The Universal Energy framework starts with renewables. Not just because they're versatile and easily accessible, nor because they boasts a historically unprecedented capability to generate clean energy. Rather, Universal Energy leverages renewables – specifically solar, wind and artificial hydroelectric – because of their ability to both integrate within large-scale infrastructure and power resource production as a municipal function.
This works across two areas of focus:
The first area is the integration of solar and wind power directly within urban, municipal infrastructure to remove the obstacles and cost limitations they face today. This is a critically important distinction to our current approach towards solar and wind power, which only provide 10% of energy production nationwide. While there are several reasons for this state of affairs, one of special significance is the economic and logistical challenges to implementing renewables over a large scale. An integrational approach avoids those challenges.
The second area is The National Aqueduct, a vital function of Universal Energy intended to transport desalinated water anywhere in the country by piggybacking on the pre-cleared and largely publicly owned land of our interstate highway system and high-tension power line networks. Further, the National Aqueduct acts as both a power plant and nationwide battery for renewable energy storage by deploying solar, wind, hydroelectric and thermoelectric functions within a single system dedicated to eradicating drought and water scarcity.
To see why this approach helps achieve a clean energy future, it's worth reviewing some of the more significant challenges with renewable energy today.
- Location and transmission. Electricity, like sound, weakens over distance due to resistance in transmission mediums – in our case, power lines. As a general rule, the farther electricity must travel, the harder it becomes to transmit. For example: there is sufficient open space in the American southwest to place enough solar panels to power the planet several times over. Yet delivering electricity from the southwest to locations thousands of miles away is both difficult and expensive. We can generate the energy, but we can’t efficiently get it from point A to point B. Even if more efficient power lines emerged, they would still cost millions of dollars to build per-mile. This means renewables are best deployed in locations close to where their generated energy is consumed.
- Deployment expense and physical space. Solar and wind power require relatively large areas of land to be useful. Given that they are best deployed in locations close to energy consumption points, this presents a secondary problem: land costs increase with population density. If land needs to be purchased for installation, the cost effectiveness of renewables proportionally reduces the closer they get to population centers. While eco-conscious households and businesses can install renewables by choice, that choice becomes harder for governments and power companies when land needs to be purchased. Investors and electorates tend to view highly expensive land purchases unfavorably, even to install renewable energy sources. So even as manufacturing costs of renewables continue to fall, the start-to-end implementation costs can remain high, both fiscally and politically.
- Storage. Solar and wind power can generate significant energy when its sunny or windy, but these technologies only function intermittently - making them difficult to rely on for instances of peak energy demand. While methods like batteries, pumped storage and solar-thermal troughs can be useful on smaller scales, there is not currently an effective energy storage medium that can function on a large or nationwide scale. The National Aqueduct is intended to address this problem while also serving as a secondary (and tertiary) means of power generation.
- Material throughput. Renewables require large volumes of materials to manufacture (10,000-15,000 metric tons per terawatt-hour), materials that further need to be extracted, transported and processed in a carbon-emitting supply chain. Further, this manufacturing process carries its own drawbacks in terms of toxic waste. Absent a massive carbon-neutral baseload power source such as thorium, the large-scale manufacture and recycling of renewable energy and the costs therein would present tremendous carbon emissions and ecological toxicity – even if they themselves generate carbon-neutral energy. Universal Energy’s deployment strategy of manufacturing renewables with carbon-neutral energy significantly reduces these costs and environmental implications.
These obstacles have slowed down the adoption of renewable power nationwide, and while advances in research and development have mitigated their impact to various degrees, they still remain substantial.
Universal Energy seeks to solve this problem by targeting large-scale infrastructure for renewable deployment – especially public infrastructure.
Public infrastructure is the ideal location to install renewables, as it solves the largest obstacles to their implementation: land, location, standardization and scale, with The National Aqueduct solving storage and thorium solving the challenge of carbon-neutral manufacturing.
Here’s why this is the case:
No need to buy land. Municipalities can install solar and wind on publicly owned property by their own volition. They don’t need to submit bids or seek permission to buy expensive private land – cities can simply use city funds to deploy renewables on city-owned property to generate municipally offered electricity as they deem fit.
Close to population centers. In most cases, city-owned property tends to be close to cities. Public infrastructure, then, zeroes out the distance between generation and consumption. No expensive power lines need to be constructed, there is no need to transport electricity over long distances. And as advances in material science now allow us to build solar panels that are completely transparent, we don’t need to sacrifice aesthetics to take this approach as windows, roofs or the surface of any infrastructure imaginable (stadiums, bridges, skyscrapers, buildings) can be integrated with renewable power.
Standardized manufacturing. Because renewables are so well-suited for large- scale infrastructure, this affords opportunities to build systems that can be mass-produced to a modular standard. Once you know exactly how something’s going to be implemented, it removes variables that add to unit cost and complexity – the end goal of any effective deployment strategy.