Climate Solution


The Paris meeting is over. The coal producing nations want to continue to export coal. The developing nations point out that Europe and North America had at least a century of cheap energy from coal, so they’re not asking for anything we didn’t have.

What to do? What to do?

In the past I’ve mentioned BOINC, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing system. Initially used in the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project, BOINC uses thousands (millions?) of personal computers to analyze data. While it’s true that a single modern PC is more powerful than major computers a decade ago, SETI thought that using the free time when owners’ computers were not checking out cute cat pictures or whatever would provide the computing capacity of a supercomputer—lots of users—and many of us have multiple computers. I’ve had all my computers supporting BOINC for about twelve years, and have helped projects addressing diseases, food, and climate change. What a great idea they had out at Berkeley.

Let’s apply the same idea to energy. The energy companies are constrained by the fact that it will take thousands of square miles of property to install enough solar cells to provide adequate power. What if the power companies took the same distributive idea as BOINC? Imagine your local power company coming to you and saying, “I’d like to install solar panels on your roof (for North America, it would be those roofs that face south). We’ll pay you 10% of the wholesale rate for the electricity your house produces; this will automatically be calculated into (deducted from) your electric meter reading. We still pay retail, they pay wholesale, but the planet benefits. (If you don’t like this planet, don’t participate. Each house is already connected to the power grid, so half the structure is already in place.

Even better, if each house had an electrical storage system so that as the grid needed power—day or night—it could access it. Power losses would affect smaller areas, since the generation and storage would be distributed.

If you think it’s worth a shot, let your congressional representative and senators know. Maybe this idea is half-baked, but there are engineers who can finish the baking job.

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