Written by Ian on Tuesday 15/05/07
Korea announced a few days ago the worlds largest solar energy plant. Covering 30 football fields, but generating less than
300MW of electricity - about as much as a fossil fuel fired power station the size of my house. Despite my love of solar power, I think centralised solar energy just doesn't seem like a viable solution.
So does that mean solar is dead? Not at all, *centralised* solar might be, but solar panels on roofs, along roads, in parks - now that's a great idea: distributed solar.
But solar panels are ugly and cost lots to manufacture. So here's my idea:
These are real, normal trees, populated with nanomachinery. The nanomachines collect energy from the photosynthesis process and distribute it to a power outlet, one per tree.
Just like normal trees, these capture carbon when they grow, but never need to be cut down and burnt. With the nanomachines we can slow the growth rate right down. Forests of these would capture solar energy, remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere, and generate power. This is ideal!!
Unlike normal trees, they won't be cut down and burnt (which adds to atmospheric carbon and thus global warming). They will just grow quietly helping to convert sunlight, through photosynthesis into chemical energy, and from that into electrical energy (possibly by the reconversion of NADPH back into NADP using atmospheric oxygen and/or the oxygen generated from the photosynthesis).
The sugars can be transported by the nanomachies into a reactor where they are cracked by bacteria into solid carbon and water.
Nano-wires along the xylem conduct electricity to an externel power outlet where trees can be wired into a power grid.
So all this sounds like an ideal solution to the worlds energy needs - we can all grow power trees in our gardens. Instead of pulluting power plants and ugly solar arrays, we can plant forests of beautiful solar trees.
Just remember though, if you go for a walk in the woods one day, watch out for the power leads...