Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's So Easy, Fleeing Green

I was extremely surprised and pleased to find out this morning that an article I had submitted to NASA Tech Briefs was accepted and published today through one of their online channels, Green Design & Manufacturing.

My article, "Generating Energy Innovation: Disrupting the Alternatives" explores the current state of several mainstays of alternative energy (solar and wind), and how recent advances hold promise to not only challenge the convention energy complex of fossil fuels, but also disrupt the green movement itself.

All too often in the industries and technologies in which I work, I see that the pursuit of technical innovation is sometimes blurred with agendas that are adjacent to the goal, and often pose something of a distraction.

In the case of alternative energy, many in my generation were introduced to the coming energy crises (more as a function of population growth rather and increasing energy utilization) by educational films such as Frank Capra's "Our Mr. Sun", part of the classic Bell Science series. Over the years, converting to alternative energy sources became a brand identity with the green movement. It was the responsible thing to do, because it meant we would be using less oil. However, using less oil was never the original goal. Solar energy was looked to as a supplement that could delivery far more of our growing energy needs, if it could be harnessed more effectively.

Some of the latest developments in solar and wind technologies are figuring out just that. In this article, I've written about several companies that are on a rapid track to compete with and displace conventional energy sources, not because they want to save the planet, but on the basis of yield and profitability. For these and other companies like them, saving the planet is a (great) fringe benefit - and one we'll be able to celebrate for generations.

It's a reminder that in the pursuit of any technical innovation, that knowing when and how to (re)prioritize design opportunities and constraints can mean the difference between myopically satisfying an agenda, or having the clear vision to fill a much greater need.