when it comes out. This is much more of the low cost / high manufacturability technology that will propel solar forward. I am a huge fan of Google’s RE

There are also so many further advancements in solar technology that will be coming. Right now Triple Junction Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) is pretty much the state of the art in terms of efficiency. I have seen reports that it can get as much as 30-40% solar conversion in lab conditions. That is much to aggressive to be realized in practice though. I work in the aerospace industry and we use GaAs cells on spacecraft solar arrays all the time. And for design at beginning of life we use figures on the order of 28% efficiency. Of course in space there is more power because you don’t have to worry about atmospheric attenuation :) Some new technology regarding this has been coming along that is really cool, and I will probably be writing and post about that shortly.

I am happy to see that both of us are finally out of negative point territory and back into positive :)

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#15) On May 26, 2008 at 1:48 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

cami,

Thanks for the read and the comments! Man you have so many good ideas.

First: Hemp. I couldn’t agree more. Hemp is such a great and useful plant. I think Jatropha is a hardier plant as can grow in climates where land really isn’t arable for food production, but I think hemp is almost right with it. And it is so useful! It is a shame that it has fallen so far out of favor (which is stupid because industrial hemp and cannabis for marijuana are NOT the same plant). Hemp cloth was more common than linen for many centuries. Hemp is huge reason why strong rigging for sail boats could be built. Hemp paper was used for centuries. In some ways it could be argued that few other plants have been more beneficial to mankind. Yet we turned our back on, and it could still be helping us for biodiesel! Your original responses (posts #24 and#25) on StockSpreadsheet’s blog was great, and it really sums it up.

Second: Drive electric cars that are charged from solar panels on your houses roof. I love this concept. Nothing would make me happier Chevy Volt or a Toyota Prius+ plug-in on every driveway being “fueled” up by batteries that were charged from a roof-mounted solar array. And there are so many great options coming out. Besides the standard PV panels, there thin cheap options like Nanosolar (as Tastylunch points out above), there are solar shingles, etc. This is exciting because this is realistic technology right around the corner. And gas prices being what they are, I think the American public is not only receptive, but hungry for this technology.

Third: Net metering. Oh yeah! Have some solar panels on the roof to take care of day time needs, and get power from renewable energy utilities. Let them pay for the battery capacity infrastructure so that the solar installation for the home is nice and simple.

Fourth: Orbiting Solar Power Stations. Now you are speaking my language. I work in the aerospace industry working primarily on satellites. In fact I worked on a NASA contract once where we were looking at enabling technologies for this very idea! The only part that gives me the “willies” is beaming down all that power as microwaves. Microwaves can be so destructive. But there are other alternatives to this approach. And I think I will save that for another blog :)

Man, I really like your out-of-the-box thinking. Stuff like this always gets me excited and makes me very optimistic. (As opposed to thinking about the FED and the US financial system which makes me depressed). I have a feeling that there will be a lot of very interesting investments coming and investment ideas that are going to get discussed here at CAPS :)

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#16) On May 26, 2008 at 1:50 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

kristm,

I couldn’t agree more. I think everybody reading this post and writing responses can agree that corn / food ethanol is a waste of time at best (produces as much energy as it consumes) and more likely is the cause of many problems at worst (contributing to the global food shortage by reducing food crop area). I agree heartily with TMFSinchiruna above when he makes the suggestion to plant all the crops that you need for food and deal with the waste (stalks, roots, etc.) for cellulosic ethanol. You get the best of both worlds: same amount of food and ethanol raw material. Maybe it doesn’t solve all the ethanol demand, but it is something and does not sacrifice food quantity.

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#17) On May 27, 2008 at 6:10 AM, camistocks (< 20) wrote:

bin, great to hear you are working in these advanced technologies! I found a link for the solar power satellites I meant. From Wikipedia, of course.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite

Microwave transmission is definitevely a problem and costs. But again, as science improves, this problem will get resolved. On the other hand, there was an article in the German Spiegel.de (=mirror, nice pun!) that said two very imortant studies on the danger of cell phones (=microwaves) were based on fraud. One of the key assistants of the study apparently made up the numbers which led to the dangerous statistics. Well, we'll see...

In my youth I always loved Science Fiction. I read many books by Jules Vernes. Time machine, 20'000 miles under the Sea, voyage to the moon, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the world in 80 days, and more.

Also, I guess I have watched almost all Star Trek series and seasons, except the newer ones (Voyager was the last I watched, but only partly). So I have always been a bit of a dreamer.

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#18) On May 27, 2008 at 6:33 AM, camistocks (< 20) wrote:

Whoah, I just rememberd that Time Machine was not written by Jules Vernes, it was by H.G. Wells. And we even read it at school! Never mind...

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#19) On May 27, 2008 at 7:22 AM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

cami,

Thanks! Man, I think we are really on the same page (more on that at the end)

Regarding the microwaves: I don’t think microwave transmission for it’s own sake is necessarily bad (provided proper wavelength design is selected, ionizing radiation is accounted for, etc.). What concerns in the wireless transmission scenario is the amount of energy. Consider an enormous DC power line (1000 A lines) in an industrial plant. DC power gets used all the time (it is the electricity coming out of batteries) and at low levels it is very beneficial and not at all dangerous. But DC power is not at all like AC power. I was an electricians assistant in high school and I was got “shocked” on the job (someone did not turn of the submain were working on) from 220 V AC. Horrible experience, but it basically throws you back as soon as you experience it. It is so jarring. Not so with DC. DC basically forces the body to freeze up.  I have a horror story (which I will not repeat here) about what happens when somebody encounters DC power. So what does this have to do with the spaced-based wireless power?

These DC lines are sheathed so heavily because they are so dangerous due to the amount of power going through them. Whereas a microwave beam at low levels may be safe at low level, there are new dangers at high levels due to sheer amount of power in the beam. If the beam were mispointed, or if an airplane flew through it, there could be loss of life. This is of course a risk that is taken with all technology in all aspects of life. But my main beef is that there is nothing to “sheath” all of that power. But there are other alternatives (some even more science-fictionish) and I will probably save for another post (I am already rambling again).

Regarding cellphones: I will not go into a cellphone safety discussion here. You are absolutely right to point out that some of the studies are horribly flawed / fraudulent. I am going to share a very short anecdotal story.

First I am not an RF engineer. All of the crazy antenna elements and the weird shapes need to successfully send and receive signals at frequencies is voodoo / black magic to me. However I have worked with a lot of RF engineers as part of my job. I asked them about cellphones in a very lighthearted manner, and they explain an important concept in antenna design called near field and far field. The antenna pattern and energy distribution in the near field is much different than the far field.  When you put a cellphone next to your head, you are putting your ear and one side of your brain in the near field. And they were quick to point out that they were not saying this was bad or dangerous, that this was not their area of expertise. However, of the 8 guys in this antenna group, none of them used cellphones. I am not using this to illustrate any kind of point or to support any argument (I am not making any argument), I just found that to be a very interesting observation.

Again, sorry for the ramble.

We are definitely on the same page when it comes to sci-fi. I love all of that stuff too. Dune, Star Trek, the Worthing Saga, Ender’s Game, all that stuff. I don’t know, I think the science fiction fan deep down is an optimist. You have to be because all of the stuff happens in the future. Which means, by definition, you believe there is a future. :)

Thanks for all the posts and the ideas. And as far as my rambling, I will try to turn some of them into more coherent investment ideas :)

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#20) On January 31, 2009 at 9:56 PM, Vet67to82 (< 20) wrote:

Many good points, well thought, and thought and substance added by your respondees as well ... Now, I will have to ponder on these points ... 

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