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Mission Innovation

Solutions to global warming will bring affordable clean energy to billions of people, especially in the developing world.

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Sunflower has been searching for solutions to global warming for more than 40 years examining basic research and development in clean energy. We have worked with philanthropists, investors, MIT, India, and China.

Solutions to global warming will bring affordable clean energy to billions of people, especially in the developing world. Clean energy fundamentals indicate major breakthroughs are available for zero cost blueprint distribution around the world. So, when I read in the press that Bill Gates and a gaggle of other wealthy and powerful people were pursuing the same path of "mission innovation" I felt the need to post a brief opinion on breakthrough economics should their efforts become real and effective. Up until now there has been little interest in radical high-risk clean innovation.

Clean energy technologies have been eclipsed by the fame and fortunes of software in Silicon Valley, and by oil in government. Has anything changed via Paris? Will the elites now respond to the largest global crisis in history? If not now then we are most certainly doomed. Runaway climate chaos will destroy civilization.

All manner of sustainable renewable energies were researched and developed in the 1970s during the OPEC oil embargo, including energy efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, and biomass. Solar is by far the largest energy source on earth, much larger than all fossil fuel reserves combined. One square meter of sunlight in Colorado climate is worth 2000 kWh/year. One m^2/year (the size of a folding card table) is worth more than one barrel of oil per year.

Solar glass mirrors are efficient at 96% and cost effective at $25/m^2. All glass solar concentrators cost about the same. Solar dishes are the most efficient at 91% or 80% with average dirt in the real world. Solar dishes can melt steel. Research indicates solar dish cost at about $100/m^2, less than $0.20/Watt. These numbers demonstrate solar energy cheaper than all types of fossil fuels.

Fast global scale up requires technology transfer for local autonomous integration, like building houses in India with local materials and local labor. New manufacturing is not needed for massive parallel construction using existing commodities and existing labor skills.

Solar steam can be used for district heating. With seasonal heat storage city-wide heat and hot water can be supplied all day the whole year. Whole cities can be 100% solar heated from solar collectors located 30 miles away. Other applications include absorption chilling air conditioning, industrial process heat, cooking food, water purification, and 20% of the energy can be power created with solid state generators (type III-V HIPV ~ high-intensity photovoltaic cells).

Solar concentrators are like airplanes and cars. They will evolve. It is a multi-trillion dollar global market.

Invention and innovation are as American as apple pie and the soupe du jour dans Paris. Let's get to work.

Google 'matrix solar dish' for more information on our open-source clean energy research.

--Doug Wood

--Sunflower 501(c)(3) nonprofit

Where is this innovation/innovator located at? Be as specific as you can (country and city).

Fox Island, WA USA

If you are an innovator, how can OpenIDEO support you? What are your current needs? If you are not an innovator, tell us what you do and what your needs are.

Tell the world about solar economics.

How did you find out about this challenge? (Check all that apply)

  • Email from OpenIDEO


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Photo of James Tyrer

The Green fairy tale sounds so good when you only mention the positive things and say nothing about the problems that remain unsolved and that are likely to remain unsolved for decades.  The sun still only shines in the daytime and storage of electric power is still too expensive to be practical on a large scale.  Yes, we can store heat, but that isn't exactly cheap either.  And, many industrial processes require heat at a higher temperature than can be supplied by steam.  Solar is not really the answer and saying that it is only delays the real solution.

Photo of Doug Wood

Borehole Thermal Energy Storage  ~ Community baseload solar heating in Northern Alberta.

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