Elon Musk’s Powerwall and Powerpack Give us a Glimpse into the Future of Power Generation.
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Decentralised Power, in every sense of the term, has long been a focus theme of mine. It’s hardly surprising, I work in decentralised energy – CHP and district heating, waste to energy, wind and solar power. Forging a new path is never cheap, and any business which wants to truly innovate needs a baseline cash-producing business to bankroll its leading-edge work (google and it’s advertising revenue, and Elon Musk and Paypal are two cases in point).
The Rocky Mountain institute believes that the US could justify adopting renewables without the need for any additional subsidies, once all the true cost of its dependence on oil are counted up (the cost of war for example).
There is no doubt in my mind that the future of energy production and use lies in wireless, free, so-called zero point electricity. Life force, chi, zero-point energy, call it what you will, is a powerful force and will power all our future energy systems, just as it drives the earth forward through space millennium after millennium. Zero-point energy is the new paradigm, and to understand it we must look to the abundance of nature.
Electricity (and its cousin Magnetism) keeps the earth spinning with clockwork timing in an elliptical orbit maintained with perfect precision from other planets. And the last time I checked, no person on earth had anything to do with that. Our earth is a giant dynamo which extracts energy from the atmosphere for its forward propulsion. It must be possible to emulate nature on a smaller scale?
Many people balk at the notion of a free, universally available energy source, and when quizzed about the planet’s perfect movements in the absence of any government “Department for Earth Spinning in its Orbit (DESO)”. They spout some notion of Newtonian physics, a lack of friction in space and walk away looking content that they have answered the question. But like an A-level physics teacher, they’re leaving a lot out. Most people aren’t ready to ask these kind of questions, the answers are too uncomfortable.
Are They Telling you Everything?
In my sixth form classes back in the later part of the twentieth century, my brilliant and inspirational (and he was brilliant because he was inspirational) physics teacher Peter Wheatley explained to me that the physics he was required to teach on the A-level syllabus wasn’t actually wholly true, and that if I carried my studies on further at university, I would be given a more accurate picture of how the physics of life really works.
This was my first glimpse into the limited nature of perspective in education; those of me and my fellow students, but also those of our teachers who had tailored their responses to answer questions which were bigger than the answers they held. Either the majority didn’t understand it themselves, or were leaving themselves open to more probing questions they couldn’t answer. But once you start lying, you can get yourself into all kinds of trouble, and if anyone can smell a rat, it’s a classroom full of children.
I see most of life like this; we think we know what we know, but our comprehension of what is really happening is scant compared to what is really going on behind our apparent reality. Once upon a time, people thought the world was flat. Once upon a time people thought the sun revolved around the earth. Our perspectives of life change as time goes on and more truth is revealed.
False premises (and most of our assumptions of what is going on here on planet earth are false) are used as the basis for assessing much new research, or, far worse, assessing the validity of any approaching new paradigms. Anything which doesn’t fit in with the old world view is dismissed as inconsistent and therefore invalid. It’s not that the new invention or idea has no value, more that it is inconsistent with the old ways of looking at things. A new paradigm needs the improved insight of a new perspective in order to make sense of it.
Elon Musk understands this point. He takes the view that anything imagined is possible, and that individual belief will eventually yield results if given the right atmosphere in which to thrive. Musk hires the best people, with expanding horizons and the technical ability to back it up, he focusses on achieving his goals, and he expects results. He focusses far enough into the future and yet stands on a basis of leading edge technology to make his ambitions real. Musk also has a healthy cash flow from his Paypal business, which he uses to bankroll his other projects which are pushing the world forward. Products such as the domestic Tesla Powerwall and industrial
People view individuals like Elon Musk as philanthropic types, doing good for the planet, and he certainly is one of those, but he is also in it for himself. Who wouldn’t want to be massively influential and life changing to millions, and not just be in it for the money? Who wouldn’t want to bring improved quality of life to vast swathes of the world currently not enjoying such essentials as electricity, even though they have more than enough sunshine to produce their own via solar PV (yes Africa, I’m talking about you). Given his rock star status, it’s a surprise that there aren’t more Elon Musks out there. Frankly, people with loads of cash and a desire to do some real good in the world should be more prevalent than they are. You can’t take it with you when you go and not much has changed in my lifetime. Shouldn’t we all be driving flying cars by now? Id say so!
