Electricity use, air pollution and the robotics revolution

A segment of the Jan. 13, 2013 installment of the CBS 60 Minutes television program covered robotics.

Given that I have now had plenty of time to digest what I have watched, my take is, robots, with their ranks apparently increasing, I can only imagine the effect on the electric grid supply and the environment. The presumption, of course, is more and more will come online over time.

Well, there are different ways to look at things in this respect.

A company that employs workers in the traditional sense means that such workers must travel to and from their jobs on the days that they report to work. Getting to and from work could mean walking, riding a bike, driving, carpooling, or taking public transit. Then again, there are some workers who telecommute even. The point is the more sustainable the commute trip is, the less the environmental impact.

So, there is environmental impact caused by work-related commuting. But there is also environmental impact related to utilization of workplace robotics.

It is obvious robots utilize electricity to operate, and the more efficient these consumers of electricity are, the less demand on the grid supply they’ll be and therefore the less negative environmental impact they’ll have.

Okay, so say the companies that employ these cybernetically self-sufficient apparatuses (it might be one or it might be dozens) also incorporate into their onsite operations a photovoltaic array (solar cell) network to reduce dependence on electricity that would have had to otherwise have arrived courtesy of the local electricity supplier. Companies creating their own energy this way, not only have a way to reduce their electric bills, but are therefore also getting electricity from a renewable source – the sun.

Driverless monorail train, Las Vegas, NV
Driverless monorail train, Las Vegas, NV

Now, regarding robotics use outside the workplace or transportation robotics, in other words, as in robocars or motor vehicles that drive themselves, provided this idea one day manages to become part of the mainstream transportation scene, and depending on the propulsion system utilized, this will determine how much of an environmental impact these will have.

And, I might add, energy consumer form notwithstanding, the more economically, efficiently and environmentally friendly energy can be produced the better.

– Alan Kandel