MuseLetter #279 / August 2015 by Richard Heinberg
I hope that you enjoy this month’s essay. Please note that the Museletter will likely be shorter than usual over the next few months as I’m working flat-out on my next big project, OUR RENEWABLE FUTURE, co-authored with David Fridley, and thus have less time for other writing projects. Thanks, as always, for your support.
Amazing New Energy Source: Introducing TREES
Scientists at the Climate/Energy Design and Research institute (CEDAR) have just announced the discovery of an astounding new energy source that promises to solve several of humanity’s thorniest dilemmas at once.
“This is a paradigm-shifting moment,” says Dawn O’Newday, the engineer in charge of the project. “Whatever your game is, this changes it. Big time.”
The new energy source, called TREES (Totally Renewable Energy, Emissions capture, and Storage) is, as the name suggests, completely renewable. Unlike conventional power plants, TREES devices use no fuel; and unlike most solar and wind technologies, TREES requires no non-renewable materials for the manufacture of panels or turbines.
Further, TREES devices are actually self-replicating, through a radical innovation known as SEEDS (Self-reproduction through Endo-Encrypted Data Simulation). Because each TREES device can make endless copies of itself without any mining or manufacturing cost, and because TREES captures abundant sunlight, this may be the first truly free energy source ever discovered by humanity.
On top of that, TREES offers built-in energy storage. The technology captures energy from sunlight in real time, then chemically converts it to an energy-preserving substance that is both useful and durable. In their energy storage mode, TREES devices can be fashioned into usable items like furniture, houses, paper, packaging, and—best of all—musical instruments. The storage capabilities of this technology are both large in scale and long-term: the technology’s developers project that TREES will be able to store energy for hundreds of years, while some individual devices will be able to preserve the energy equivalent of 3000 barrels of oil.
But the advantages of TREES technology don’t end there. As they capture and store energy, TREES devices actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. And again, they do this at no cost! No other carbon capture technology comes even close to this level of efficiency.
Some early critics of TREES technology have pointed out that the solar energy conversion efficiency of the process used (under ten percent) is relatively low as compared to that of the most advanced photovoltaic panels operating under laboratory conditions (46 percent). However, this comparison fails to take into account the tremendous cost differences between the two technologies. Taking cost, storage, and carbon capture into account, TREES represents a huge breakthrough over existing solar technologies and could lead to a much more rapid and broad-scale adoption of sunlight energy. Scientists who have been working on developing artificial photosynthesis devices report amazement that actual photosynthesis is possible at the scale and cost now possible with TREES.
The list of TREES capabilities and advantages goes on. Almost unbelievably, some versions of TREES devices actually produce food, again at no cost! And they do so without soil-destroying tillage. Scientists at CEDAR speculate that a wide variety of unique food items—valuable sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals—may one day be produced from TREES.
A hidden feature of TREES is its unique attachment technology, dubbed ROOTS (Regenerative Operant Outreach Tether Siphoning), which enables TREES to remain sturdily in place while actually preventing soil erosion.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this still-unfolding story of technological triumph is that engineers at CEDAR have developed TREES using open-source methods, making their amazing breakthrough freely available to anyone, anywhere.
Asked about the long-term implications of TREES, Justin Powers, a staff scientist working on the project, reflected philosophically that, “TREES may enable civilization to evolve to a new level. Currently we are dependent upon fossil fuels and all kinds of machines, including nuclear reactors and wind turbines—all made from depleting, non-renewable resources. If TREES technology takes off, as I’m sure it will, it may herald a new age in which human beings rely on energy they harvest at rates commensurate with natural processes, and in ways that don’t deplete or pollute the biosphere in any way. And on top of that, everything will be free, so there will be no more poverty or economic inequality.”