Bill Gross: Great ideas for finding new energy

Right when I was 15 was when
I first got interested in solar energy. My family had moved from Fort Lee,
New Jersey to California, from the snow to lots of heat,
and gas lines. There was gas rationing in 1973. The energy crisis was in full bore. I started reading
“Popular Science” magazine, and I got really excited
about the potential of solar energy to try and solve that crisis. I had just taken
trigonometry in high school, I learned about the parabola and how it could concentrate
rays of light to a single focus. That got me very excited. And I really felt
that there would be potential to build some kind of thing
that could concentrate light. So, I started this company
called Solar Devices. And this was a company
where I built parabolas, I took metal shop, and I remember walking into metal shop
building parabolas and Stirling engines. And I was building a Stirling engine
over on the lathe, and all the motorcycle guys said,
“You’re building a bong, aren’t you?” And I said, “No, it’s a Stirling engine.”
But they didn’t believe me. I sold the plans for this engine and for this dish in the back
of “Popular Science” magazine, for four dollars each. And I earned enough money
to pay for my first year of Caltech. It was a really big excitement for me
to get into Caltech. And at my first year at Caltech,
I continued the business. But then, in the second year of Caltech,
they started grading. The whole first year was pass/fail,
but the second year was graded. I wasn’t able to keep up
with the business, and I ended up with a 25-year detour. My dream had been to convert solar energy
at a very practical cost, but then I had this big detour. First, the coursework at Caltech. Then, when I graduated from Caltech,
the IBM PC came out, and I got addicted to the IBM PC in 1981. And then in 1983, Lotus 1-2-3 came out, and I was completely blown away
by Lotus 1-2-3. I began operating my business with 1-2-3,
began writing add-ins for 1-2-3, wrote a natural language
interface to 1-2-3. I started an educational software company
after I joined Lotus, and then I started Idealab
so I could have a roof under which I could build
multiple companies in succession. Much later — in 2000, very recently —
the new California energy crisis — what was purported to be
a big energy crisis — was coming. And I was trying to figure out if we could build something
that would capitalize on that and get people backup energy,
in case the crisis really came. And I started looking at how
we could build battery backup systems that could give people five hours,
10 hours, maybe even a full day, or three days’ worth of backup power. I’m glad you heard earlier today,
batteries are unbelievably — lack density compared to fuel. So much more energy can be stored
with fuel than with batteries. You’d have to fill your entire
parking space of one garage space just to give yourself
four hours of battery backup. And I concluded, after researching
every other technology that we could deploy for storing energy — flywheels, different
formulations of batteries — it just wasn’t practical to store energy. So what about making energy?
Maybe we could make energy. I tried to figure out —
maybe solar’s become attractive. It’s been 25 years since I was doing this, let me go back and look
at what’s been happening with solar cells. And the price had gone down
from 10 dollars a watt to about four or five dollars a watt,
but it stabilized. And it needed to get much lower
to be cost-effective. I studied all the new things
that had happened in solar cells, and was looking for ways we could
make solar cells more inexpensively. A lot of new things
are happening to do that, but fundamentally, the process
requires a tremendous amount of energy. Some people say it takes
more energy to make a solar cell than it will give out in its entire life. If we reduce the amount of energy
it takes to make the cells, that will become more practical. But right now, you pretty much
have to take silicon, put it in an oven at 1600 F
for 17 hours, to make the cells. A lot of people are working
to try and reduce that, but I didn’t have anything to contribute. So I tried to figure out
what other way could we try to make cost-effective solar electricity. What if we collect the sun
with a large reflector — like I had been thinking about
in high school, but maybe with modern technology
we could make it cheaper — concentrate it to a small converter, and then the conversion device
wouldn’t have to be as expensive, because it’s much smaller,
rather than solar cells, which have to cover the entire surface
that you want to gather sun from. This seemed practical now, because a lot of new technologies
