Renewable energy resources and technologies are sufficient to meet all of humanity’s energy requirements, provided that the transition to renewables is accompanied in parallel by intense, disciplined initiatives to design, fabricate, and distribute ubiquitously an emerging class of ultra-efficient energy consuming devices. Renewables can thereby power devices which are disruptively more energy-efficient in the delivery of fundamental energy services (food production, cooking, heating, cooling, mobility, logistics, lighting, industrial processes, information systems, etc.). Rather than substituting new energy sources to directly power legacy devices that were originally designed on the basis of fossil fuels, designers will develop these novel devices to deliver superior performance in all respects: cleaner, safer, more durable, more convenient, and more economical. This Solarevolution, like the Industrial Revolution two hundred years ago, is about transforming the artifacts of human society. Just as labor-saving machinery replaced manual and animal labor when James Watt invented the steam engine, so now energy-saving devices powered directly by non-polluting solar electricity are beginning to replace those inefficient brute force artifacts that still depend on the burning of fossil fuels. Building upon historic perspectives and the careful examination of key renewable energy qualities, four case studies will be highlighted, not to resolve all of the issues, but to instantiate the pivotal role of design science to avert the most severe impacts of global warming and strategic resources depletion. While great attention has been given to debating the net energy of renewable energy generation technologies, the stability of society depends just as much on redesigning energy-consuming technologies, overcoming the temptation, for example, of using biofuels to feed gas-guzzling energy hogs left over from the fossil fuel era—to run internal combustion engines that can’t deliver more than 1% net efficiency. Applying the engineering principle of doing way more with way less, right now, humanity has the possibility of a bright, more secure future.
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