The solar revolution

The burning answer, by Keith Barnham

Keith Barnham, ex-CERN physicist turned solar PV scientist and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College, London, makes a compelling case for wind, solar PV, tidal, biogas and biomass energy to provide the bulk of the UK’s future energy supply. Not only are solar PV and wind complementary, in that wind dominates in winter while solar PV dominates in summer, but solar PV generates power during daylight hours, when electricity demand is greatest. This means that electricity storage is often unnecessary, and power is generated near to where it is needed.

Methane produced from anaerobic digestion of food and organic wastes can be fed into the natural gas network. This prevents methane escaping into the atmosphere from rotting organic matter, while allowing methane’s potential energy to be captured and used. Keith is concerned that the disguised subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear (e.g. Contracts of difference), as well as the military aspects of nuclear are distorting UK energy policy. The extremely rapid increase in wind and solar PV power shows how quickly these benign sources of power can be put in place. Were more research funding and subsidies available to develop solar PV, artificial photosynthesis, ground source heat pump systems and geothermal energy, we could avoid having to build energy intensive nuclear reactor buildings, which leave a 300,000 year storage problem for future generations. While the full extent of these new technologies have yet established, they rather than the old established technologies, are likely to be the future.