had come in the 25 years since I had last looked at it. There was a lot
of new manufacturing techniques, not to mention really cheap
miniature motors — brushless motors,
servomotors, stepper motors, that are used in printers and scanners. So, that’s a breakthrough. Of course, inexpensive microprocessors and a very important breakthrough —
genetic algorithms. I’ll be very short on genetic algorithms. It’s a powerful way of solving intractable
problems using natural selection. You take a problem that you can’t solve
with a pure mathematical answer, you build an evolutionary system
to try multiple tries at guessing, you add sex — where you take half of one solution
and half of another and then make new mutations — and you use natural selection
to kill off not-as-good solutions. Usually, with a genetic algorithm
on a computer today, with a three gigahertz processor, you can solve many
formerly intractable problems in just a matter of minutes. So we tried to come up with a way
to use genetic algorithms to create a new type of concentrator. And I’ll show you what we came up with. Traditionally,
concentrators look like this. Those shapes are parabolas. They take all the parallel incoming rays
and focus it to a single spot. They have to track the sun, because they have to point
directly at the sun. They usually have
a one degree acceptance angle — once they’re more than a degree off, none of the sunlight rays
will hit the focus. So we tried to come up
with a non-tracking collector that would gather much more than
one degree of light, with no moving parts. So we created a genetic algorithm
to try this out, we made a model in Excel
of a multisurface reflector, and an amazing thing evolved, literally, from trying a billion cycles,
a billion different attempts, with a fitness function that defined
how can you collect the most light, from the most angles,
over a day, from the sun. And this is the shape that evolved. It’s this non-tracking collector
with these six tuba-like horns, and each of them collect light
in the following way — if the sunlight strikes right here, it might bounce right to the center,
the hot spot, directly, but if the sun is off axis
and comes from the side, it might hit two places
and take two bounces. So for direct light,
it takes only one bounce, for off-axis light it might take two, and for extreme off-axis,
it might take three. Your efficiency goes down
with more bounces, because you lose about 10 percent
with each bounce, but this allowed us to collect light
from a plus or minus 25-degree angle. So, about two and a half hours of the day we could collect
with a stationary component. Solar cells collect light
for four and a half hours though. On an average adjusted day,
a solar cell — because the sun’s moving across the sky, the solar cell is going down
with a sine wave function of performance at the off-axis angles. It collects about four and a half
average hours of sunlight a day. So even this, although it was great
with no moving parts — we could achieve high
temperatures — wasn’t enough. We needed to beat solar cells. So we took a look at another idea. We looked at a way to break up a parabola
into individual petals that would track. So what you see here is 12 separate petals that each could be controlled
with individual microprocessors that would only cost a dollar. You can buy a two-megahertz
microprocessor for a dollar now. And you can buy stepper motors
that pretty much never wear out because they have no brushes, for a dollar. So we can control all 12 of these petals
for under 50 dollars and what this would allow us to do
is not have to move the focus any more, but only move the petals. The whole system would have
a much lower profile, but also we could gather sunlight
for six and a half to seven hours a day. Now that we have concentrated sunlight, what are we going to put at the center
to convert sunlight to electricity? So we tried to look
at all the different heat engines that have been used in history to convert
sunlight or heat to electricity, And one of the great ones of all time, James Watt’s steam engine of 1788
was a major breakthrough. James Watt didn’t actually invent
the steam engine, he just refined it. But his refinements were incredible. He added new linear
motion guides to the pistons, he added a condenser
to cool the steam outside the cylinder, he made the engine double-acting,
so it had double the power. Those were major breakthroughs.
All of the improvements he made — and it’s justifiable
that our measure of energy, the watt, today is named after him. So we looked at this engine,
and this had some potential. Steam engines are dangerous, and they had tremendous impact
on the world — industrial revolution
