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Several news articles in ASCE's news feeds have caught my eye in the last week on the massive improvements that have been made in the price of solar and price of batteries, and expectation that prices will continue to fall; and that the technology exists today to decarbonize the grid. It feels like we could be at the incipient point of change. How can civil engineers contribute? What opportunities do you see? One idea might adaptable infrastructure to accommodate future solar panels and batteries. Articles that I've found interesting follow below.
Personally I have no problem with alternative energy options as long as they do not raise costs on consumers.
There are a lot of great advancements in both solar and battery technology. There have been new developments in making windows into solar panels to generate energy. For large buildings, like skyscrapers, this can help make the building more sustainable. Here is an article on the subject:
Using more sustainable energy sources, like solar, means as a society, we will be less dependent on fossil fuels, which is a good thing. But currently, the nation still maintains an entire infrastructure system for our fossil fuels. We have millions of gas stations, thousands of oil and gas refineries, and millions of miles of pipes to transport oil and gas throughout the country. As we transition to more sustainable resources, there will be an increased demand on our other energy supply system: electricity. At first, the more people not using oil and gas, will most likely be using more electricity in its place. Can our current electric grid handle this increased demand?
While the focus on "greener" infrastructure has been on renewable and more sustainable resources to generate electricity, there also needs to be a focus on improving and maintaining our electric grid. Ideally, the money we are currently sending on maintaining our oil and gas infrastructure could be used to improve our electric grid, but that seems unlikely to me.
------------------------------Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCEProfessional EngineerDurham NC------------------------------