What will we do with the free energy?
Epistemological status: Superficial personal speculation .
This posts follows What could be done with RNA and DNA sequencing that’s 1000x cheaper than it’s now? in thinking about technical challenges we will face in the next decades. It’s an attempt by my to play a bit with futurism.
Both solar and wind energy have exponential efficiency improvements:
A majority of Indian new coal power now costs more then new wind and solar power. This means that we can expect a lot of new wind and solar power installations to be build.
Last year, in 2017, in Germany there were 146 hours in which energy prices were negative. This means that during those hours wholesale customers got payed to consume energy.
Unfortunately, batteries are expensive and while it might be economical to load a battery in the day and release the energy at night it won’t be economical to load the battery in summer and release it in winter.
As a result batteries don’t work as energy sink for summer days with too much energy production.
Maybe, we can construct our wind turbines in a way that we can dumb excess energy into them when there isn’t wind? It would however be more desirable to find a way to actually spend that free energy productively.
Most machines that we currently build are optimized to run as much as possible and thus don’t provide good energy sinks. A machine that produces spoons is most economical when it runs 24⁄7.
This means that there’s an economic opportunity to build machines that can work as energy sinks for days with negative energy costs.
It’s likely a good idea to build data-centers in a way that they are not only able to run in a low energy mode but also in a mode where they burn as much energy as possible. As a result it might b worthwhile for some cloud provider to have in a year specific times where the compute is radically cheaper than on other days. Maybe that compute will go into crypto-mining but it we can also think about other uses for it.
The data-centers likely won’t be enough of a data sink and we need new ideas about what to do with other excess energy.
Do you have any energy about how to build good energy sinks that might use energy usefully and that are economical if they are only used for a few weeks/days a year?