Why Solar: Gazing into the Alberta winter of 2040

Snow falls quietly on a cold winter’s eve in the year 2040. The highway is busy; headlights illuminate the driving lanes from both directions, traffic noise is low dominated by the hum of electric motors transporting commuters. The cacophony of internal combustion engines only occasionally erupts in the darkness, the sound, a scarce relic of the past.

Charging lanes, with their overhead power lines, light up with sparks as tractor trailer units raise their pantograph to charge their exhausted batteries while in route. Service stations ply the sides of gasoline alley, dispensing hydrogen, charging stations, or fresh electrolyte for vehicles using the latest in flow batteries, and infrequently blue fuels produced from air and hydrogen.

The countryside is dotted with large photovoltaic arrays, wind farms, and pumped storage facilities seemingly on every hill of size. With the technical issues of fusion being addressed, finally, civilization and the environment benefit from the suns nuclear process 24/7. Recently two new reactors came on line to serve the masses.

Above the clouds, electric aircraft ply the skies, whisking travelers bound for holidays, business, or reunion with loved ones. The weather is cooler; the carbon content of the air is starting to dip below the 400 ppm mark, due in large part to the massive carbon capture, sequestration, and recycling plants dotting the landscape. Atmospheric carbon once thought to be un-mineable now provides materials, income, and jobs for citizens.

Oil and gas sites still scatter the land, most having never been decommissioned. Instead as the need for oil decreased and marginal wells became unprofitable, they were repurposed, their allotted space covered with solar arrays, wind turbines, or geothermal equipment. Electricity generated by the state-of-the-art equipment is used to power fuel cells which produce hydrogen to fill the existing pipeline infrastructure. Hydrogen, nature’s most abundant element now replacing the hydrocarbon of years past, feed stock for the new burgeoning green economy.

Larger oil sites, which in past decades would have been scrapped, are now converted into carbon recovery systems. Huge fan structures pulling in vast quantities of ambient air, recover the carbon dioxide to produce all types of raw materials for manufacturing. New industrial plants have filled up swaths of industrial real estate creating products for the worlds markets from the raw material recovered by the direct air capture facilities.

Alberta, larger in land mass than most nations, smaller in population than most cities is now its own country, profiting massively from technologies innovative residents had the foresight to implement. Oil revenues initially funded the research, the tax breaks given early adopters and the technical innovators stimulated innovation and ingenuity like never before.

Government’s initiatives had facilitated, and entrepreneurs in the private sector around the province had triumphed. They had made Alberta the “silicon valley” of the energy industry. They had tackled difficult environmental GHG issues while simultaneously addressing the ubiquitous problem of employment and economic growth.

A fantasy, probably; however, is it possible our economic and political leaders are sagacious enough to see this opportunity?

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@carbon2solar.com

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