Energy Crisis: A Possible Solution
But is it a viable one?
I’m a strange person. Some people like to play sports to pass the time. Some people like to watch movies, or they might like to play games. But I prefer something… different. I like debating. Heck, I love debating. All of my friends do too, even though our arguments aren’t always based in reality. When no one is around to debate, I like to sit quietly and prepare for a time when there are enough of us around to have a nice long chat. One of the topics that I’ve been working on for a while is a way to end the energy crisis. At this point, no one I know can poke holes in my proposal, and frankly it’s kind of cool. So I present to you, the internet, my idea on how to solve the energy crisis. Before I go into details, please know that I am not a scientist or a science major. My idea comes solely from generalities that I have heard secondhand, are loosely based on that one physics class that I took, or are based on internet articles. But even if my credentials are poor, please read this whole thing before you judge it as reasonable or unreasonable. Also, if you have the resources to test this theory, please do so. It’s more important that the idea gets used (if it would work) than if I get credit for it. That all being said…
Goal: discover a clean, renewable energy source that would completely get rid of our dependency on fossil fuels. Or make the current clean, renewable energy sources we know about… practical.
There are many different kinds of clean, renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, they all have their issues that make them unusable on a large scale. Nuclear power can cause meltdowns and/or hide nuclear weapons. Hydroelectric power can suffer from droughts. Tidal power can only be used on the coastline. Geothermal power is only a little less harmful than fossil fuels, and can only be used effectively where two tectonic plates meet. Wind energy is only effective if you can use the wind close to the stratosphere, and of course, it’s not always windy. Also, all of these energy sources suffer from the problem of getting the energy from the generators to people’s homes. When electricity flows through the power grid, it gets significantly smaller (the further it goes, the more you lose in the transfer). If you produce energy only in certain spots away from society, you’ll lose a great deal of it moving it across the country (or wherever it’s going).
My plan to solve the energy crisis involves solar power. Unfortunately, there are problems with solar power that stops it from being a good substitute from fossil fuels. Solar energy is unpredictable, it is not always sunny, and the sun is completely gone for half the day, everyday. Also, when it is sunny outside, statistically, humans need to least amount of power. Until somewhat recently, there used to be a problem with efficiency, where solar panels couldn’t produce a reasonable amount of electricity compared to how much they could get. If I may digress a moment… they eventually solved this problem by changing the shape of solar panels (Source: http://linkbee.com/HairySolarPanels). You can only get solar energy when the sun shines on the surface of the solar panels. But existing solar technology can only get so much energy out of so much surface area. The only way to get more energy was to increase the size of the surface area of the solar panels. But one clever scientist figured out how to increase the size of the surface area, while only increasing the size of the solar panels only slightly. The scientist decided to make solar panels three dimensional, with the parts that gather sunlight pointing up into the air (like tiny, curly hairs). Think of solar energy like paint, and you’re using it to paint everything on the inside of a room. If you remove all of the furniture, covering everything that you can see in paint isn’t that bad. But if you leave your furniture in your room, and still try to cover everything you see in paint… you’re going to use a whole lot more. The room didn’t get any bigger, but you increased the amount of surface area you painted. But anyway, this issue is rapidly becoming a nonissue, as the new 3-D “Hairy” solar panels will produce a whole lot of electricity for the space that uses.
Unfortunately, these new solar panels do not address the biggest flaw with solar energy: we can only get it half of the day. That whole “nighttime” thing is a problem. So… how can you use the energy you get during the day… and use it at night? Battery technology is pretty… well… terrible. In order to store vast amounts of energy, you need huge batteries. Huge, expensive, prone to leaks, ridiculously time consuming to recharge, batteries. Also, at some point, batteries wear out and can no longer be charged, and are dangerous to throw away, or are expensive to recycle. So if traditional batteries cannot be used… how can we store solar energy until we need it?
I’ve always been fascinated by clocks. They’re very intricate and have a lot of mechanisms all dedicated to the sole purpose of keeping time. Out of all the clocks I’ve seen, and the other methods mankind uses to keep time, my favorite is the grandfather clock. A grandfather clock is one of the few clocks that can tell time and be accurate, without the use of electricity. A grandfather clock is a very large clock that has three cylinders that fall very slowly over time. As the three cylinders fall, it moves the gears required to make the clock function. In other words, it is a clock powered only by the earth’s gravity (and someone resetting the cylinders).
