Hierarchies, Power and the Problem of Governing Complex Systems
The concept of hierarchy is central to thermodynamics. Energy processes can be evaluated in terms of entropy content and the higher the entropy the lower they are positioned in the hierarchy of irreversibility. Hence, a Joule of heat at 500 K has a higher quality that the same amount of heat at 400 K. Introducing irreversibility into the Carnot machinery—the intellectual device by which we have historically developed the concept of efficiency, leads to the concept of maximum power output at suboptimal efficiency level. Introducing irreversibility—the hierarchal criterion for thermodynamics, means that time becomes a binding variable in thermal machines. Interestingly and perhaps not surprisingly, hierarchy is also a key concept of complexity. Along the line of an increasing hierarchical complexity, economic progress and evolution have been rewarding larger organizations or organisms throughout sentient or accidental selection. From microbes to whales, from villages to nations, from family firms to international corporations, the scaling up of the system has been achieved at the expenses of a growing complexity and hierarchy. To sustain the increasing complexity, processes have been increasing their power capacity thorough evolution and economic history. Is this intriguing parallel important to understand the fate of renewable energy? In this chapter I will try to expand upon the ideas of hierarchical scaling and power maximization to the problem of governing RES, with insights from finite-time thermodynamics, algometric scaling and complex science.
KeywordsPower Capacity Circular Economy Primary Energy Consumption Heat Reservoir Carnot Efficiency
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