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Low-cost large-scale renewable energy

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact David MacKay.

This conference will present some researches, in the field of renewable energies, which are directly focused on their economic viability as a prominent part of our future energy mix.

First, we will discuss renewables’ main challenge, which is that they are diffuse and intermittent. This puts some conditions onto their possible use, but doesn’t totally forbid it. The first conclusion will be that a better classification could be among whether a process is facing physical limitations with the aim of ensuring all mankind’s energy needs, or not.

Second, “solar chimneys” will be presented, mainly from a physicist’s point of view. Beyond them, experience in this field could be useful to develop an even less known concept, “meteorological reactors”.

Third, some features of the economies of scale issue will be discussed from the example of the sector where it is most important : photovoltaics, both because they’re expensive today, and because their production growth will be several orders of magnitude before their contribution to our energy needs become significant. The final target (cost-effective or not for a 10000 GW production?) and the last step before it are the most crucial questions.

Is the idea of a “factory of factories” a good answer? Two issues are related to it. First, the “economies of scale” Vs “learning by doing” analysis of the learning curves. Second, the idea of using the CO2 emission tradable certificates to back up the commercial risk of such a project.

This talk is part of the Inference Group series.

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