Energy of the Future
- 1 Overview
- 2 Root Causes
- 3 Barriers to Progress
- 4 Existing Efforts to Address the Problem
- 5 Ecosystem
Design an XPRIZE that will incentivize energy solutions that can provide clean, high-performance, accessible, sustainable energy to the 1.2 billion people globally who live without electricity.
Select Grand Challenge Focus Areas
An amazing competition design will focus on the smallest set of breakthrough innovations that can unlock the largest possible positive impact. After considering many different possibilities and consulting both internal and external experts in the field, the team has prioritized three “Grand Challenge Focus Areas” to be solved in this space: Affordability, Efficiency, and Generation. “Grand Challenge Focus Areas” are topics in which a breakthrough could lead to massive transformational change in creating a world of energy abundance. XPRIZE is seeking amazing prize designs in these areas:
Many of today’s energy solutions are simply too expensive. XPRIZE is looking for prize designs that address this Grand Challenge. For example, your competition design submission might incentivize solutions that reduce technology costs, fuel costs, or system and service costs. It could focus on increasing service levels for users at the same costs, or on reducing costs of energy infrastructure. A competition targeting affordability might focus on hard technology systems, software services, new business or delivery models, supply chains, financing mechanisms, or other solutions. A competition could incentivize a breakthrough piece of hardware or software, or a financial, social, or business innovation. XPRIZE wants you to show the world the best way to incentivize breakthroughs in energy affordability.
Many of today’s energy solutions could become more efficient. XPRIZE is looking for prize designs that address this Grand Challenge. For example, your competition design submission might incentivize efficiency gains in basic conversion of natural resources into electricity or heat. It could also focus on breakthroughs in efficiently managed energy systems and infrastructure (e.g. an electricity network), or at the point of use (e.g. a more efficient refrigerator in your home). A competition design could also focus on more efficient ways to transport and distribute energy in large or small networks. A competition targeting energy efficiency might focus on breakthroughs in devices, networks and sensors, business or delivery models, supply chains, or even user behavior. XPRIZE wants you to show the world the best way to incentivize breakthroughs in energy efficiency.
Breakthroughs in energy generation could unlock energy access for billions through new ways of generating usable electricity from our natural resources and earth system. XPRIZE is looking for prize designs that address this Grand Challenge. If you design a prize focused on generating other forms of energy (e.g. heat), be clear about how that breakthrough will address the ultimate goal of access to energy. A competition incentivizing breakthroughs in electricity (or other) generation could focus on specific technology breakthroughs in known generation modes like solar photovoltaic, wind, tidal, nuclear, geothermal, etc. It could also focus on breakthroughs in new energy frontiers like fusion. If you design a prize at such a “frontier” of energy generation, be clear about how this technology can get into the hands of the 1.2 billion people lacking basic energy services. XPRIZE wants you to show the world the best way to incentivize breakthroughs in energy generation.
Nuclear fusion at high temperatures (i.e. not cold fusion) could be slightly difficult to achieve by current technologies, however new advancements in REBCO tapes which provide high magnetic superconducting confinement, laser power scaling or application of new materials to such as beryllium electrodes to know concepts such as DPF could lead to breakthroughs. Safe modular fission technologies such as MSR or LTFR can be considered, however the risk of nuclear proliferation and polution has to be addressed. It might be easier to design systems which can transport electricity over long distances without the use of cables. Another idea might involve stationing photovoltaic cells in geostationary orbit over large water bodies, and transmit the electricity down to the earth for commercial use.
In my opinion, finding solutions to solving the duck problem (https://www.vox.com/2016/2/10/10960848/solar-energy-duck-curve) would be a better approach, or even alternate ways to store electrical energy with larger storage capacities.
What are the underlying reasons why 1.2 billion people still don’t have access to electricity? What are the natural, technological, social, environmental, political, and economic reasons why in 2018 people still can’t get power?
I believe this will be an interesting one to watch, as I believe resolution is already on the way. It will be radical as it hits, with different drivers in different places. The historic world of electricity was BIG generations sources with massive sprawling distribution systems. As detailed in the Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, the sun gives us many times more energy that we could ever use. Renewables are on an exponential curve, and disrupting the industry already. An example is the controversial British Columbia Canada "Site C" dam. Best case estimates are saying the cost to produce the electricity based on amortization schedules and such will be $0.09/kWh. A recent solar auction in Calgary Alberta Canada was won at $0.037/kWh. Small scale wind and solar, combined with geothermal and even biogas, once storage solutions catch up, will end demand for the legacy systems.
Barriers to Progress
A barrier to progress is a systemic reason why a problem can’t be solved with current efforts or within current systems. In other words, this is about something larger than any one particular technology or approach succeeding or failing. What are the larger systems or forces that will prevent any approach from succeeding or which are dis-incentivizing solutions from even being created? What are the equivalent obstacles that are preventing our ability to provide accessible, sustainable electricity for all?
There is a barrier between existing energy production companies in encouraging new sustainable energies, such as kinetic energy, pressure energy and the energy of eternal movement, many ways can be developed by which new methods of coexistence and living standards which can yes, unleash clean and self-sustaining energy with the support and funding of these projects.
