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What one energy source has the ability to – in the long term – supply the people of the world with all of the energy they need in an reliable and renewable manner? According to Derek Abbott, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, there is only one possible answer: solar-hydrogen.
Solar-hydrogen means using solar power to generate electricity and then using the electricity to electrolyze water to generate hydrogen when necessary – for example, to run automobiles on hydrogen power. Abbott believes that solar-hydrogen could one day produce about 70 percent of the world's energy requirements, and he's done some math over on PhysOrg that he says proves him right. The short version: the solar energy that hits the earth (and is not reflected or absorbed by clouds) is "more than 5,000 times our present global energy consumption."
Aside from the sustainability angle, solar-hydrogen beats all other energy sources on economic grounds, Abott believes. His preferred method of capturing the energy of the sun is solar thermal collectors. Here's how he thinks it'll work in the coming decades:
Governments should begin by setting up sizable solar farms that supplement existing grid electricity and provide enough hydrogen to power buses. Enthusiasts will then buy hydrogen cars, retrofit existing cars, and refuel at bus depots. Then things will grow from there. You gotta start somewhere.
Abbott's other reasons for choosing H2 over battery-powered electrics include: fewer chemicals and toxic waste due to lack of batteries and that "gasoline combustion engines can be retrofitted to run on hydrogen, and the car manufacturing industry has infrastructure tailored to combustion technology." Hmm, maybe he should read Greenlings.