Nov 28, 2009

Science Scene - Energy Outlook :o)

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will remain flat/negative for 2009 with only China and India having postive growth.  This starts to change in 2010 and 2011, with worldwide growth to be on the order of 2% for 2010 and 3% for 2011. 

While electricity demand is lower in 2009, and not expected to reach 2008 levels until 2011, the forecast from there has a steeper slope than previous growth.  New forms of electricity use will outstrip energy efficiency gains (just think about flat screen TV's, DVR's, gadget rechargers, and such). 

So, what are our options for meeting this increased electrical demand?  Even if solar power costs were halved, the cost still would not reach the cost of combined cycle gas turbines or wind energy.   It turns out that the real solution in the short term may rest with bio-mass (wood chips, wood pellets, etc.), which is projected to be a quarter of the cost of solar, and on par with combined cycle gas and less than half of wind energy projected costs.

A wildcard in this mix is shale gas fields, the technology for retrieving the gas is not yet proven, but the potential is huge.  Bottom line, natural gas will be with us for a long time, and there will be wind and solar, but they will not be the silver bullet.  I expect that clean coal and nuclear power will fill out the mix.

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