and ships and locomotives. But they’re usually good to be large, so they’re not good
for distributed power generation. They’re also very high-pressure,
so they’re dangerous. Another type of engine
is the hot air engine. And the hot air engine
also was not invented by Robert Stirling, but Robert Stirling came along in 1816
and radically improved it. This engine, because it was
so interesting — it only worked on air, no steam — has led to hundreds
of creative designs over the years that use the Stirling engine principle. But after the Stirling engine,
Otto came along, and also, he didn’t invent
the internal combustion engine, he just refined it. He showed it in Paris in 1867,
and it was a major achievement because it brought the power density
of the engine way up. You could now get a lot more power
in a lot smaller space, and that allowed the engine
to be used for mobile applications. So, once you have mobility, you’re making a lot of engines
because you’ve got lots of units, as opposed to steam ships
or big factories, so this was the engine that ended up
benefiting from mass production where all the other engines didn’t. So, because it went into mass production, costs were reduced,
100 years of refinement, emissions were reduced,
tremendous production value. There have been hundreds of millions
of internal combustion engines built, compared to thousands
of Stirling engines built. And not nearly as many
small steam engines being built anymore, only large ones for big operations. So after looking
at these three, and 47 others, we concluded that the Stirling engine
would be the best one to use. I want to give you a brief explanation
of how we looked at it and how it works. So we tried to look
at the Stirling engine in a new way, because it was practical — weight no longer mattered
for our application. The internal combustion engine
took off because weight mattered, because you were moving around. But if you’re trying to generate
solar energy in a static place the weight doesn’t matter so much. We also discovered that efficiency
doesn’t matter so much if your energy source is free. Normally, efficiency is crucial because the fuel cost
of your engine over its life dwarfs the cost of the engine. But if your fuel source is free, then the only thing that matters is the up-front
capital cost of the engine. So you don’t want
to optimize for efficiency, you want to optimize for power per dollar. So using that new twist,
with the new criteria, we thought we could
relook at the Stirling engine, and also bring genetic algorithms in. Basically, Robert Stirling
didn’t have Gordon Moore before him to get us three gigahertz
of processor power. So we took the same genetic algorithm that we used earlier
to make that concentrator, which didn’t work out for us, to optimize the Stirling engine, and make its design sizes
and all of its dimensions the exact optimum
to get the most power per dollar, irrespective of weight,
irrespective of size, just to get the most conversion
of solar energy, because the sun is free. And that’s the process we took —
let me show you how the engine works. The simplest heat engine,
or hot air engine, of all time would be this — take a box,
a steel canister, with a piston. Put a flame under it, the piston moves up. Take it off the flame
and pour water on it, or let it cool down, the piston moves down. That’s a heat engine. That’s the most fundamental
heat engine you could have. The problem is the efficiency
is one hundredth of one percent, because you’re heating
all the metal of the chamber and then cooling all the metal
of the chamber each time. And you’re only getting power from the air
that’s heating at the same time, but you’re wasting energy
heating and cooling the metal. So someone came up
with a very clever idea. Instead of heating and cooling
the whole cylinder, what about if you put
a displacer inside — a little thing that shuttles
the air back and forth. You move that up and down
with a little bit of energy but now you’re only shifting the air down
to the hot end and up to the cold end. So, now you’re not alternately heating
and cooling the metal, just the air. That allows you to get the efficiency up from a hundredth of a percent
to about two percent. And then Robert Stirling
came along with this genius idea, which was, well, I’m still
not heating the metal now, with this kind of engine, but I’m still reheating all the air. I’m still heating the air every time
and cooling the air every time. What about if I put
a thermal sponge in the middle, in the passageway between where the air
has to move between hot and cold? So he made fine wires, and cracked glass, and all different kinds of materials
to be a heat sponge. So when the air pushes up
