Powering the Planet

2012 ,    »  -   19 Comments
Ratings: 8.01/10 from 67 users.

The number of humans on Earth has now passed seven billion. And world energy usage is estimated to inflate more than 25% during the next 15 years, and probably will nearly double by the year 2050. But how much energy we need to exploit, and how we extract it, relies upon the decisions we make now. And those energy decisions have effects on Earth's climate. We already see the possibilities of the 21st century renewable energy. But, today, most of the big and powerful nations still heavily depend on 19th century technologies.

Some creative strategies demonstrate that wind can supply entire communities with power. And control, conservation and effectiveness can cut projected world energy requirements 30% by 2030. But how to achieve that on a massive scale? That's not just a scientific issue, but relies upon political, economic, cultural, national, and security decisions made by real people living in the real world.

Geologist Richard Alley is one of the many climate authorities who accepts the fact that the ongoing human energy models on Earth are warming the planet. But he also believes that the answers are out there... in the wind, in the sun, and in the heads of the scientists, discoverers, designers, architects and engineers.

Planet Earth is flooded with inexhaustible energy. The oceans conserve heat and produce wave and tidal power. Plants harvest sunlight and accumulate its energy in various forms. The Sun heats the atmosphere and therefore generates wind which we can exploit. But the largest and most hopeful energy source is the Sun itself.

Sunlight bathing the Earth's crust offers about 120,000 terawatts. If the Sun's energy were disseminated evenly around the world, it would average around 240 watts per square meter. Frank Shuman was the first scientist who, around 1910, invented machinery that could focus sunlight on metal tubes, heat liquid, and run a steam turbine. The steam drove a 75 horsepower engine that pumped water from a river to irrigate the soil.

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19 Comments / User Reviews

  1. 1concept1

    I designed solar energy - passive and active - when Jimmy Carter was president of the US - I loved that business number one because I am a Sun Worshiper - and number two - It just makes common sense -

    Every time we sold a system and installed it i remember how good that made me feel - (Amen Ra)

    The Money Punk killed it - no profit in free renewable energy -

    The next president after Carter removed the solar panels off the white house - I didn't know that until just recently - relatively speaking -

  2. Frasier

    Why no nuclear? How bout some LFTR.

  3. happyMephisto

    this doc is a pipe dream.So far,the sun (or anything else)) replacing fossil fuel remains only talk.They had better get moving.

  4. bringmeredwine

    Reagan dismantled them, but Obama replaced them in 2013:)
    Or should I say, their administrations did.
    Can't picture either man up on that roof, rolling up their sleeves!
    We used solar panels to heat our pool for years.

  5. 1concept1

    I didn't know that - If his administration replaced them he replaced them - the way I see it -

    True President Obama didn't replace them but I can't see him having some one take them down -

    The Good News there back up!! thank you for informing me bringmeredwine -

  6. carter

    when was this documentary made? So much for China's revolution

  7. Hussain Fahmy

    The old adage; if there is will, there is a way to power our way out of the environmental pollution.

  8. happyMephisto

    I,m afraid that democracy,freedom,hardwork,education,free enterprise and competition has out smarted a failed species.Like the man who is drinking a liter day and smoking three packs telling everyone that someone some day will find a cure.When in fact the only result for choosing obesity can be increasing deterioration and pulverization by an extremely vexed eco-system.Convenience today creates little will for tomorrow.

  9. bringmeredwine

    I live in Northern Ontario. At the present time, I have been forced to heat my home with electricity and it is financially devastating.
    If we keep extracting oil from Alberta, we are dooming this planet.

  10. NX2

    Since two years i'm heating my home with electricity also, due to the landlord not very keen on repairing the gas kettle. I feared for having to pay a lot more, but to my surprise, i actually have to pay less.

  11. bringmeredwine

    Back in the 80's it was a cheap source of heat, and Canadian home owners were encouraged to go that route.
    Now someone is getting very, very rich and it ain't me! I'm happy for you:)

  12. Bozman419

    Sadly... If we stop producing oil, most of us will be done for. All though rising energy prices has made living of the grid the new trend to follow. Now if we could just find a way to get 7 billion people on board. /sigh

  13. a_no_n

    Sunlight bathing the Earth's crust offers about 120,000 terawatts. If
    the Sun's energy were disseminated evenly around the world, it would
    average around 240 watts per square meter.

    unfortunatly this is not the case...Yes technically it's correct, but practically it's a naive misunderstanding of how solar power works.

    Solar RADIATION is what the panels pick up on, and radiation bathes the earth in rings which grow stronger the nearer they get to the equator.

    This is why northern countries, like Canada, the Northern states, Scandinavia the UK and Russia will never be able to rely on Solar energy, because they are not in the bands where the radiation is strong enough for the panels to be any use.

    There is also quite alarming suggestions surfacing surrounding the impact of large scale Solar panel farms on the immediate environment around them...

  14. anna miller

    I wonder where we might be today, if the solar panels on the White House had not been ripped off by Regan.

  15. brianbigelow

    I live here in Colorado and about 14% of all of our electric power comes from wind turbines which are also built here in Colorado. I think there's 5,000 employed in the industry here so it's creating a lot of jobs. There's another 400 megawatt wind farm going in just east of Colorado Springs now which will increase the amount of electric coming from wind power for the state.

    So far I haven't seen any rate increases because of wind energy but I have here in this town because our local utility switched over to natural gas. There was a fire in the main city power plant which is coal powered so they had to shut it down. The rate increase is 7%.

    I'm not going to say wind energy is perfect, it's far from it. We get a lot of wind out on the plains and it's not like the cows can't graze around the bases of the turbines. It seems to be working here anyway. It's obvious to me we're going to have multiple sources for energy in the future instead of our relying on a single one. Let's just say one of our sources of energy is cut off, we'll say oil, what are we going to do then? I remember the gas lines of the 70's because of the embargo.

  16. jillzzzz

    Wind is an excellent idea, for sonoma county. All these city leaders do is debate and argue. Its all about $

  17. mike

    carbon tax / green tax, road tax, vehicle tax, bedroom tax, food tax.... = more money for governments

  18. mike

    global warming is a myth. its made up to create the carbon tax = money for governments.

    going off-grid for yourself = self sustaining. money saving. fking the oil companies over.

    the world is run by money. we`re programmed to chase money. to use it. to spend it on things we dont need.

    the only way thing will change is if you vote with your feet. the way we grow food needs to change, but the government put chemicals in them to dumb us down.

    even if we had unlimited power - we`re being fked psychologically by the powers that be.

    we need to grow our own food. filter our own water.

    but, most of all - we need to overthrow the governments and oil companies.

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