Oil fields could be supplemented by fuel farms and gas stations may become energy
stations in the next 10 years, according to an Ohio-based technology company.
A panel of experts from Battelle recently identified the most significant energy
innovations they see as possible by the year 2010. Of course electric cooperatives
are keeping a close eye on all these developments, to see how they might be used
to benefit co-op consumers. Here’s the top 10 list compiled by Steve Millett,
who manages forecasts for Battelle:
A shifting energy industry structure.
Technological and other innovations in the energy industry are leading to a
convergence of the electric, gas, telecommunications, and water industries.
This could result in one-stop shopping for those services.
With $2-a-gallon gas prices still fresh in the minds of consumers, hybrid
cars that can use a combination of fuels (such as gasoline and batteries) and
could get 80 miles a gallon, could create a lot of converts.
Smart energy management systems.
Just as computers and the Internet are changing the economy, they’ll change
energy systems in the future. They also will play vital roles in efficiency
of energy production and distribution systems such as pipelines, refineries,
power plants, and transmission lines.
Distributed power generation.
Residents and businesses are demanding more reliable power sources. The economic
cost of a power disruption in information-driven businesses like finance and
e-commerce is extremely high. Power may be generated locally for neighborhoods
and individual residences and businesses, via microturbines, internal combustion
engines, and fuel cells.
In the past 10 years there has been a lot of progress in the technology of fuel
cells, which use a relatively efficient and clean process to convert fuels like
natural gas into electricity. Much more progress needs to be made in the next
10 years, but these systems are expected to provide power at competitive rates
while drastically reducing the impact of power generation on the environment.
Gas to liquid conversion.
Scientists predict the development of chemical engineering processes to transform
hydrocarbon compounds from gases to liquids. This technology offers an economically
attractive way to convert natural gas from remote locations into easily transported
Batteries will continue a 20-year trend of advancements into the next decade.
These next-generation batteries will be based on lithium polymer technology
and have about three times as much energy capability as those currently on the
market. These developments will play a more crucial role as we make the transition
to hybrid and electric vehicles. Consumers also will see better batteries for
laptop computers and cell phones.
The use of bioengineered crops for fuels will be hurried along by a genetic
revolution that permits cultivation of crops to produce fuels such as ethanol.
Gasoline will be “grown” to lessen dependence on imported oil.
People have heard about this for a long time and it still seems to be
around the next corner. It’s considered the ultimate sustainable energy form.
Expect to see substantial improvements over the next decade.
Methane hydrate crystal mining.
Geologists have discovered rich deposits of frozen natural gas crystals on the
ocean bottom. Tapping this reserve would be a huge leap in the ability to provide
energy for the future.
A more in-depth version of the report can be found on the Internet at www.battelle.org/news/00/07-26-00ENERGY.stm.