to go from the hot end to the cold end, it puts some heat into the sponge. And then when the air comes back
after it’s been cooled, it picks up that heat again. So you’re reusing your energy
five or six times, and that brings the efficiency
up to between 30 and 40 percent. It’s a little known, but brilliant,
genius invention of Robert Stirling that takes the hot air engine
from being somewhat impractical — like I found out when I made
the real simple version in high school — to very potentially possible, once you get the efficiency up, if you can design this
to be low enough cost. So we really set out on a path
to try and make the lowest cost possible. We built a huge mathematical model
of how a Stirling engine works. We applied the genetic algorithm. We got the results from that
for the optimal engine. We built engines — so we built 100 different engines
over the last two years. We measured each one, we readjusted
the model to what we measured, and then we led that
to the current prototype. It led to a very compact,
inexpensive engine, and this is what the engine looks like. Let me show you
what it looks like in real life. So this is the engine.
It’s just a small cylinder down here, which holds the generator
inside and all the linkage, and it’s the hot cap —
the hot cylinder on the top — this part gets hot, this part is cool, and electricity comes out. The exact converse is also true. If you put electricity in,
this will get hot and this will get cold, you get refrigeration. So it’s a complete reversible cycle, a very efficient cycle,
and quite a simple thing to make. So now you put the two things together. So you have the engine. What if you combine
the petals and the engine in the center? The petals track and the engine
gets the concentrated sunlight, takes that heat
and turns it into electricity. This is what the first prototype
of our system looked like with the petals
and the engine in the center. This is being run out in the sun, and now I want to show you
what the actual thing looks like. (Applause) Thank you. So this is a unit with the 12 petals. These petals cost about a dollar each — they’re lightweight,
injection-molded plastic, aluminized. The mechanism to control
each petal is below there, with a microprocessor on each one. There are thermocouples on the engine — little sensors that detect the heat
when the sunlight strikes them. Each petal adjusts itself separately
to keep the highest temperature on it. When the sun comes out in the morning,
the petals will seek the sun, find it by searching
for the highest temperature. About a minute and a half or two minutes
after the rays are striking the hot cap the engine will be warm enough to start and then the engine
will generate electricity for about six and a half hours a day — six and a half to seven hours
as the sun moves across the sky. A critical part
that we can take advantage of is that we have these
inexpensive microprocessors and each of these petals is autonomous, and each of these petals figures out
where the sun is with no user setup. So you don’t have to tell
what latitude, longitude you’re at, what your roof slope angle is,
or what orientation. It doesn’t really care. What it does is it searches
to find the hottest spot, it searches again a half an hour later,
a day later, a month later. It basically figures out
where on Earth you are by watching the direction the sun moves, so you don’t have to
actually enter anything about that. The way the unit works is, when the sun comes out,
the engine will start and you get power out here. We have AC and DC, get 12 volts DC, so that could be used
for certain applications. We have an inverter in there,
so you get 117 volts AC. And you also get hot water.
The hot water’s optional. You don’t have to use it,
it will cool itself. But you can use it
to optionally heat hot water and that brings
the efficiency up even higher because some of the heat
that you’d normally be rejecting, you can now use as useful energy,
whether it’s for a pool or hot water. Let me show you a quick movie
of what this looks like running. This is the first test
where we took it outside and each of the petals
were individually seeking. And what they do is step,
very coarsely at first, and very finely afterward. Once they get a temperature reading
on the thermocouple indicating they found the sun, they slow down and do a fine search. Then the petals will move into position,
and the engine will start. We’ve been working on this
for the last two years. We’re very excited about the progress,
we have a long way to go though. This is how we envision
it would be in a residential installation: you’d probably have
more than one unit on your roof. It could be on your roof,
