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Power Density Primer: Understanding the Spatial Dimension of the Unfolding Transition to Renewable Electricity Generation (Part I – Definitions)

By Vaclav Smil -- May 8, 2010

[Editor’s note: This is Part I of a five-part series by Vaclav Smil that provides an essential basis for the understanding of energy transitions and use. Dr. Smil is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading energy experts. His views deserve careful study and understanding as a basis for today’s contentious energy policy debates. Good intentions or simply desired ends must square with energy reality, the basis of Smil’s worldview.]

Energy transitions – be they the shifts from dominant resources to new modes of supply (from wood coal, from coal to hydrocarbons, from direct use of fuels to electricity), diffusion of new prime movers (from steam engines to steam turbines or to diesel engines), or new final energy converters (from incandescent to fluorescent lights) – are inherently protracted affairs that unfold across decades or generations.…