Daft Old Duffer: Abracadabra

Daft Old Duffer is back and this week talking energy and where we might be getting it from in the future.

Daft Old Duffer returns. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed

Whatever the outcome of the great ‘global warming’ debate, it has stimulated ideas that will materially affect us all. And in ways we can scarcely imagine.

Saharan solar dream
The first and perhaps greatest of these is the proposal being seriously considered by all the major players, for a huge solar power generation plant sited in the Sahara desert and feeding into a Europe-wide power grid.

And feeding into that same grid would be all the other providers, such as the large sea-based wind turbines already being installed, wave and tide generators etc.

Which means that limitless energy will be on tap everywhere, from Eastern Europe to the Orkneys.

While, hopefully, there will no longer any need for large power stations scattered about the place, nuclear fuelled or otherwise. Though I suspect there may still be a need for small stand-by plants, based on gas or oil or coal.

Plug it in
The second revolution, I suggest, will be in personal transport.

At least six major car manufacturers are planning to begin the mass production of electric cars in the very near future. With one of them claiming for its model a 300 mile range (perhaps however we might regard such a claim in the same way we regard Internet providers with their ‘up to 20 meg’).

It’s obvious in any case that electric propulsion will soon be competing on equal terms with the petrol and diesel engine.

And eventually perhaps winning.

All change up top
Makers of photo-voltaic cells say they are on the verge of a breakthrough on the efficiency front and that soon we will be using them in our everyday lives.

On car roofs presumably – thereby reducing the need for batteries. And on house and office and factory roofs as well.

Fabric friction
Third in importance I would put power-generating clothing.

There is already on the market a material that generates a small electric current when moved.

Soon we should be able to wear clothes that power up our small gadgets – cellphone, tablet and whatever other must-have that pops up on the market – merely with the natural movements of our bodies.

Incorporating broadcast power – such as we already use to remote control our televisions – we should soon be switching on our gadgets and our room lights just by pointing a finger.

These are just the ideas that have surfaced thus far. Doubtless there will be many others, equally revolutionary.

Soon we’ll all be Merlins.

Image: Alice Popkorn under CC BY 2.0

Opinion Piece

Saturday, 2nd March, 2013 12:40pm


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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. peaceful_life

    2.Mar.2013 1:48pm

    We seem to of moved on from our hydrocarbon panacea.

    It’s like walking on to the set of tommorows world isn’t it.

    Of course it perfectly understandable for one to drift into cornucopian confuddlement when presented with myths.

    We might yet have the solar farms in outer space, we could maintain them while we’re on asteroid mining exercise ( a task put forward in all seriousness by a ‘top’ ‘economist’).

    Perhaps we might first want to look at the fact that over 6 million people in the UK alone are living in energy poverty (in relative terms), maybe we could crunch the numbers on how many solar megawatts it takes to fuel the number of foodbanks that seem to be the only ‘growing’ industry right now.

    Maybe we could stick some hydro turbines next to the accelerated arctic ice melts, a bit pointless letting all that debatable climate entropy go to waste, lets face it…we’re going to need something as a baseload to power our levitating ambulances servicing a non existent NHS.

    Perhaps then, we would be better to focus our energies on the climate between our ears, this might enable us to distinguish between a quality of life, and a standard of living. Even as Dorothy clicked yer techno slippers to the tune of the wizards lever pulling, she was always better off back on the homestead tending the land.

  2. Lovely phrase, peaceful_life, “Better to focus our energies on the climate between our ears”.

    • Quite agree. The distinction between “a quality of life, and a standard of living” provokes some thought, too. Some might prefer the Emerald City to tending the land, though!

  3. “Which means that limitless energy will be on tap everywhere, from Eastern Europe to the Orkneys”

    I feel obliged to point out that there was so little wind over the weekend that wind turbines in the UK became net consumers of energy (as they require maintenance power, which was more than they were generating). Given that tidal power is not full-time, that it gets dark, even in the Sahara, and that waves are not always, er, waving, I feel we shall be reliant on coal, gas and nuclear for some time yet.

    Unfortunately, our obeisance to the EU means that we have to turn off some major power stations, including Fawley, in the next 12-18 months. I’ve no doubt that the ensuing black-outs will concentrate minds wonderfully…

  4. peaceful_life

    4.Mar.2013 12:42pm

    @James P.

    ‘Some might prefer the Emerald City to tending the land, though’!

    Absolutly, and here in lays the problem, the obsession with the Emerald city has led to the wholesale destruction of the land, the same land that gives rise and upkeep of the Emerald city itself.

    Speculation doesn’t run an economy, neither does it steward ecology.



    • Yes but, no but..

      Not sure if you’re objecting to urbanisation or industrialisation, but there’s still plenty of farmland left, even in our crowded Isles.

      “Wholesale destruction” is a little way off yet, although I agree that it could be better organised, and a bit more credit given to those who use it to feed us.

  5. “It’s obvious in any case that electric propulsion will soon be competing on equal terms with the petrol and diesel engine”

    Maybe one day, DOD, but until then I’ve two words for you: energy density. A good Lithium rechargeable battery can store about 200 watt-hours per kg while petrol and diesel can store nearly 13000, or 65 times as much. That means that 100kg of fuel can take a medium-sized car over 1000 miles, while a 100kg battery could take it 17 miles…

  6. @jamesP

    Agree with your view on EU making us close down our power stations….if only the UK had the same attitude to the rules and regulations as the French

  7. peaceful_life

    5.Mar.2013 9:08pm


    Wether I object or not is more-or less a moot point, but the numbers and physics tells us that the current models of urbanisation and industrialisation… were only ever temporary at best.
    Gail Tverberg here…. “Unconventional fossil fuels, and other low EROEI sources, cannot ultimately sustain a society complex enough to produce them.”

    Plus the fact that suplying those models using current methods, is indeed, extremely de-structive.
    ‘The tradition in agriculture has been to maximize production and minimize the cost of food with little regard to impacts on the environment and the services it provides to society’

    ‘It is clear that the soil degradation and erosion being recorded in Britain is largely a direct result of several decades of increasingly intensive conventional farming’

    This is just agriculture we’re touching on here.

    Indeed there is plenty of land within our isles, ownership and costs present another set of issues, and as alluded to.. there’s the situation with stewardship.As we take in the rolling feild areas of AONB from up on the downs, what we’re actually seeing is a microorganism desert, and addicted land.

    I agree with you entrirely with crediting those that produce our food for us.
    A skilled permaculturist, agro-ecologist etc etc etc.. should be held in very high social esteem, and rewarded (perhaps just by listening to them) accordingly for that skill, that’s how we can feed ourselves as well as increase biodiversity and everything else.


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