your backyard, or somewhere else. You don’t have to have enough units
to power your entire house, you just save money
with each incremental one you add. So you’re still using
the grid potentially, in this type of application,
to be your backup supply — of course, you can’t use these at night,
and you can’t use these on cloudy days. But by reducing your energy use,
pretty much at the peak times — usually when you have
your air conditioning on, or other times like that — this generates the peak power
at the peak usage time, so it’s very complementary in that sense. This is how we would envision
a residential application. We also think there’s
very big potential for energy farms, especially in remote land
where there happens to be a lot of sun. It’s a really good combination
of those two factors. It turns out there’s a lot of powerful sun
all around the world, obviously, but in special places where it happens to be
relatively inexpensive to place these and also in many more places
where there is high wind power. So an example of that is,
here’s the map of the United States. Pretty much everywhere that’s
not green or blue is a really ideal place, but even the green or blue areas are good, just not as good as the places
that are red, orange and yellow. But the hot spot right around Las Vegas
and Death Valley is very good. And is only affects the payback period, it doesn’t mean that you
couldn’t use solar energy; you could use it anywhere on Earth. It just affects the payback period if you’re comparing
to grid-supplied electricity. But if you don’t have
grid-supplied electricity, then the question of payback
is a different one entirely. It’s just how many watts
do you get per dollar, and how could you benefit from that
to change your life in some way. This is the map of the whole Earth, and you can see
a huge swathe in the middle where a large part of the population is, there’s tremendous chances
for solar energy. And of course, look at Africa. The potential to take advantage
of solar energy there is unbelievable, and I’m really excited to talk more
about finding ways we can help with that. So, in conclusion, I would say
my journey has shown me that you can revisit
old ideas in a new light, and sometimes ideas
that have been discarded in the past can be practical now if you apply
some new technology or new twists. We believe we’re getting very close
to something practical and affordable. Our short-term goal for this
is to be half the price of solar cells and our longer-term goal
is to be less than a five-year payback. And at less than a five-year payback,
this becomes very economic. So you don’t have to just have
a feel-good attitude about energy to want to have one of these. It just makes economic sense. Right now, solar paybacks
are between 30 and 50 years. If you get it down below five years, then it’s almost a no-brainer
because the interest to own it — someone else will finance it for you
and you can just make money from day one. So that’s our real powerful goal that we’re really
shooting for in the company. Two other things that I learned
that were very surprising to me — one was how casual we are about energy. I was walking from the elevator over here, and even just looking
at the stage right now — so there’s probably
20,500-watt lights right now. There’s 10,000 watts of light
pouring on the stage, one horsepower
is 746 watts, at full power. So there’s basically 15 horses running
at full speed just to keep the stage lit. Not to mention the 200 horses
that are probably running right now to keep the air-conditioning going. And it’s just amazing, walk in the elevator,
and there’s lights on in the elevator. Of course, now I’m very sensitive at home
when we leave the lights on by mistake. But, everywhere around us
we have insatiable use for energy because it’s so cheap. And it’s cheap because
we’ve been subsidized by energy that’s been concentrated by the sun. Basically, oil is
solar-energy concentrate. It’s been pounded for a billion years
with a lot of energy to make it have all that energy
contained in it. And we don’t have a birthright to just use that up
as fast as we are, I think. And it would be great if we could
make our energy usage renewable, where as we’re using the energy,
we’re creating it at the same pace, and I really hope we can get there. Thank you very much,
you’ve been a great audience.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. most people sleep for at least 6 of those 18h hours, consuming very little electricity.
    as for the rest… it doesn't matter. There's already a well-spread electricity grid. It doesn't have to power all day.
    Plus, there can still be nuclear energy for a while.

