One of the major challenges facing the global energy sector is the amount of time it takes to develop new energy resources. Even if you didn’t care about the negative externalities, environmental impacts or climate change contributions of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, it takes a long time (and billions of dollars) to drill deep holes, excavate or detonate massive mines, build pipelines and railways, construct power plants and high-voltage power lines … as a famous recent American President and avowed fossil fuel aficionado likes to say, “It’s hard work.”
Which brings us to a major and under-appreciated advantage that most clean energy technologies have over traditional, “let’s burn more rocks” resources like coal and oil: speed to market. Because there are no pollution concerns and related air quality permitting requirements, renewable energy projects can be developed with lightning speed – especially medium-sized commercial projects where the power will be used on-site.
Just how fast? Real fast. As in very, very fast. OK, maybe that’s not clear enough for you – I’ll admit, it’s hard to describe exceptionally velocitous rapidity with mere adjectives. For a sample of speed, watch as two solar roofing engineers with California-based roofing contractor DRI Energy install 2.25 kilowatts’ worth of their proprietary Lumeta PowerPly modules on a roof in San Leandro in just under 35 minutes:
The key innovation in the Lumeta PowerPly is the use of standard roofing adhesives to affix the modules to the roof, rather than traditional racking systems. There are two advantages here – one, roofers everywhere work with these adhesives, and so are familiar with their performance and how to use and install them; and two, by eliminating the drilling and bolts associated with a racking system, the contractor not only saves a ton of time (did I mention this installation went up fast?), but also saves the integrity of the roof system: the last thing you should want to pay for is to have someone go up on your roof and put a bunch of holes in it.
And this is just the beginning. The emergence of time-saving innovations in the clean energy industry is likely to step up in the coming years as demand for the services escalates along with concerns about global warming and energy costs. And the fossil industry moves about as fast as … well, about as fast as a fossil. If the Lumeta PowerPly is any indication of what’s to come, I’ll bet that over the next few years, the clean energy sector will reach scale and start operating with a full head of steam. The fossil fuels fossils won’t know what hit ‘em.
(This post is now available Digg-free at Calling All Ants)