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Innovation

Moore's Law is the hole card in green revolution

Solar technologies respond to Moore's Law because solar panels are made using the same technology as computer chips. Carbon energy only benefits from the mass production economics of the last century.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Forget climate change a moment. Ignore that oil spill out in the Gulf. Try not to think of polar bears slipping on ever-smaller chunks of ice and disappearing under the waves.

What will really make green technology dominant is Moore's Law. (To the right Gordon Moore, from Wikipedia. His biography says he likes fishing. Who doesn't?)

Solar technologies respond to Moore's Law because solar panels are made using the same technology as computer chips. If you like thin film transistors you're going to love thin film solar cells.

There are even wind technologies that respond to the innovation driving Moore's Law, like direct drive turbines that are vastly more efficient than what came before.

That may be one reason why tech companies like Intel, GE and Google are driving the green revolution. They live with and understand the economics of Moore's Law in ways Exxon can't.

Carbon energy only benefits from the mass production economics of the last century. Improvements are arithmetic, not geometric. Doubling the output of a coal mine at this point means doubling the costs, doubling the number of trucks and the number of miners. The only Moore's Law effect in oil is Moore's Second -- as we go into deeper water and harsher environments costs rise exponentially.

The best Moore's Law effects may lie in efficiency.

PCs today are made exclusively with what we used to call laptop technology, not just because it's low power but because it means there is less heat within circuits. But Moore's Law effects also drive development of smart grid technology (which is computerized), and of sensors that can measure and respond to changing needs and demands.

As any form of energy rises in price, the payback from any move to reduce energy use gets a shorter payback period. The money I put into insulating my own home 3 years ago isn't all back, but every rise in natural gas prices brings that break-even point closer.

There is completely non-political acceleration throughout the green economy, in other words, that does not exist in the carbon economy. Research will only create further acceleration.

The carbon system is doomed.

NOTE: The first link in the story is to a piece by CNET's Martin Lamonica, at our GreenTech blog. This article was inspired by that piece.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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