Walter Kohn, Ph.D., a Nobel Laureate, expects direct wind and solar power to become the world’s main sources of energy over the next decades. The last decade has already seen an increase of factor 90 for solar and factor 10 for wind energy.
This new Sol/Wind era is brought about by the need to satisfy our ever-growing need for power and the finiteness of traditional sources. He expects oil and natural gas production to peak in about 10-30 years from now, followed by a rapid decline. Kohn explained at a special symposium at the American Chemical Society’s 240th National Meeting that this new era in human history is the result of two unprecedented global challenges faced by humankind: a global shortage of accessible and acceptable power and the dangers associated with climate change.
Facing these challenges requires a truly global response, which Kohn reckons is finally beginning to evolve with scientific and technical work enjoying more and more international cooperation. Across the world researchers work towards the provision of safe, clean and carbon-free affordable alternative energies.
Kohn, who is with University of California, Santa Barbara, also considered the striking difference of energy consumption between the developed and developing world. “A striking example is the U.S. per capita consumption of gasoline, approximately 5 times higher than the global average,” he said.
In order to raise poor countries onto a standard of living similar to that of the highly developed countries he also sees a need for those countries to stabilize their growing populations. Developed countries, where population has pretty much leveled off, will still face a necessary reduction in per capita energy consumption. Improved efficiencies, as well as conscious use of resources, are major issues for all countries.
Another point Kohn was keen to make was his impression of young people in the area of energy conservation and energy efficiency, who are dedicated and see the solution of our energy needs as the major social commitment for our time. He was impressed by students who spent their own collective funds to fully solarize an athletic building.
Personally, I fully share his view in all aspects. In reality, our energy needs have always been satisfied by the sun which provides us, if indirectly, with all traditional sources of energy. Now it’s time to use this solar energy directly through photovoltaics and wind turbines. And especially when considering the commitment and dedication of many students and professionals I come across daily in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency I believe the transition towards the new Sol/Wind era will benefit people across the world and turn around the destiny of humankind.