  2. The video froze up halfway through the presentation and I was in a panic to start it again! Finally, a practical application for solar energy from a guy who has actually thought the problem through, not a hippie with wishful thinking.

  3. Good lord.. speed talker. Then again, there was a ton of information to squeeze into a relatively short period of time so… it's totally understandable.

    I've never heard of 'genetic algorithms'. That's quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever heard of! xD

  4. I've heard of genetic algorithms. But, i haven't coded anything with them yet. In fact, I;ve not thought up anything worthwhile to apply them too. 🙁 sad huh.

  5. The usefulness of genetic algorithms (using lot of simulations to get desired outputs), is analogous to the ideal of localized government versus a highly federalized one. The best way to determine what sort of living style creates the most prosperity is to have multiple govt simulations, more state and local power. Thus, both major parties are obstacles in our path to a more ideal way of life simply by preserving a large, intrusive federal govt.

  6. This way a very well prepared, organized, and fascinating lecture. This lecture had a lot of useful information and was easy to keep up even though there was a large amount.

    I have two concerns. First, how much does the final device cost? I need to know both finished product, and dollar per watt ratio. Second, how much power does the final product produce. I'm assuming between one and three kilowatts since he mentioned it would not remove the energy grid entirely.

  7. So you think that as long as people can save energy, then they don't care how there house looks? Or there car, or there refrigerator, or there lamps, and so on.

  8. Some big power company will buy out any patents he has and the technology and lock it up in some basement file. Just like every other efficent solar energy invention.

    Looks like GE will prob. be the ones that buy it out and it will never see the light of day. (pun intended)

  9. Taking your age and your nationality into account, you should know better. The prius is a perfect example of why design is everything on the mas marked. Its the only hybrid on the marked that looks like a hybrid. And that is exactly the reason why it is cool and stylish compared to other hybrids. Why else do you think it is so popular in Hollywood? – because they want to save energy?

    And in a scaled version, there are a lot better systems on the marked already.

  10. Solar energy is a redundant source of energy when you understand we all ready have free energy from the inventions of telsla and other modern inventors.

    But of course the powers that be don't want us to know about this as it would make us independent negating their power.

  11. I you want to power a radio, you can do it through the electromagnetic waves themselves and a grand coil for an antenna.

  12. there are documentaries on youtube about Tesla & his free energy concepts using the earth's ionosphere as a resonance chamber… it's actually quite fascinating how much he comprehended. we're still catching up with him, he came far before his time…

  13. He doesn't, but at $1 each it's worth the redundancy. If one microprocessor goes out you don't loose your whole system. Also, if it only takes a few seconds to tune into the sun what's the point of memorizing the sun movement (which changes throughout the year).

    He admitted himself, they've got a ton of improvement to do.

  14. >Africa could be the middle east of solar energy.

    Yeah right. Like they're going to block out the sun on the rest of the world with giant robots in space. You've been watching the Simpsons too much.

  15. I meant that Africa has a lot of sun and the middle east has a lot of oil. Didn't say anything about their good will.

  16. I was rather drooling over australia. you have to admit how pretty it'd be to see those big solar collector lotus things out in the middle of the australian desert with kangaroos hopping about them.

  17. Cool its a work in progress and he said it real quick, but it may be indeed already a very interesting unit to be used in 3rd world country's, even if its only for heating water/cooking.

  18. Yes; but that is not what was meant.

    "Free" as in free of charge. As in, accessible by anyone, anywhere on the planet using simple means. The earth is a powerful battery of sorts, and Tesla spent a great deal of his life tapping into it, learning how to harness it.

    It was supposed to be his 'gift to mankind' before economical forces nipped his inventions in the bud.

  19. i'm sorry these tiny youtube windows don't allow for more detailed comments. it forces people to be succinct and passive about detail.
    so, just bear that in mind.

  20. I meant to say, what happens when they get scratched…but if they only cost a buck, I guess you can just replace them

  21. Oh, I see.

    Well, there's no real such thing as 'free energy'. You'd still have to buy the machine. And only pricing for fuel costs (and therefore concluding it's free energy) ignores the all important capital cost.

    That's why so many renewable energy sources are struggling. Not because of their low fuel cost, but their high capital cost. And you can't ignore capital costs; it's absolutely vital to include it.

  22. yes, nothing is literally 'free,' we use the word loosely. Tesla's design for the recipient of "free" electricity was simple; low cost. accessible. just a simple antenna which was possible to manufacture in the early 1900's.

    he lost his funding due the business attitude of his investor, J.P. Morgan, saw no potential for major long-term profit in the system Tesla was constructing. the system can give cheap, abundant, energy worldwide.

  23. The guy at the end shows off primitive and inefficient piece of expensive crap… Check out ABC Catalyst 2007-03-08 Sliver Cells – solar photovoltaic. Don't let them persuade you to pay for that old crap when you can pay LESS for BETTER crap – SLIVER CELLS solar panels 😉

  24. Additionally i think if he could encase those with glass, with angles that are opposite to those found in diamonds his energy input would be considerably increased. Due to that the angles at which diamonds are cut at are purposely done to increase the amount of of light refracted to the outside of the diamond. If a glass model was made in reverse it may be possible to increase the focus of the rays of light to a single point.

