On Moonshot Thinking and Wireless Power Transfer in Post-Oil Algeria

Over a century ago, Nikola Tesla envisioned a future where electricity flows wirelessly across the planet. Unfortunately, our energy infrastructure did not change much and wireless power did not made much progress either. However, Tesla’s vision made sense then and continues to make sense today. In this post, I attempt to explore this “moonshot idea” in the context of the imminent energy transition in Algeria.

Context

As a result, Algeria is now facing the reality of a declining GDP in a grim economic environment. As a matter of fact, from 2012 to 2013, the GDP per capita barely increased by 50 dollars (the smallest increase since 2009). And in a more recent news, the price of oil has declined by 30% over the past 3 months to around $80 per barrel today, while economists suggest that anything below $110 may have severe consequences on the economy in the short term.

Status quo

Now the question is: how can Algeria maintain its GDP growth knowing that oil, gas and shale gas are invalid options?

The Way Forward

In fact, there is a whole concept called DESERTEC which aims at making this vision happen: building very large scale solar PV (LSPV) power plants in north africa to generate electricity and transporting it to the Europe. And the key word here is “transporting it”!

The transportation of electricity for long distances is tricky because of the cost of building the infrastructure, and the losses that increase as distance increases (the order is thousands of km), let alone the environmental impact, insurance and interruption costs, intergovernmental agreements as these grids will have to cross several countries, etc. In short, none of the power transportation technologies we have today can meet the economic and technological constraints. And at this very stage of the discussion Nikola Tesla comes to mind: long distance safe wireless power transfer.

If Tesla was successful in his venture to transfer power across the Atlantic Ocean, his invention would very well save Algeria today to beam electricity to Europe across the mediterranean sea!

Do we have the technology today?

Market Conditions

In recent news, there were several events of drones flying over nuclear facilities in France. In a world where advanced technology is becoming ubiquitous and extremism has shown unprecedented levels of spread and violence, the requirements of protecting and operating nuclear facilities are becoming increasingly costly. Not only that, nuclear energy is not a dispatchable source of power: nuclear plants can not respond timely to peaks of power demand.

Verdict

Energy & Computing @ Shell & GWU (Opinions my own)