David Bresch, Swiss Re's Global Head Sustainability, talks about the wealth of solar energy and a future that doesn't rely on a few major projects, but on a highly decentralised energy approach.
Distribution is the problem. If major projects, e.g. solar plants in the Sahara, manage to harness the amount of energy global demand requires - that energy will still have to travel. In this interview he explains that such large projects are valuable and their visionary character can trigger change, but that "a more decentralized approach to energy and mobility is probably much more what will guide us in the future".
During a lunch earlier this year, David told me about a project from a long time ago - something I had never heard of before (he briefly references it in the clip). For me, solar energy was always a fairly recent invention. But David told me about Frank Shuman who had built the world's first solar thermal power station in Egypt ... before the first World War! World War I was, in fact, the main reason why his project failed - the other was the advent of cheap oil. Today Shuman is considered a visionary - back then he said, according to Wikipedia, "One thing I feel sure of... is that the human race must finally utilize direct sun power or revert to barbarism."
I have a feeling we're at a crossroad today - as a human race we're trying to make our way from a Type 0 to a Type 1 civilization ( https://openminds.swissre.com/stories/511 ). If we fail - it'll be the "barbarism" Shuman talked about. But I'm hopeful - more and more organizations, commercial enterprises and governments stop just thinking sustainable - but acting it. To me, the decentralized approach David talks about will be about small, efficient and effective installations to store and distribute solar energy. And the beauty of it is - it's all getting to a point where we can simply stick it on the roof of, e.g., our car! I've read about adhesive foil-then nanosolar panels ... if we get to go into that future - it'll be a truly em-powered one.
More about David Bresch
A look back at Frank Shuman's efforts
Here's more about nanosolar panels
Learn about Solar Impulse
Find out about Desertec
Image source: http://renewablebook.com/chapter-excerpts/350-2/
Category: Sustainable energy: Solar