Currently, the largest barrier is in regards to the storing of the energy generated. Although we are able to convert a significant amount of solar energy into electricity, we have no solution for long term storage, and hence we are causing the reactors to run overtime, adding to the pollution.
Electricity is very difficult to store. But most consumers use it in a very predictable pattern. So utility managers use demand curves to anticipate the electric needs of their customers. And as solar energy expands, their job is getting a bit more difficult. Solar energy production peaks at mid-day, and this causes demand for other energy to drop off. Researchers in California call this seeming drop in demand the “duck curve.” The more solar energy capacity increases, the more the curve looks like the belly of a duck. The duck curve represents a transition point for solar energy. It was, perhaps, the first major acknowledgement by a system operator that solar energy is no longer a niche technology and that utilities need to plan for increasing amounts of solar energy. This is especially true for places that already have high solar adoption, such as California, where recently, solar contributed nearly 40% of electricity generation in the state for the first time ever. High solar adoption creates a challenge for utilities to balance supply and demand on the grid. This is due to the increased need for electricity generators to quickly ramp up energy production when the sun sets and the contribution from PV falls. Another challenge with high solar adoption is the potential for PV to produce more energy than can be used at one time, called over-generation. This leads system operators to curtail PV generation, reducing its economic and environmental benefits. While curtailment does not have a major impact on the benefits of PV when it occurs occasionally throughout the year, it could have a potentially significant impact at greater PV penetration levels.
While the mainstream awareness of these challenges is relatively recent, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has been at the forefront of examining strategies for years. Most of the projects funded under SETO’s systems integration subprogram are performing work to help grid operators manage the challenges of the duck curve. Solar coupled with storage technologies could alleviate, and possibly eliminate, the risk of over-generation. Curtailment isn’t necessary when excess energy can be stored for use during peak electricity demand. SETO launched several projects in 2016 that pair researchers with utilities to examine how storage could make it easier for utilities to rely on solar energy to meet customer needs around the clock. This research will enable even more solar energy to be integrated into the grid, while tackling the obstacles utilities face when incorporating solar.
Some barriers are:
- Capital costs: The most obvious and widely publicized barrier to renewable energy is cost—specifically, capital costs, or the upfront expense of building and installing solar and wind farms. Like most renewables, solar and wind are exceedingly cheap to operate—their “fuel” is free, and maintenance is minimal—so the bulk of the expense comes from building the technology. The average cost in 2017 to install solar systems ranged from a little over $2,000 per kilowatt (kilowatts are a measure of power capacity) for large-scale systems to almost $3,700 for residential systems. A new natural gas plant might have costs around $1,000/kW. Wind comes in around $1,200 to $1,700/kw.
- Siting and transmission: Nuclear power, coal, and natural gas are all highly centralized sources of power, meaning they rely on relatively few high output power plants. Wind and solar, on the other hand, offer a decentralized model, in which smaller generating stations, spread across a large area, work together to provide power. Decentralization offers a few key advantages (including, importantly, grid resilience), but it also presents barriers: siting and transmission. Siting is the need to locate things like wind turbines and solar farms on pieces of land. Doing so requires negotiations, contracts, permits, and community relations, all of which can increase costs and delay or kill projects. Transmission refers to the power lines and infrastructure needed to move electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s consumed. Because wind and solar are relative newcomers, most of what exists today was built to serve large fossil fuel and nuclear power plants.
- Market entry: For most of the last century US electricity was dominated by certain major players, including coal, nuclear, and, most recently, natural gas. Utilities across the country have invested heavily in these technologies, which are very mature and well understood, and which hold enormous market power. New energy technologies—startups—face even larger barriers. They compete with major market players like coal and gas, and with proven, low-cost solar and wind technologies. To prove their worth, they must demonstrate scale: most investors want large quantities of energy, ideally at times when wind and solar aren’t available. That’s difficult to accomplish, and a major reason why new technologies suffer high rates of failure.
- Unequal playing field: For decades, the fossil fuel industry has used its influence to spread false or misleading information about climate change—a strong motivation for choosing low-carbon energy sources like wind or solar (in addition to the economic reasons). Industry leaders knew about the risks of global warming as early as the 1970s, but recognized that dealing with global warming meant using fewer fossil fuels. They went on to finance—and continue to fund—climate disinformation campaigns, aimed at sewing doubt about climate change and renewable energy. Their efforts were successful. Despite widespread scientific consensus, climate action is now a partisan issue in the US congress, complicating efforts to move from fossil fuels to clean energy. The disconnect between science and policy means that the price we pay for coal and gas isn’trepresentative of the true cost of fossil fuels (ie, it doesn’t reflect the enormous costs of global warming and other externalities). This in turn means that renewables aren’t entering an equal playing field: they’re competing with industries that we subsidize both directly (via government incentives) and indirectly (by not punishing polluters). Emission fees or caps on total pollution, potentially with tradable emission permits, are examples of ways we could use to help remove this barrier.
