Thursday, March 29, 2012

TEDx talk: People, Power, Area

- how the laws of Physics constrain our sustainable energy options
TEDx Warwick 2012 (18 minutes). [Original slides are also available here]
TED David MacKay


Andrew Harmsworth said...

Great presentation - as always!

Re: How wide would the biofuel plantation be?

Is it worth adding that in order to grow all that biofuel, we would have to consume vast amounts of chemicals produced energy-intensively from fossil fuel oil as well? Or was your calculation based on organic biofuel methods?

Colin said...

Personally, I found this video very interesting, if a tad depressing!

Having the sources for the information would have been good, plus if we can all seriously halve our energy consumption then this, combined with improvements in technology and energy capture, should make the situation less dire.

What I missed from the video was an recognition/estimate of transmission loss. Shuffling energy around the country, on a wide variety of systems, is wasteful. It is the equivalent of Water Boards suggesting we conserve every drop of water, while allowing pipeline losses.

I feel micro-generation is a possibly useful route to energy security and agree that people do have to stop hankering after the idyll: wind farms and solar panels are here to stay. Perhaps not covering half the UK, but 20 years from now they will be as noticeable as lamposts.

David MacKay FRS said...

To Colin - yes, having sources would be good, and that's what my book, Sustainable Energy - without the hot air contains! It is free online. And it addresses transmission losses (which are generally exaggerated in fact - the UK electricity system's transmission losses are about 8%, and most of those losses are in the local grid, not in the long-distance bits!); and it addresses micro-generation (which some people have unrealistic views about).

Anonymous said...


Understanding your point that wind energy generated is less dense than many other sources, I still find myself wondering whether your example in the talk is base on offshore or onshore wind generation? I assume onshore, as you were using equivalent land-area to work your examples.

With Many Thanks.