Nima Tabatabai is co-founder of Optimize Infrastructure. In this interview, we discuss how battery technology for energy grids, solar’s overwhelming economic case, energy sovereignty, and how combining batteries, Bitcoin and solar results in the most flexible energy assets possible.
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In 2010 solar power generated 34 terawatt hours (TWh) per year across the globe. By the end of 2021, this has increased to 1,033 TWh per year. There are a number of reasons for this dramatic increase, but a prime driver is a reduction in costs. Between 2009 and 2019 the price of electricity from solar declined by 89%. The International Energy Agency in 2020 declared solar power offered the “cheapest…electricity in history”.
As Nima Tabatabai states in this podcast, this drop in price is perhaps the greatest example of Jeff Booth’s assertion that technology is deflationary. Research and development of solar technologies have been affected positively and negatively by crises and political dogmas. Nevertheless, since the 1970s there has been a strong ‘learning effect’ across the whole production process resulting in an exponential reduction in costs.
Nevertheless, the discussion of solar energy as a reliable part of the energy mix still stirs strong negative responses. Intermittency is a major concern: solar can’t work at night, and it’s deemed to be materially ineffective in cloudy weather and at high latitudes. Essentially, detractors state solar power supply can’t efficiently fit demand. There are also issues around land requirements, input materials and waste.
But, are these concerns valid? Can solar be a reliable and sizeable source of energy? If so, what are the constraints and limitations? Could battery technology resolve concerns over intermittency? What would be needed to complement solar energy? Are our energy grids ready to assimilate decentralized power sources? And, what needs to be done to maximise the potential of Bitcoin in subsidising solar?