There are technical terms for how a grandfather clock works. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure they’re there. When I took my physics class, I learned about Newtonian physics, which talked a bit about gravity. In kinetics, there are two kinds of energy that are important to my theory: kinetic energy and potential energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of movement. In a grandfather clock, when the cylinders fall, it uses kinetic energy. Potential energy is energy that exists on paper. Before the cylinders fall, they are full of potential energy. As the cylinders fall, they change potential energy into kinetic energy (and use said energy to fall). To fill something with potential energy, all you have to do is elevate it. You can throw the ball straight up, wind a grandfather clock, or even climb a ladder. The higher it goes, the more potential energy it has, and the more kinetic energy it creates/uses as the objects fall. The problem with this is that it takes the same amount of energy to set this up, as you get when the objects fall (sometimes you need a little more energy). So… you can’t create energy this way.
While you can’t create energy that way… you can effectively store it. I think you can see now what I’m going for. Instead of trying to store energy with batteries, store energy with gravity. Take full advantage of “potential energy” to use the earth’s gravity as a battery. Gravity is something that will always exist. And better yet, it always exists at the same strength, intensity and volume. Therefore, you can always know how much energy you will get back after you store it as potential energy.
And now… the moment you have been waiting for… my proposal to end the energy crisis.
Part 1: Solar Panels on every house
Right now, if you put solar panels on your house, the electric company can benefit from it. When you produce more energy than you use, the electric company will buy the extra energy you produce (and sell it to your neighbors). This means that the technology required to track how much energy a house produces already exists. Not only that, but this means that the power lines can move energy two ways: to a house and from a house. During the day, all houses will produce solar energy that (thanks to “Hairy” solar panels) will be more than enough to cover the energy needs of the houses during the day. All the excess energy will be sent back to the power plants.
Part 2: A New Job for Power Plants
First off, the power plants will need to make a few changes. The most dramatic change would be getting rid of the old technology, and replace it with “gravity machines”. What these gravity machines will be… needs to be explored by people who know what they’re talking about. For the purpose of this proposal, I will assume that a “gravity machine” is: A series of waterfalls that produce hydroelectric power. The power company during the day takes the excess energy coming in from the outside to set up the gravity machines (raising the water so that it can fall in the waterfall). At night, they turn on the gravity machines, and send the power back over the power lines to people’s houses.
Part 3: Economic impact
First of all, this will be expensive to set up. But once it is set up, it will create a whole bunch of jobs, and will produce cheap energy for the energy companies, which theoretically would be enough to pay for said jobs.
Since the electricity goes through the power lines twice (which will cause some energy loss) and is used to set up the gravity machines (which will lose a little more energy in the process), things would be more efficient if there were more power plants scattered around the country. These power plants don’t need to be huge, they should just be physically closer to the people who need the energy. Not only will this increase the number of power plants (therefore: jobs), it will lessen the energy lost.
This sounds like the energy companies would lose out on this deal… but they don’t. Coal, oil, and natural gas are expensive endeavors. First, they need money to set up and maintain mining machines. Then they have to cover lawsuits of people who become injured, maimed, or dead trying to get the stuff out of the earth (it’s a dangerous job). Then they have to transport it from where it was unearthed to the power stations to burn the fuel to produce energy. Or… they can pay another company to do all of this, but then you have to pay for all of that, plus the profit of the company who had the resources. Compare all that to… having your customers giving you the electricity, and then you giving it back a few hours later. The power companies will charge the consumer more because we’ve willing to pay more for clean energy, even though now all they have to do is run and maintain the gravity machines, the power grid, and solar panels. This excess profit should be more than enough to pay for all the new jobs that this will create.
End of Proposal
Now, all of this is great, but it doesn’t cover one, fairly large, energy need. This plan does not address in the slightest how to get cars off of gasoline. You can’t have a waterfall in your car, that’d be crazy. However, I know of a plan that makes the electric car amazingly practical. If you want to see for yourself, check out this 19 minute video: http://linkbee.com/TEDElectricCar. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
So… powering stationary items like homes, offices, and anything that can be plugged in are covered. Cars are already on their way of fixing themselves. Now… the fun begins. I have submitted to you my proposal on how to solve the energy crisis. Now, it’s your turn to help. Spread the word. Try to see if this is just a load of crap, or if this idea has potential. I don’t have access to the scientific community. All I have access to is the internet. Hopefully through the internet, I can get this to the scientific community where it might be able to do some good, or let me know I should stop trying. Either way, I trust you with this task… Good luck!