- Reliability misconceptions
Existing Efforts to Address the Problem
The goal of this section is to understand what other efforts are already underway to address the problems of the energy of the future. Please be sure to focus on the who, what, when, and why.
Who is developing solutions to a similar problem (which innovators, academics, corporations)? What solutions are they developing? When were these solutions tried or when might they be ready by? Why did the people pursuing them take this particular tack? The hope is that by understanding existing efforts, we can see where there are gaps, or holes, in current efforts that might be targeted with a prize.
There are already some moves in this direction. The UK is building new underwater connections to energy grids in France, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Norway, with a capacity to import or export up to 11 Gigawatts of electricity. There are also moves towards building an Asian super-grid which will connect Japan, Russia, China, Mongolia and South Korea.
For example, there are plans to develop large-scale wind and solar power stations in the Mongolian Gobi desert and in northern regions of China. These regions are sparsely populated but allowing the excess energy produced to be exported could bring in significant revenue.
"The problem is the cost of building such a grid,” says Janusz Bialek, director of the Center for Energy Systems at Skoltech Institute of Science and Technology. Transmitting electricity over long distances can be inefficient and many countries will need to upgrade their power lines to cope with the new technologies.
With countries such as Morocco building giant solar farm projects in their vast areas of desert in the hope of exporting this vast resource to other countries, it could lead to states that have previously been small fish taking a bigger role on the global stage. If Mongolia builds its huge reserves of wind and solar in the Gobi, it could transform its standing in the eyes of the world. Yet the need for super grids and power-sharing deals between countries would be diminished if a good way to store electricity can be found. Beyond their widespread availability and affordability, fossil fuels have one major advantage over renewable energy sources – they are very easy to store and transport.
Cables currently being laid under the North Sea will also soon allow the UK to access the large amounts of hydroelectric storage in Norway. Excess energy from wind and solar will be exported to Norway to be stored before being bought back off them when needed.
But building new hydroelectric dams is controversial and extremely damaging to local habitats. It has left researchers searching for another solution. Some are looking at building banks of batteries to store this energy, but battery technology is not yet good enough to efficiently store large amounts of energy.
Currently there are a number of small scale projects around the world attempting just this. Aberdeen in Scotland, for example, is running the world’s largest demonstration project of hydrogen fuel cells in buses. Renewable energy is used to generate hydrogen, which is used to power 10 public buses around the city.
Roads in china are being laid with solar panels. (https://cleantechnica.com/2017/12/30/china-opens-1-kilometer-long-solar-road/)
The accessibility of sustainable projects for the creation of generations can be constituted to facilitate the life of the individuals through projects that cover the whole community by the urbanism and the adaptation of common actions to the roads and sidewalks.
How can one become an efficient energy, being eternal and inexpensive, yes! We can, just look at how much we produce energy ourselves every day, walking, producing ultimate weight on Earth's gravity mass, and how much that still is not used, using and abusing kinetic energy would already be a start.
The generation of kinetic energy well quoted by Newton is before us, just cultivate it The energy of mass, where the weight of the people can produce in contact with the ground; The movement energy that can be used in walking apparel and footwear generating small watts of power reducing the nominal use load during the day of the electronic devices.
Other Prizes in the Area
What prizes have already been launched in this space? Please clearly state who is who is sponsoring the prize, what it’s goals and timeline are, and the size of the prize purse.
The Hult Prize Foundation has an open call for Social Entrepreneurs to attack energy opportunity/threats and has an open call now. From their website, The Hult Prize Foundation been called the”Nobel Prize for Students” and has been featured in a TIME Magazine Cover Story highlighting the “Top 5 Ideas Changing the World.”
Not specific to energy, but has a specific channel for Smart Grid that has several sub categories on energy aspects, is the Urban Future Competition, put on by the Urban Futures Lab in New York City. There are three $50k prizes, and previous winners have gone on to tremendous successes. Groups like this will be an excellent place to proliferate the challenge, and even find innovators to serve in designing.
The Zayed Future Energy Prize has a call open right now focused on energy. Overall the organization issues challenges with annual awards which celebrate achievements that are driving impact, innovation and inspiration across five distinct categories: Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools. $600,000 is dedicated for prize awards in the 2018 Energy category.
There are many programs moving to a higher context, addressing Innovation at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water. In fact, the American National Science Foundation (NSF) has a grant program in place called INFEWS. There is up to $2.5mm available per project, but applications are limited to American Land Grant Educational Institutions.
Foundations and Organizations Already Active in this Space
A program called Breakthrough Energy is a major player in the space. It is run by a coalition, and makes strategic investments in companies it sees as promising. The GAtes Foundation is a cornerstone member.
Not specific to energy, but filled with a tremendous amount of technology disruptors is the Disruptive Innovation Festival out of the UK. It is branded as the World's Largest Online Festival of Ideas. 2018 event is starting now, and the 2017 program had several very valuable presentations that are available for viewing still. .
What are the groups or individuals that are already funding, or might be willing to fund efforts in this space?
Some organisations working towards this goal are as follows: