Posted on January 10, 2018 @ 09:22:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I recently came accross a site called The Next System. The reason was to find an article
by Peter Victor and Tim Jackson called Towards a New Green Economy (November, 2016). I'm still in the process of reading that article.
Alot of the articles in this site are trying to articulate what the "the next system" will be. Much of it focused on what the next economic system will be.
I think it is an interesting question to ponder ... what the next system will be?
Adding the term "system" implies a level of interconnectedness among the components that rules out smaller innovations that affect us in more limited ways. 99% of innovations that are hyped probably fall into that bucket.
So the next system will be interconnected in certain ways that produces some massive, hopefully desired, outcome.
It might also be nice if the next system wasn't 50 years away, the closer in time the better.
One candidate for the next system would be a Solar Panel Economy. A solar panel economy is simply an economy where the solar panel area increases exponentially every year with a Gross Domestic Solar (GDS) index being used instead a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) index to measure the overall health of the material economy.
A solar panel economy may not sound as sexy as a new green economy which is a more abstract goal. What I am proposing is a very specific goal for the next system that would be measured by a specific growth indicator. The indicator may have usefulness only over a certain period to be replaced with some other indicator once we have achieved sufficient growth in solar panel area.
A solar panel economy is one that an increasing number of people can participate in as solar technology continues to get cheaper, better and more accessible.
A solar panel is the specific enabling technology for a larger solar power system that can be installed in homes, apartments with the right orientation, or sheds for motive benefit. It doesn't have to be a big installation and people with cheap outdoor solar lights are arguably slowly easing into that economy. They are gaining some experience and perhaps starting to see other opportunities for the deployment of solar panels.
I'm not suggesting that other sources of renewable energy are not important or significant or shouldn't be included in some calculation of the health of the material economy. Solar panel technology is arguably a bit different in terms of how accessible and deployable it is relative to other renewable technologies and for that reason should be highlighted in some way in how we measure material progress.
Part of what inspired this suggestion is my own tinkering with the main components of a solar power system: a 100 watt solar panel, a charge controller to trickle charge a deep cycle battery, an inverter to convert battery dc power to ac power that also has convenient electrical plugins attached to it, and some wires and car starter cables to interconnect everything. Trying to scale up solar power to just a 100 watt system opens up your eyes to what the next system could be in way that is difficult to appreciate until you have tried to assemble a small scale solar power system. The potential to be "off grid", for example, opens up opportunities for where you might build and what you might build.
Setting up a small scale residential solar power system is possible, it can happen now with off-the-shelf technology, and most people can begin to participate as long as they don't electrocute themselves. For these reasons, perhaps the solar panel economy will be the next system?
This probably sounds like cheer leading for the solar panel industry and to learn some of the downsides you should read the critical activism book Green Illusions (2012) by Ozzie Zehner. I am just putting the solar panel economy idea out there and suggesting that as more people start to assemble the next power system in their homes, apartments and shed and share their experiences then that could spark the solar panel economy that I am predicting is on the near term horizon.
Energy drives everything and when we start changing the energizing system for an economy to solar we should be measuring that growth using a Gross Domestic Solar index and perhaps eventually using GDS as a proxy for the health of the material economy. In the material economy we now require a decoupling of environmental impact from GDP growth that might only be possible with the advent of a solar panel economy.