Dawn of the Green Digital Revolution and the Solar Century
By Les Hamasaki DEC. 26, 2015
The tiny grains of sand (silicon) and rays of sunlight that provide a source of infinite free energy are accelerating the end of the fossil fuel age. The world is transitioning from the Industrial Revolution powered with coal and oil to the Green Digital Revolution powered with solar energy and empowered with the Information Technology (IT).
Grains of Sand for Silicon Solar Cells and Computer Chips
The genius most responsible for this ongoing technological and ultimately cultural transformation is no other than Albert Einstein, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect…the basis for photosynthesis. This discovery formed the basis for a variety of devices such as photodiodes, which are used in light detection within fiber optics, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, digital imaging, and many other applications – core capabilities of modern telecommunications networks and emerging green energy systems.
The potential of solar energy was obvious from the start. In 1906, Thomas Edison was convinced of the limitless source of fuel from the sun and stated, “I’d put my money on that. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to run out of oil and coal before we tackle this.” Half a century later, in 1954, Bell Labs developed the first solar PV cells, initially used to power our satellites and the International Space Station and now found on rooftops around the globe. The U.S. Department of Energy states that 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth every second, over 10,000 times the world’s total energy consumption.
The success of COP 21 in Paris, where 195 countries signed the Climate Change Accord 21 to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030, is the beginning of this major transition and the end of fossil fuel in the 21st century.
Dr. Kent Moor, author of “Total Domination: Ride Solar’s $48 Trillion Energy Revolution” and energy policy advisor to nine major oil companies, along with the U.S. State Department and 29 other governments around the world, predicts the virtual end of fossil energy by 2030 along with a dramatic rise from solar energy’s current market share of 1% of the global energy market. Dr. Moor cites a number of reasons for an optimistic green electron future, including emerging technologies from lithium ion battery storage to affordable electric vehicles, from solar paint to liquid “solar energy in a jug,” from “nighttime solar” to “reverse sunlight” solar, from solar roads to ultra-thin and flexible solar cells for wrap onto glass-clad high-rise buildings, and a range of other new forms and applications of solar electricity.
President Obama, the leader of America, the world’s largest economy and largest polluter, and Governor Jerry Brown of California, the world’s 8th largest economy if it were a country (after #7 Brazil and before #9 Russia), will lead the world in its transition from today’s “gray economy” to the 21st-century green economy needed to create a sustainable global future. California is positioned to become the world’s sub-national green power leader and a pacesetter for governments everywhere to emulate. California is the birthplace of the information technology revolution headquartered in Silicon Valley, and a notable center for solar and wind energy in the Inland Empire.
Just as billionaires John D. Rockefeller and other oil barons promoted, and profited from, powering America with oil in the 20th century as they built Standard Oil and Exxon and the other giant fossil energy companies, so billionaires Bill Gates of Microsoft, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Solar City, and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, along with major companies like Google, Amazon, Walmart, and Apple, are leading the rush to invest billions of dollars in renewable. Major educational institutions are divesting from oil and coal in their endowment portfolios to invest in renewable energy. The writing is on the wall, and investments are flowing to facilitate that transition.
Our American economy is also transitioning from a centralized to a decentralized economic network, ever more connected to other parts of the world including the emerging “global televillages” of the global South. Just as the breakup of the giant Ma Bell into a bunch of Baby Bells four decades ago created innovations in the cellular and computer technology sector that connected people in Africa and Asia to the world, the dismantling of the giant utility monopolies such as PG&E and Edison and the transition to a system of distributed green micro-utilities for homes and businesses will provide the world’s population of 8.5 billion by 2030 with the electricity they need for progress and prosperity and the end of illiteracy and hunger. An emerging network of global solar televillages will be connected to globally originating online learning, telebanking, telemedicine, televideo conferencing, telecommuting, teleproduction via 3D printers and “additive manufacturing” capabilities. Best of all, this is free telecommunication — powered by free energy — from the U.S. and Europe to Korea, China, Mexico, South Africa, and many other foreign countries. And increasingly back again in the other direction!
According to futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler, this mega-change is bringing major job dislocation and transformation as well as disruption and even chaos in our political and governmental establishments. No longer will mass production, mass media, mass education, and mass merchandising be the strategic plan for the 21st century. The years ahead will see “de-massified production” — short runs of highly customized products, the new cutting edge of manufacture, made possible by 3D printing and nano-technology.
On the cultural front, the future will be shaped by social media connecting to and among billions of people on critical issues like climate change, overpopulation, environmental destruction, resource depletion, and governmental and corporate responses (or their lack) to these.
No longer will the large corporations and trading companies be the dominant engine for economic growth. It will be the new eco-entrepreneurial class starting their own software and green technology companies. It will be the new Asian millionaire immigrants, primarily from China, who are coming to America through the EB5 Green Card Program investing in companies and creating or saving 10 jobs to eventually become American citizens. They will be the conduit for exporting American-made products to their countries of origin.
We are transitioning from a top-down management and information system to a bottom-up participatory communication network. No longer will the few elite political leaders determine the future of our lives and our nation’s future. Rather it will be the people, primarily through social media, who will have the power to change the direction of our future from the ground up.
Southern California will be the gateway to the Asia Pacific Century and the front door to America’s market, because over 40% of all international trade to the U.S. comes through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Southern California is the home of the largest concentration of Asians Americans and Latinos – and where trade with Asia and Latin American flourish.
The Inland Empire, both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, will be the “Green Silicon Valley” – a geographic nexus whose IT and solar and wind technologies will empower the region to export solar and wind power to the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego, enabling them to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard requirement of 50% by 2030.
These emerging solar technologies will provide “free energy” for the people of the Inland Empire to power their homes, drive their electric vehicles, grow their GMO- and pesticide-free food in high-tech vertical greenhouses, and, in time, even produce their water from the atmosphere with advanced-technology atmospheric water generators.
We are at the dawn of a Green Digital Revolution and a new Solar Century that will create a sustainable global future as it brings the end of fossil energy. All the right players and partners are advocating for this future with their money, investing billions of dollars to fuel the change from dirty electrons to green electrons. California will thrive as the global epicenter for green innovation powered with the infinite energy of the sun, and the creativity and commitment of the people.
Les Hamasaki is a sustainable development planner and a former city of Los Angeles Planning Commissioner and Airport Commissioner. He was the Executive Director of GIVE that launched the Green Valley Initiative that envisioned the Inland Empire as a world-class global green technology and information science center to combat climate change.