  25. a very good speech, one issue i have is the usage of these panels in the winter time. Not only is there less sunlight during winter hours, but the snow itself would completely block them from receiving sunlight and the snow itself may break the panels due to weight.

  26. the device looks big and there are alot of spaces in between the peddle and the motor(or thing in the middle) wonder if they can minimize the spaces not used ….just wonderin ^^

  27. Storm damage would be the only real issue, as small servos and light weight parts like that would last well over a lifetime without outside interference. Wind would be enough to screw it up though. I know a large portion of that part of the US he showed which could be used is so windy these things just wouldn't work. Then again maybe he can find a way to make them tough enough to survive, time will tell for sure ^.^

  28. Yeah I have to concur that plants are already incredibly well adapted to producing energy from sunlight. Corn is a great example (anyone who's ever been around Everclear knows that alcohol is like jet fuel), though oil companies have been buying rights to the gases made from it since people first learned how to do it.

  29. He's not done yet with the research. I missed a discussions about the cons, but since he's not an altruistic scientist but a entrepreneur first, he won't mention the cons (that's why he didn't mentioned that solar panel can be improved too).

    Sounds cool thou, but being a scientist (math), I have to wonder that the majority of high tech applications these days require little or no personnel (which makes thing cheap). Technology is replacing humans day by day.

  30. Put in this way. There will always be people who wants to have different stuff from others, people that also look on the ''beautiful side of things". Well, if this guy is smart (and he is), he would make a better looked version for a higher price. Everyone gets happy.

  31. shut up, these are idea's that could work, also these people are VERY smart, that's why brilliant minds were only invited to T.E.D. which is why you were not invited. your comments also prove my point.

  32. I concur. The best approach we have without some miracle breakthrough in solar cell tech is to use the natural sun-to-usable-power converters: plants. The amount of power stored in complex sugars alone is phenomenal, and plants already do it without having to change a thing. That is to say, we already have the technology to get power from the sun in great quantities. Now. Right now. WHY DOES THIS GUY STILL HAVE A BONER FOR SOLAR CELLS (besides the idea being "cool" when he was a kid)?

  33. Just because the guy might have a "brilliant mind" doesn't mean it's a good idea he's selling. And just "might" at that; saying that Person A goes to TED so Person A's IQ is X is retarded. They have artists on here too, and most of them are none-too-bright.

    The truth about solar power: it fucking blows. It COULD be fantastic in the future, and we know that looking at plants. BUT, why not just take advantage of what nature improved on millions of years of evolution instead? Bio-fuels, not solar.

  34. Ultimately every energy source you grab is made by a star. May as well cut out the middle man and figure out how to grab the energy as efficiently as possible.

  35. Because it`s no enough. If you plan corn on all the fields in all the world…it`s not enough. That`s part of the reason. Bio fuel thing isn't really a mature technology no matter how much of it we use. Better eat the corn and think of something else. Also modern solar cells are better than Photosynthesis in terms of energy gathering to surface by 2 or 3 times.
    Today we use about 0.1 of the amount of energy captured by photosynthesis. So if we used all of it ,it wouldn't be enough

  36. You've used a statistical flaw, which does make that look right, but it isn't ^.^

    Say there is 1kwh per percentage point of power in photosynthesis, and .1kwh per percentage point of power in the same square area of a solar cell (it's actually further than this, but for argument I'm keeping it simple). You'd end up with 100 kwh per space with the cell and 20-30 kwh per that same space with the solar cells (at 2 to 3 times, which is also wrong but hell we'll say you're right). Note the numbers.

  37. Oh and btw, they are trying their best to copy the photosynthesis process plants perform in our solar cells. Google "Dye solar cells"; there is a good chance that we'll make good use of solar power before the end of this century.

