Tech Insider Danielle Muoio Nov. 5, 2015
By 2050, either fusion or solar energy will begin to entirely replace fossil fuels, Ian Pearson, a futurologist, tells Tech Insider.
“On the other side of 2050 I don’t see why you would need them (fossil fuels),” Pearson, who is also a fellow at the World Academy for Arts and Science, said.
“If you go 100 years from now I think the energy we use will come from either fusion or solar.”
Recent breakthroughs have Pearson especially bullish on nuclear fusion.
Pearson said fusion could become a viable solution as soon as 2035. However, he said it will be a few more decades after that before it becomes a mainstream source of energy.
To support his prediction, Pearson points to progress made by groups like the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, which recently completed the world’s largest, nuclear fusion machine — the W7-X.
It works by heating a blog of gas, called a plasma, to more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit — resulting in the formation of ions. When the ions collide and fuse together, it creates nuclear fusion energy.
It’s the very same process that’s been fueling our sun for 4.5 billion years, which brings Pearson to his next prediction for future energy sources — solar.
In a single hour, more power from the sun hits the earth than humanity uses in an entire year.
In fact, the European Commission’s Institute for Energy found that 0.3% of the Saharan Desert’s solar energy can provide Europe with all the electrical power it needs.
By 2045, it’ll be possible to transmit solar energy from places like the Sahara desert to fuel Europe, Pearson predicts.
What has stopped us so far is not having cables capable of transmitting that energy. By 2045, supercables will run underground and use superconductivity to transmit solar energy to different parts of the world, Pearson said, which will be more effective than putting solar panels in nearby areas.
“It’s stupid using a field in Britain when you can use the same solar panels in the middle of the Sahara and get the same kind of energy — more energy, since it’s sunnier,” he said.
Pearson said he thinks solar energy will be a main kind of energy. He does not see wind energy becoming a big source.
“I think it’s already disappearing quite quickly as an idea,” he said of energy generated by turbines.
Not everyone is betting against wind energy, though.
The Scottish government just approved the world’s largest floating windfarm, which is expected to power almost 20,000 homes.
Read more about the unprecedented windfarm here.