Updated: Apr 22
By: Connor Sanborn, Co-Founder of SunFlower LLC
If you haven’t yet: check out the introductory post for this series — it lays the groundwork for Parts 1-4 exploring the limitless potential of the world of tomorrow.
A Tangle of Wires!
Flashback to 1909 in the city… wait, also 2019! I bet if you looked outside, you’d have found a jumble of black wires connected to a tall wooden pole, possibly with some funky looking cylindrical silvery-grey spacebox on it, attached for good measure. You probably knew that all of these things carried electricity around, but almost certainly not from where. If your wires ran underground, you were lucky enough to witness a glimpse of the future: 2076 — a time when our energy flows all around us and is generated by us, unimpeded by miles and miles of towering wire, electrical resistance and property lines.
Ever get anxiety over losing your phone’s charging cord? Fear not! Everything charges wirelessly in 2076. Power beaming over distance was finally cracked, thanks in large to the military. The technology was dispersed to the civilian power grid and is helping us in unimaginable ways. Heatwaves ubiquitously known to stress electrical grids - with everyone’s AC cranked to the max - are no longer an issue. The terms ‘brownout’ and ‘rolling blackouts’ lost their meaning due to the multitude of distributed energy resources around the cities, supporting a network of reserves lasting their occupants months; this is true energy resilience, true energy independence.
Since the first Industrial Revolution, power had to be generated — and energy stored — with lots of prior thought. Scientists understood all too well that additional resources wouldn’t just come down from the heavens upon request, after all. Jump to 2076: thanks to the sweet (cold) embrace of outer space — where it’s truly always sunny — solar farms orbiting the planet transmit the most efficiently harvested PV energy around back down to Earth, just when our cities need it most. This minimizes the power losses and disruptions that cost lives during the dreaded heatwaves. After the infamous COVID-19 outbreak in the 20s, humans gradually became aware of just how fragile the notion of existence really is, prompting some outside-the-box thinking and scientific imagination to ensure a stable immediate future for Earth’s biosphere while allowing us to continue adapt as a species. Some of this meant preparing for interplanetary & interstellar travel; the rest, however, called for a more inwardly-focused examination of our problems and destructive interference with nature, here, on Earth.
For starters, all electricity transmission and distribution wires are buried underground: safe from man, machine and mother nature. These days, the wires are made from twisted 2D-graphene sheets and produced with the raw material of atmospheric carbon, or CO2 (as it turns out, there was a lot of extra left over up there from previous generations). The abundance of graphene enables power traveling long distances to be revamped at superconducting substations, minimizing electrical losses along the way and saving on the price of electricity for everyone. Electrical energy is almost ‘too cheap to meter’ now, just under one penny per kilowatt-hour ($0.01/kWh) thanks to a vast supply of renewable and sustainable energy in localities around the world.
Grid 2 — The Power Mix
The cycle of burning deep Earthly combustibles perpetuated by humans for 300 years came to an end around 2060, heralding a new age of sustainable energy resilience for our species. What now then: simply solar, wind, hydro everything up — call it a day? Not exactly! Welcome to Grid 2, where even your footsteps on the streets contribute to the greater energy needs of modern society.
2076 hosts a world with a trillion-node energy system known as ‘Grid 2’. The enormity of nodes — energy harvest and storage waypoints — comprise the framework of a globally developed energy generation and trading platform based on hundreds of different renewable energy forms existing across society. Scattered about the continents amongst people’s everyday items and places of habitance, these renewable systems capture available energy from the surrounding environment and distribute it based on a ‘lowest carbon outcome’ algorithm that is specific to the area.
Nowadays, someone’s excess renewable energy is almost always nearby and readily available for purchase via a public ledger, and there’s a huge benefit to this. The IoT has enabled all of our devices to measure and document their consumption and sale of not only data, but electricity too — and proof of it all exists on the blockchain. Transaction transparency and efficiency is the name of the game, and my neighbor actually gets paid extra when I utilize their excess solar energy at a reduced rate! Thanks to this win-win, you can safely say sayonara to the energy transmission and distribution fees of the past.
Sure, we could power the world with just sun, wind and water — but why stop there, and where’s the fun in that? In addition to the old, conventional renewable resources, scientists have actualized some (once very outlandish) ideas as legitimate energy supplies t