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I was watching a segment on CNBC with Salim Ismail, of Singularity University.

He remarked that Solar Power availability (of power created by panels, obviously the Sun isn't getting brighter) was growing exponentially so that by 2025, the world would be at 100% deliverable, i.e. Solar power could supply all the world's needs. But he went on to say that given the current growth rate of production, we'd have 200%, 400% in the years after that.

What would the result of near-free unlimited power? I don't mean economic results, but rather the impact on societies around the world.

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closed as too broad by James, Dan Smolinske, bilbo_pingouin, ArtOfCode, Vincent Jun 10 '15 at 15:18

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a very big difference between 400% deliverable and "unlimited". The outcomes will be completely different. Which one are you looking for? $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 10 '15 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ Joe this really needs to be narrowed down. The impact of incredibly inexpensive or free power will range widely from society to society. Can you select a single society or something to narrow things down. The answer to this feels like it would have to be a treatise. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 10 '15 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik - with geometric growth, there's just a matter of time between 100% available to 800% available, and then the feeling of unlimited. $\endgroup$ – user6320 Jun 10 '15 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ Only if you assume that power usage cannot grow equally fast and I see no reason to do so. Compared to a few decades ago we now also produce vastly more power, but it doesn't feel like unlimited power because whenever more becomes available, we find new uses for it. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 10 '15 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ If power were free tomorrow, aside from using the AC to keep the house frosty thru the summer, what, exactly would you do? On one hand, part of my question was meant to imply this very thing, what changes would a society with near free power see? But I don't see a simple answer for an individual. $\endgroup$ – user6320 Jun 10 '15 at 15:02
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We'd see more widespread deployment of things like electric cars. People would want to replace everything that used gas with electricity since it would be so cheap. Gas would be left to applications that need super high density energy (gas is way more energy-dense than modern batteries).

There would also be a huge effort to design new batteries (or something else) that could store large amounts of energy. Solar power only works during the day, so we'd need something to store all that energy for night time use.

I'm not sure if this would happen, but it'd be really cool: implementation of wireless power. The technology exists to power most of our devices wirelessly, but there's a lot of loss involved if we do. If we had a more abundant, clean power source, that wouldn't be as big of a deal. We could have an antenna array in our home that wirelessly charges/powers all of our electronics. No more charging our phones!

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Usage of power would increase until we hit a new limit. Really, if power is nearly unlimited available the prices will drop and that will lead to new devices that use power. If some new technology will increase the limit very much in short time it may take some time (say 20-30 years) to adapt, but we will reach that new point eventually.

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  • $\begingroup$ this, it's an issue of economics. Everyone in the world would start consuming as much energy as americans do, and then go further. Think AC and electrical heating everywhere. But in reality even before we get to this point, the profit margins will be so low that people will stop building new solar power plants. So it will be like today, I heard coal plant projects were stopped because it's not profitable enough, for solar the situation is even worse. $\endgroup$ – Formagella Jun 10 '15 at 14:01
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The main problem with solar power is that it only works during the day. Most domestic power consumption is at night. (Industrial is used during the day)

Infra heaters at summers and light and heat in winters. Then there are areas in the north where the summertime is longer and the winter days are short. That area would have problems with solar power.

So even though we could increase the solar power to support our needs we would need to have storage facilities for the power or have an alternate solution to provide houses, offices, hotels, servers with the power that is needed during the dark times of the day.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course. In the decade till then we have to find a least expensive method for storage. With near-zero power cost, it would seem that splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen would be one alternative. And one result of the low cost solar is low cot hydrogen as a fuel both for home power and autos. $\endgroup$ – user6320 Jun 10 '15 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeTaxpayer: Unfortunately, the real cost of hydrogen isn't the material itself, but the cost of storing & transporting something that requires either extremely high pressures or cryogenic temperatures - hydrogen boils at 20K. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 10 '15 at 23:34