Look Around You – The World is Gradually Decentralising
So back to the decentralising world, what are we talking about? The technologies which we take for granted in our current times, things such as water, electricity, telecoms, government, money, media, music, theatre, movies, agriculture, even housing have all traditionally been deployed on a large, centralised model. This was partly down to reasons of cost, and partly down to reasons of technology (that smaller versions of the technology were not available or feasible at the time).
It will come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that we are seeing a wholesale decentralisation of our very lives; our choices have improved, the technology available to the world has grown, allowing a platform on which many new opportunities are delivering ‘power to the people’. Let’s have a look at some examples:
Where picture houses once showed films, now individuals can have home cinema set ups which rival or even surpass public movie theatres; they can buy or rent any film ever made and watch it in high definition on demand. They can even enjoy popcorn during the show without having to take out a mortgage.
Printed Media, once the preserve of large publishing houses and newspapers has, through the power of the internet and blogging platforms like wordpress, search engines and social media, delivered the reading audience direct to individuals’ personal blogs.
Recording and distributing music used to mean expensive studio time and a record label willing to press your record and distribute it. To record and release an album nowadays you need a laptop, some software, an audio interface and a microphone, a bedroom and internet access. Whole albums have been recorded on iPads and sold via sites like iTunes, never having seen the physical form of a compact disc.
The IP of media, once controlled by printers and pressers has, in the digital age, become effectively free to access to the public via peer to peer sharing.
Farming was once only profitable on a large scale, but as consumer awareness, the side effects of mass production and a more health conscious population have demanded more choice, the market now provides for these niche consumers on a small and profitable scale.
The mass produced BSE & salmonella farming of the late 1980s early 1990s has given way to many small scale outfits producing high quality, low volume almost artisanal products. These always existed, but their marketplace and consumer base has grown to the point that they can make real impact in the marketplace. Know how to make good cheese, passionate about your product, you can become a multi-millionaire cheesemaker.
The housing industry is also being forced to adapt or die. The 20th and 21st century model to date have been deployed on the same basis as every other industry out there. Large scale mass produced housing which is designed more to make property developers a bit richer than they are to be a home for someone to live in and raise a family, a community setting in which to thrive. Alastair Parvin speaks of the subject in this talk with civic radio. His wiki house, like Musk’s designs and Nakamoto’s Bitcoin are available as open source material, a new decentralised way of looking at our future together as a civilisation, and ownership of the ideas we come up with. It especially works with any new technology where market adoption is helpful rather than hindering.
The UK and USA and Europe invested in centralised exchanges for telecoms, Africa went straight to a decentralised model with mobile telecoms from the outset, aided by the availability of technology.
The biggest of all centralised systems is money. Governments work with money. They issue a currency, they spend it, they tax it and they control its value to suit their (and their stakeholders) interests. Government is being decentralised, and the blockchain technology will be one of the tools of its disassembly. Why would we even need a government when we can each vote for the issues we want in a secure, individual and incorruptible way.
Under an imagined ‘Votecoin’ system of democracy for example, a number of credits would be issued to each individuals could attribute to causes which mattered most to them, doing away with politicians altogether; their parties and their punch and judy show, and delivering what the people really want through public servants. The government would serve the people at a community level, and not the other way round.
Instead of voting for candidates, the population is voting for policies for public servants to carry out on their behalf. With the fall of government through the discontinued sponsorship of its money supply we also lose the long list of cronies it supports; NGOs (quangos), banks and financial institutions, forced to go out and do something productive for a living.
So we come back to power, electricity and heat. The bulk of our current electricity production methods are thermal in nature; that is they involve high temperature, high heat and differential pressure processes to drive mechanical turbines which turn alternators at high speed to extract electricity. Other methods which extract electricity also use generators, hydro for example uses the pressure drop of water across the dam to drive the turbine and generate electricity, wind uses a wind turbine to the same effect. Solar PV is the only static electricity producer, and this the area where the majority of growth will take place in the renewable energy sector. The sun’s rays, whether diffused or direct, carry a great deal of energy, and as solar PV technology improves, so will the ability to generate from diffused solar radiation, and thanks to products like Tesla’s power wall, store and release electricity from the sun taking more homes off grid electricity reliance.
