One of Alexander Graham Bell's successful invention strategies was to 'follow the analogy of nature'. Too often, however, technology and nature seem at odds--power plants create acid rain, factories and automobiles create air pollution and the spread of civilization threatens to cause global warming. Certainly, one solution to these problems is simply for everyone--especially in the industrial countries--to use less energy and consume less resources.
Another, complementary solution is to develop new technologies that are 'environmentally friendly'. The case of the AES Corporation nicely illustrates this dilemma. This case, prepared by the Management Institute for Environment and Business, concerns a fictitious that sells power to utilitities and wants to minimize its impact on the environment while still meeting the energy needs of its consumers at the lowest possible cost. One solution AES considered was to develop alternative technologies like wind, solar or biomass.
In this module, we are going to focus on these alternatives. You will be asked to invent a way of using the sun's energy, or wind, or biomass, or some combination as a substitute for power generated by other means. You can consider the use of solar or other alternatives at the utility end--e.g., solar power plants--or you can consider solar as a supplement on the consumer side, for example, the use of solar stoves, water heaters and panels in homes, or both. You can also consider a radical transformation that would make companies like AES obsolete, in which most power might be generated locally using new kinds of fuel cells or generators.