Topic / Energy / In-depth

SWB Superpower

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SWB Superpower is superabundant solar, wind and battery energy at near-zero marginal cost

Solar, wind and battery (SWB) systems are built to meet electricity demand even when sunshine and wind are least abundant.

This gives SWB systems the ability to produce a surplus of electricity at other times of the year. 

The same pattern is found in many systems, including machines and organisms, because these kinds of systems must have the capacity to deal with peaks of stress or adversity.

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SWB Superpower is a natural feature of all 100% SWB systems

100% SWB systems naturally produce superabundant clean energy at near-zero marginal cost.

Our analysis shows a fundamental tradeoff relationship between SWB's energy generation and storage capacity that follows a convex cost function. We call this the Clean Energy U-Curve.

When costs are optimized correctly using this curve, it becomes clear that 100% SWB systems is both achievable and the cheapest available option for new power generation on a timeframe to 2030. In many cases this will be less expensive than continuing to operate existing conventional power plants. 

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100% SWB systems produce a surplus of Superpowerin sunny areas, more than twice the total electricity demand

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The resulting superabundance of clean energy will open the door to new possibilities for society, the economy and the environment

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The advantage of SWB Superpower

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Energy independence

Nations that invest in SWB Superpower are in control of their own energy destiny, not reliant on other countries or susceptible to market constraints or shocks.

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Energy superabundance

Superabundant energy creates a thriving economy, where the cost of energy is barely a factor and superabundant supply is a given.

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Energy resilience

Nations that adopt SWB Superpower will become highly resilient to external shocks or other potential disruptions. Should disruptions occur, the distributed nature of SWB Superpower enables rapid and simple recovery.

Three aspects of SWB Superpower are extraordinary

1. Availability

Our regional analysis has shown that even the lowest cost 100% SWB system can produce SWB Superpower.

Our original energy analysis published in 2020 showed that on 64% of all days of the year in New England, on 93% of all days in California, and 93% of all days in Texas 100% SWB can produce superpower.

These regions, with varying weather patterns, can demonstrate the availability of SWB Superpower in most other regions of the world.

2. Scale

Because SWB Superpower is available on most days of the year, the total quantity of energy produced by 100% SWB systems is very large relative to existing electricity demand.

In California and Texas, for example, the lowest cost 100% SWB system will produce more SWB Superpower output than today’s total annual electricity demand.

3. Disproportionality

SWB Superpower does not grow linearly with investment in capacity. This is a counterintuitive feature of systems that produce near-zero marginal cost outputs.

Increasing system capex by just 20%, for example, will double SWB Superpower output in California and Texas, and triple SWB Superpower output in New England. A remarkable property of 100% SWB systems is that they show disproportional returns on investment for SWB Superpower.

The potential applications of SWB Superpower are endless

A superabundance of clean electricity at near-zero marginal cost available on most days of the year will enable the emergence of new business models across a wide range of industries:
  • electrification of road transportation and heating
  • water desalination and treatment
  • waste processing and recycling
  • metal smelting and refining
  • chemical processing and manufacturing
  • cryptocurrency mining
  • distributed computing and communications,
  • fuel production
  • carbon removal
  • manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries – to name just a few.
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SWB Superpower will have exponential impact

SWB Superpower will spark positive social and economic development & opportunity

History shows that energy abundance enables and supports social and economic development.

A superabundance of extremely cheap energy with little or no social or environmental impacts will create unprecedented opportunities for every region that chooses to adopt a 100% SWB system.

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SWB Superpower is a race to the top

The sooner a region adopts SWB Superpower, the more companies, talent and investment it will attract.

SWB Superpower will lower the cost of energy across an entire region and trigger a virtuous cycle in which:

  • more individuals move in —attracted by the higher quality of life
  • more companies move in—attracted by talent and low energy costs
  • more investments move in—attracted by growth opportunities.
This further lowers the cost of energy across society and attracts even more companies, talent and investment.
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SWB Superpower will disrupt all forms of energy

The superabundance of near-zero marginal cost Superpower will have a transformative impact on all energy markets and industries.

We are already seeing the effects of Superpower in early adoption regions such as California and Germany. Even at market penetrations of less than 20%, near-zero marginal cost electricity from solar and wind is causing wholesale electricity prices to clear at or below zero some of the time.

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SWB Superpower will decimate coal, oil and gas industries

A nationwide 100% SWB system in the U.S would produce more than enough superpower to electrify all road transportation and wipe out virtually all of its associated demand for oil.

Using SWB Superpower to electrify all road transportation would reduce total oil demand in the United States by over 60%.

By comparison, this would be equivalent to eliminating all of China’s oil consumption, or all oil consumption in India, Japan and Russia combined.

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SWB Superpower is a solution, not a problem

SWB Superpower offers an array of economic, social and environmental benefits—including a solution to the challenge of replacing fossil fuels.

Nearly all conventional analyses frame SWB Superpower as an overproduction problem resulting from solar and wind overcapacity that electricity systems ought to actively minimize. As a result, supplies of SWB Superpower are often curtailed rather than utilized.

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Quote Lrg

"As the erosion of sympathy and protections for incumbent generators and utilities accelerates, and as battery energy storage and smart infrastructure expand, wasteful curtailment will inevitably be abandoned in favor of intelligent utilization."

- James Arbib, Cofounder RethinkX

SWB Superpower will transform every industry

Food and Agriculture

In our report Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030, we showed how Precision Fermentation and Food-as-Software are poised to disrupt the food and agriculture sector over the course of the 2020s.

Regions that choose to maximize Superpower from a 100% SWB system will be able to accelerate this disruption by lowering the cost of energy of energy for these new industries.

Millions of acres of land will be freed up during the disruption of conventional farming and food production. This land could be repurposed for SWB facilities.

Mobility and Transportation

In our report Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, we showed how electric and autonomous vehicles that provide Transportation-as-a-Service are poised to disrupt the transportation sector over the course of the 2020s.

Regions that choose to maximize Superpower from a 100% SWB system will be able to accelerate this disruption by turbocharging adoption of electric vehicles.

These electric vehicles will in turn be able to share some of the battery energy storage load of the system, creating a reinforcing feedback loop that amplifies the economic, social and environmental benefits of the SWB disruption itself.

Conservation and Climate Action

In our Rethinking Climate Change Report, we showed how a superabundant clean energy system will drive emissions reductions. Coupled with clean energy-powered carbon capture and other initiatives, net zero global emissions and beyond can be realistically achieved.

These electric vehicles will in turn be able to share some of the battery energy storage load of the system, creating a reinforcing feedback loop that amplifies the economic, social, and environmental benefits of the SWB disruption itself.

Other incredible outcomes...

Urban development and regeneration

Superabundant clean energy supports sustainable urban development projects, including energy-efficient housing and public buildings, which can rejuvinate neighbourhoods and attract new investments.

Agriculture innovation

Superpower's clean energy can drive agricultural advancements, such as energy-efficient greenhouses and vertical farming.

Social welfare

A surplus of clean, affordable energy could enable social initiatives focused on reducing energy poverty, improving living standards, and fostering community engagement and education around sustainable practices.

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Featured report

Uncover SWB Superpower in more depth

Download our Rethinking Energy 2020-2030 Report.

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