Todd Ganos of the Forbes’ Great Speculations blog posted an excellent piece today entitled “Three Key Technologies for Energy Independence,” which outlines a few of the technologies that will play a significant role in the future of United States renewable energy. Specifically, he highlights the importance of “super batteries” which can be charged quickly and efficiently, and super-conductive transmission lines which can transfer energy over vast distances with minimal energy losses. As Mr. Ganos points out, the real benefit comes from the integration of these two technologies:
“The third technology is the combination of the first two: that is, the rapid storage and rapid transmission of electrical energy. It has been estimated that a single bolt of lightning has enough electrical energy to power the city of Los Angeles for a day. The problem has always been our inability to capture and store that energy, Back To The Future notwithstanding. It was the ultimate drink from the fire hose.
The combination of these two technologies has a way of funneling that stream. Now consider the number of lightning strikes that occur in the Midwest in an average summer. There are probably enough to power the entire United States for a year.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Ganos’ analysis, but I would take it a step further. Renewable energy will only gain a firm foothold in the United States when it reaches true cost parity with the cheapest traditional energy alternative, natural gas. Thus, not only do we need to develop more effective energy storage and transmission alternatives, we need to ensure that the price tag of these technologies is low enough for renewable energy projects to be competitive with natural gas.