  38. he used it successfully. nasa is employing his related ionosphere research at that new antenna farm station in alaska.

    whatever he said about it may have seemed abstract, but his relevant devices are now becoming well understood.

  39. i don't believe any of that stuff. it's just that in all these books written about him, and in documentaries also, this ionosphere research seems not too far fetched.

    no need to get judgmental. nobody has perfect information. it is hard these days to get it, even if one is well-read. there is always someone disputing in such a matter-of-fact way.

    now i'm not going to insist my point of view– it's comes from what i've read in books and seen in documentaries. i'm only telling about it.

  40. __┌┐______'┌┐ Copy and paste
    __││_______││ if the copyright is pissin you off!

  41. i love how people make smart ass comments and joke about this, hate to break it to ya but this is our planet, its the only one we got and if we screw it up, we die.

  42. offhand, which book / resource might I read more about this? i would like to better understand these ratios.

    i am very appreciative for this; as all inquisitive minds are in a state of learning. thanks for being direct!

  43. Solar panels have nothing to do with storage of energy. They have to do with electricity generation (conversion of solar energy to electric energy). For storage, you can use batteries, or capacitors for electric energy, or store thermal energy or gravitational potential energy.

  44. Hehehe … good point. Dang me dang me … get me a rope and hang me from the highest tree. Shame on me for immediately assuming any reference to the middle east is about holding the world hostage.

    If the shoe fits though …

    That said,

  45. … continued …

    That said, what makes the middle east unique is that it has been able to export it's oil to the world. I don't think Africa could ever export it's solar energy any further than Europe.

    And in truth that's what my original comment was about … not about the middle east holding the world hostage (what garevss referred to when he accused me of bringing middle east's good-will into the picture).

  46. This is awesome. So fun to learn.

    By the way, reflection is not limited to just glass. I'm sure there are smart methods to deal with that by now, or are seriously being handled.

  47. Dosen't look like I'm getting one of thoose on my roof in the nearest future. Norway is completly white.

  48. @mws123 That's true, but whether we screw it up or not… we are still going to die. There is one thing we know for sure about life… we are not going to get out of it alive.

  49. You are the man!!! I wish I had all the knowledge you have on energy. Energy is the key to our success as humans on this planet. We need to use the sun and stop burning up material when the sun is free! Keep up your incredible work and would love to hear from you. I have the same basic desire you have for new energy, but my personal experience is sales.

  50. i read about this guy in Comm 100, idea lab lost a TON of money for all the investors, never really developed much

  51. I always said the Bill & Melinda Gates were a great example for philanthropists all over the world and they still are to this day.

  52. guys check this ABOUTSOLARCELLS.COMXA.COM My wife is proud of me:)).. after I managed to build … I could not believe that I'm thinking to sell energy.. WOW…This man has made a business out of it and now help others ABOUTSOLARCELLS.COMXA.COM will learn how and what to do and will also help if you need it… good luck to everyone

  53. This is way too complicated to ever be mass produced and maintained! Why not just install the Stirling generator at the focal point of a simple fiberglass parabolic dish covered with 90% reflective Mylar? Then the entire unit would only requires 2 linear actuators to track the sun and all the hardware is already available left over from the dead large satellite dish industry. You could actually get away with only 1 actuator if you were willing to manually adjust the inclination every week or so to keep up with the seasonal procession. The single dish would provide triple the energy that is wasted in this design by all the dead space between the petals. Every square meter provides approximately 1000 watts of heat energy so a 10 foot dish would produce roughly 31.4Kw of heat energy. The excess heat would be more then enough to provide the heating, hot water and cooling needs of a normal size home by using an ammonia/water cycle like used in the antique icy ball refrigerators but on a much  larger scale. With the Stirling engine/generator providing electricity as well it seems like this idea should already be in use! It would be if the elite did not have such a strangle hold on energy derived from their oil and coal mines generating a trillion dollars a year for them! That kind of money can facilitate a lot of "accidents" for inventors meddling with their trillion dollar profit stream.

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