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October 2022

Power from the Sun: It s Future

Journal/Book: SCIENCE Reprinted from 22 November 1968 Volume 162 pp. 857-861. 1968;

Abstract: The author is a mechanical engineer and bead of the Engineering Sciences Section at Arthur D. Little Inc. Cambridge Massachusetts. This article is adapted from a paper presented 13 August 1968 at the Intersociety Energy Conversion Engineering Conference Boulder Colorado. There are three major energy sources available to us today: fossil fuels nuclear energy and solar energy. Among these solar energy is basic to man's continued survival an earth. Although all life would cease should there be a decline in the radiation the earth receives from the sun solar energy as a significant source of power has not been utilized. We have been fortunate in that our reserves of fossil fuels have been sufficient to power the machines essential to start modern man an the upward spiral of technological progress. Because we have coal oil and natural gas the tremendous potential of solar energy has not yet been harnessed. Whether or not the human species will continue to expand could depend an our ability to develop alternative energy sources. Figure 1 shows the transitory nature of the energy which we will be able to derive from fossil fuels (1) . We can gain a better perspective by considering the annual consumption of energy from fossil fuels in recent history. Fossil fuels represent a finite reserve; the estimated width of the "fossil-fuel impulse function" is only a few hundred years. The decline in the usefulness of fossil fuels will occur when their availability has dropped to around 10 percent of the peak value. The precise location of this point is unimportant; what is important is recognition that the pulse width is a few hundred - years not thousands of years (2) . ... ___MH


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