This article is revised and adapted from one published here on May 3, 2011.
The implications of working power plants producing high temperature steam are tremendous. Energy problems seem to be at the root of so many of the economic, environmental, and political difficulties we are facing at the moment, and it appears that Mr. Rossi’s invention could provide very useful solutions for many of them. Nuclear fission plants have been seen by many as the only viable alternative to traditional fossil fuel based power station, but since the Fukashima disaster there has been renewed wariness in many parts of the world.
There is scarcely a person on the planet who is not affected in some way by problems associated with energy. As technologies develop and economies modernize we are increasingly dependent on energy for just the basics necessities of life.
One of the attractions of the new E-Cat technology is it appears to be ready for prime time almost out of the box. It would be a relatively simple engineering process for power station operators to replace their existing sources of steam production with E-Cats. An orderly adaption of power plants would provide little disruption to existing electrical grid, and thus rapid adoption of this technology is feasible.
An overriding concern connected with energy production these days is the emission of greenhouse gases and nuclear waste — and apparently none are produced from the E-Cat. The environmental implications of this technology would be tremendous. Not only would it allow for much cheaper power, but it would also do so without carbon emissions or radioactive waste. This technology could be the kind of clean energy that environmentalists have been seeking for for a long time.
Andrea Rossi has said that initially the E-Cat would provide electricity at the cost of 1 cent per kW hr — roughly 10 per cent of what electricity currently costs. Such cheap power would provide a huge boost to consumers of power worldwide — individuals and businesses alike. It would make the cost of producing goods much lower and provide vast savings on people’s utility bills — much cheaper heating, electricity and air conditioning.
Energy intensive industries would be much more feasible — for example desalination of seawater which currently is very expensive because of the large amount of heat and electricity needed would become viable with cheap power, allowing for the expansion of agriculture in arid parts of the world. Agriculture in colder parts of the world could be expanded with cheap heat to greenhouses and other kinds indoor farming projects.
Transportation would likewise be affected. Cheap electricity would encourage development of electric vehicles, and perhaps a new generation of steam powered vehicles could be feasible.
Living off the Grid
Rossi has said that the first high-temperature E-Cats will will only be available in industrial plants. Safety certification for home based electrical plants might be difficult to get — but if they can be built on a large scale there will surely be a demand for small scale power plants. Perhaps if not allowed in individual homes, small E-Cat plants could be used to power villages, apartment buildings, neighborhoods, farms, etc. Small plants would open up the benefits of electricity to people where there is no current electrical infrastructure. Three billion people are currently without electricity in their homes and E-Cat technology could accelerate the pace of modernization in the developing world like nothing we have yet seen.
Science and Engineering
Once working E-Cat are verified, a whole new field of exploration for scientists and engineering will open up. Cold fusion research has been abandoned by all but a few dedicated researchers. That would rapidly change with practical LENR products in the marketplace and the doors for researchers to try and understand the mechanism by which the nuclear reaction occurs, and how this technology can be refined, improved and adapted. Products and applications that we cannot now even imagine may be possible.
While positive results are fairly easy to envision, an all-new source of cheap and clean energy would also have a highly disruptive effect on the current energy-industrial complex. There are national economies that are based on oil production, and E-Cat technology could put a large dent in oil prices which could create new and challenging geopolitical tensions. The current alternative energy industry could become largely obsolete in the face of a much more efficient alternative, and it’s likely that investments in all kinds of energy technologies could be severely affected.
There’s also the issue of what happens when cheap and abundant power is in the hands of power-hungry regimes, radical extremists, or powerful criminal organizations. Also, militaries will certainly want the most advanced power sources at their disposal, and more power would mean more efficient armies, navies, aircraft and weapons systems.
These are just some of the potential consequences that I see could come about if E-Cat technology works as advertised and is deployed on a wide scale. As with any brand new technology it is impossible to see all the possible implications and effects. We should also remember that the first iterations of any important new technology are primitive and able to be rapidly improved upon – think cars, plane and computers. The E-Cat power plant that Andrea Rossi is now constructing could be just the first breakthrough in a new energy era that may transform the our world.