The Challenges and Opportunites of Meeting the World Power Requirements in the 21st Century

Texas Space Grant Consortium Advanced Design Program

Dr. David R. Criswell
Director - Institute of Space Systems Operations
Associate Director - Texas Space Grant Consortium
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204-5505
713-743-9135 / fax - 9134

World Power Challenges and Opportunities

The 1.3 billion people of the developed nations use approximately 5.7 kW/person of power to enable their high standards of living. On average, the other 4.3 billion people use less than 1 kW/person. These 4.3 billion other people are strongly motivated, primarily through the examples provided by the developed nations, to raise their standard of living. Meeting their needs will require a vast increase in the production of power. Total world power production in 1985, mostly thermal, is equivalent to approximately 11,100 GW (G = 10^9).

It is likely that 10^10 Earthlings will inhabit our planet in 2050. Employing today's technologies and energy sources the world will have to provide over 60,000 GW to support this population at the level the developed nations currently enjoy. This is not possible due to one or more of these reasons: the primary energy sources are inadequate; the power systems will not be able to provide power continuously; the power systems will be too expensive; or long-lived contaminants become a dominant concern.

As electric technology advances, 2 to 3 kW/person could sustain a higher level of affluence worldwide than now exists in the developed nations. A good world environment can be provided in 2050 if the source of the 20,000 GW to 30,000 GW is clean, reasonably priced, and independent of the biosphere. The global power needs for several centuries can be met by providing solar power to Earth from bases on the moon and relay facilities in space.


Wednesday, 31-Dec-1969 18:00:00 CST