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A Project to Root For

Reading the latest issue of the MIT Technology Review and there is a good article about the Masdar Initiative. I find it hard to not root for success of the project: A $15B investment in aims to create a zero emissions city, a green metropolis as they refer to it. If you haven’t read about the project, I recommend the article as it gives a good outline of how big they are thinking. Common sense says that it is hard to imagine the project achieving success but then curiosity and hope make you root for it. And the ancillary benefit I really am intrigued about this project is that there will be an immense amount of industrial and green environmental learning from not only the results but the planning and construction of such an initiative. Kevin Bullis wrote an editorial covering the project and echos this sentiment:

One of the best things about the project–which I’ll write about more in the coming days–is that it provides a much needed way to test ideas for renewable energy and efficiency at a large scale. The hope is that the technology tested here can be applied throughout the world.

Bullis is concerned about some of the applicability of learning due to the climate conditions of the region. This is true but I tend to believe if you can achieve a degree of success and learning in the harshest of conditions where energy consumption is necessary at high levels, surely one benefits where the challenges are less intense. Nonetheless, I love to see the “big bet” thinking here. I recently wrote about the renewable energy grid that has been discussed, another “big bet” project. This is what it is going to take to make huge strides in innovation, particularly in this market sector. It is great to see Dubai who has placed other big bets in a variety of other projects place such a bet on getting a project off the ground where the world can benefit from what it learns; it could be a big step in the right direction.

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Renewable Energy Power Grid

On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis Air Forc...

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There’s a very good article, Lifeline for Renewable Power, in the latest edition of MIT Technology Review regarding the need for a revamped energy grid that can distribute power generated through alternative energy methods into the places the need it. There is always the ongoing debate on whether we even have at our disposal a set of alternative energy resources that are comprehensive enough to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.  I don’t want to get into that debate in this post but it is clear we can certainly do a lot more with nuclear, hydro, wind and solar power sources.

And it seems the consensus is that regardless of what alternative energy sources we utilize, the current energy grid that we rely on is in major need of an overhaul.  The current system has major inefficiencies for today’s needs (anyone who experienced the northeast blackout a few years ago can attest to that).

Smart-grid technologies could reduce overall electricity consumption by 6 percent and peak demand by as much as 27 percent. The peak-demand reductions alone would save between $175 billion and $332 billion over 20 years, according to the Brattle Group, a consultancy in Cambridge, MA.

So to sum it up, I think there is more consensus on the fact we are going to need a new grid or at least major renovation on the current one.

Gore called for a “unified national smart grid” that would move power generated from renewable sources to cities, increase the efficiency of electricity use, and allow for greater control over renewable resources. He estimated that the grid overhaul would cost $400 billion over 10 years.

So $400B?  Please allow me to backseat govern for a moment.  $400B to redo the energy grid and move us towards a better energy system?  And we think $700B bail out package to financial institutions suffering from many wounds that are self-inflicted is a better investment where money could go?   Okay, the financial markets situation is a very fragile one and the downstream negative consequences was not something that could be risked.  This has been debated as well.  Perhaps, then we should give the energy grid a nice $14B kick start instead of funding the auto bailout that went in front of the senate, seems to keep growing and one has to question on whether the world needs poorly run car companies.

Let’s move forward, not backward.

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