Predictions from 2013: Energy and Manufacturing | Walter I Baltzley

2015-2019:  The Great Transition Begins

By 2015 commercial grade SOLAR CELLS hit 20% efficiency and cost less than $0.50 per watt, making them affordable for the average household.  However, battery technology remains relatively expensive, and FUEL CELLS are introduced into the market at comparative prices.  Fortunately, there is plenty of room in the market at this point for both technologies to co-exist.

Also by 2015 Micro-Reactor Plants and 3D Printing have become an integral part of every industry.  Early adopters realize huge gains in profit and market-share, while others race to catch up. Companies begin experimenting with connecting micro-reactors directly to 3D Printers…the beginnings of the DIGITAL MATTER NET.

By 2017 commercial grade solar hits 30% efficiency and cost around $0.25 per watt.  All new homes come with solar arrays built in.  Battery technology continues to get cheaper, and the first large-scale energy storage companies appear for solar utilities.  However, fuel cells are still cheaper for the average person.  They are used as backup generators for Solar, and begin to displace internal combustion engines.

Also in 2017, with encouragement from industry, governments begin discussion of building nation-wide Digital Matter-Nets.  Early industrial experiments have proven extremely effective.  This is seen as a way to increase economic competitiveness and create jobs, while at the same time improving efficiency and protecting the environment.  The motion passes with support from all sides.

2020-2029:  The Death of Fossil Fuels

By 2020 commercial grade solar hits 40% efficiency and costs around $0.10 per watt, and   battery technology has become cheap enough to compete with fuel cells.  However, fuel cells have a huge lead…about half of all new cars run on fuel cells, and half of new homes use fuel-cell backup generators.  Grid-Scale Storage companies become popular as people generate more power than they need.

Also by 2020, governments begin construction of nation-wide Digital Matter-Nets, to connect their primary industries.  Several major companies have already built their own private matter-nets and a standards war ensues.

By 2025, commercial grade solar hits 50% efficiency and costs around $0.05 per watt.  Some people begin using solar to produce hydrogen, which they then use in fuel cells to power their house and car.  Grid-Scale Storage companies start to lose customers because of this, and battery technology struggles to enter into the vehicle market.

Also by 2o25, Matter-Net standards are solidified, and most major companies have built their own local networks.  Some hobbyists begin connecting their personal printers to these networks.  Meanwhile governments have established a few major matter-net hubs, but face great technological and social challenges.  People begin to protest that the technology might destroy jobs or threaten the environment.

2030-2039:  Race to the Matter-Net

By 2030 commercial grade solar hits 60% efficiency and costs $0.02 per watt.  All new buildings and vehicles have integrated solar-hydrogen or solar-battery systems.  Few fossil fuel plants…mostly natural gas…remain, and there is no intention to keep them running for much longer.  In addition, there are rising environmental concerns about solar.

Also by 2030, matter-net construction is full swing despite opposition.  Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have already built matter networks throughout their countries, but China, India, and the United States are competing to see who can get caught up the fastest.  Small and mid-sized businesses start connecting to the matter-net as hobbyists become entrepreneurs.

By 2o35 commercial grade solar hits 70% efficiency and costs $0.01 per watt.  People produce far more energy than they need, and it becomes popular to “donate” energy to charitable causes…such as environmental restoration, space exploration, and ending poverty.  Studies are conducted on the impact of large-scale solar on global warming, pollution, and water run-off.

Also by 2035, the United States completes the world’s first trans-continental matter-net trunk line.  There is great fanfare as gold nano-particles are sent from mines in California to printers in New York and Washington DC to make replicas of the Statue of Liberty and a bust of George Washington respectively.  Flanked by Solar Cells, it is visible from space and displaces the Great Wall of China as one of the seven wonders of the world.  Because of the press, the early majority rushes to get connected.

2040-2049:  The Age of Abundance

By 2040 commercial grade solar hits 80% efficiency and costs only half a cent per watt.  At this point 90% of people already produce and store their own power, and such advancements are met with little enthusiasm.  Wind and tidal farms are being dismantled because maintenance costs more than replacing them with solar.  However, there is growing environmental concern over large-area solar arrays and underground battery storage.

Also by 2040 the Digital Matter-Net is growing rapidly as small businesses and everyday people get connected.  There is a growing market for 3D scanners, printers, inks, and software.  Everything is printed…from Buildings and airplanes to computers and cell-phones…and plans for just about anything can be downloaded for free.

2050:  Moving Beyond Earth

By 2050, commercial solar cells hit 90% efficiency, but nobody notices because everyone prints their own solar cells and they are practically free.  We should see the first space-based solar arrays being built for industry as more and more pressure is put on companies to reduce their “Solar Footprint”.  We may also see the first industrial operations on the moon, and the advent of personal space-stations.

Also by 2050, we should see the beginning of Digital Matter-Net 2.0 as people reach the limits of the original technology.  Trillions of tons of matter are moved daily around the globe.  With 3D printing, we will likely build mega-skyscrapers…giant buildings that reach a mile above and below ground…with tens of thousands of apartments, each bigger than many mansions today.   We will create amazingly rural cities with hanging gardens and vertical farms.  We will make everything locally with materials sent from all over the world, and get all our power from the sun.

— Walter Baltzley, 2013

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