Batteries are but one step on the path to the future. They represent the electrical equivalent of energy density of our current fuels, which is the current way of thinking, and are required in storing current renewables because of their intermittent nature. The loads are equally intermittent, and the battery evens out the two.
The new paradigm of power generation and use is a different kettle of fish. In the future, the devices which generate electricity will be able to provide power as and when required, and every house will manage its loads to suit the even production. If a central control box linking up the internet of things called your house knows how much power it has to play with, it can manage the process. Batteries may play a part in this process, but in time there will be a surplus of energy at zero cost (once the technology is taken into account)
To continue with any kind of sense, we must talk about the function of the humble generator, and those A-level physics classes. What is electricity actually? Does anyone know? Not really. And it’s not because we’re not being told the truth. Nobody knows. We know that electricity flows across a potential differential, and the higher the difference, the more electrons flow across. We don’t know where it comes from, but we know how to create it And make it move about.
When a force drives an alternator, electricity springs forth, out of the ether. The wires inside the alternator don’t have the electricity inside it to begin with and when it stops the electricity disappears. The alternator should really be viewed as a device which taps into the field of energy which is ever present and infinitely powerful. If we could find a way to tap into this energy source freely, the so called infinity motor, zero point motor (a sort of perpetual motion machine), we could put an end to energy shortages, oil and gas and it’s associated wars, environmental damage and personal cost, coal and other polluting fuels, and deliver power to the entire world, effectively for free at the point of use. How’s that for life changing?
Tesla’s battery technology is a step in the right direction, and Elon Musk knows where this is all heading, and is set to do really well out of it. What comes next?
For a company named after the grandfather of modern electricity, Nikola Tesla, I can see another of Teslas drives being wireless power, whether in the roadways (like a giant scalextric) powering transport vehicles, or in the home putting an end to those pesky, unsightly wires. Qualcomm is the company to look out for in this field, especially it’s work with Drayson Racing Technologies.
Besides free power, there are several other areas where development is required, these are;
The car has decentralised the transportation system for the people. The airport still represents centralised travel, but technology will bring this to the people.
Personal Air Transport, personal flying is too expensive, and the machines antiquated. It’s time to invent a new aviation technology along the lines of the flying saucer based on levitation technology. Imagine being able to fly anywhere in ease in minutes. This would do more for spreading out the population than any other invention to date; you could live in a castle in the highlands of Scotland and work in Central London. Say goodbye to jumped up real estate prices or the requirement to be near any infrastructure. Levitation technology could also be employed in trains – and other surface based transport systems, reducing wear and tear on the roads and rails, and making the experience smoother, faster and more comfortable.
The rise of the robots, unlike the bleak vision in Terminator movies, will give people freedom from monotonous jobs, and give them the chance to do something joyful with their lives. There will be some pain in the interim while people look for a place to be, and a place to earn a living. There will be opportunities to start new ways of adding value to the world.
Currently many of these mechanised workers are valued for their robotic ability; to do monotonous repetitive tasks, but when they are succeeded by robots (and at the rate Google is buying up robotics companies, this will come sooner rather than later) people will come to value humans for other aspects of their characters, those aspects which robots don’t have; their human, emotional, interpersonal, artistic abilities will become more highly prized. So far from spelling the end of humanity, the advent of robot workers will actually give humans back their humanity.
Elon Musk – 21st Century Technology Leader
My friends in finance tell me Teslas shares are massively overvalued. It’s hardly surprising. In a world devoid of any real growth opportunities, people are desperate to invest in a slice of the future, in a company like Tesla. See the man on stage and you’ll want to invest your money too. But why aren’t there more Teslas out there?
It would be great to see more companies taking a leaf out of Tesla’s book; pushing the global energy agenda. Make no bones about it folks, electricity is the future, the future of transport; the future of domestic and industrial power, heating, cooling and cooking. I have a sense that investing in Tesla looks like a pretty good idea. Or failing that you could try and get a job at Tesla and be a part of the revolution yourself. Join the queue. The electricity revolution is coming folks, stand still and get left behind.
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