This week, the debate of IP vs. OSD turned to the topic of energy. There is no doubt that energy is going to be a continual problem for the United States in the coming years. With this hot topic quickly gaining more attention from the public, we as a society must discern what is the best way to create renewable energy.
For me personally, when thinking about the environment and energy, I always thought the solution was to look at how we can reduce energy consumption. I believed the future was held in the hands of “minimizing damage” rather than finding new solutions. Upon reading the articles for this week, my attention has now turned to innovation. What can society do to create sustainable energy rather than reduce poor sources of energy currently in place?
To answer the question posed, we can approach a solution using IP or OSD methods. Specifically for this blog post, I will look at how an institution such as UVA could use an OSD approach to implement energy changes, and if this solution is really viable. The primary question to consider is: can UVA survive on an open source platform of energy?
Effectiveness of a Good Product
Is it proven that OSD can produce a means for renewable energy? Is the OSD process reliable in producing a design of an innovation that can actually work? Does OSD provide new energy sources? The answer to these questions is yes. As proven by Denmark, OSD can be useful in creating effective designs for working windmills. Open source design helped facilitated a design that combined both Juul’s turbines and Hutter’s blades to create the Danish concept, the perfect wind energy machine. One key danger that OSD could face in this area would be companies that attempt to patent these designs to make profits. These people take advantage of OSD and try to exploit the IP process for personal gain.
(See the Wind Power for the World link below)
Documentation and Implementation
At any University, it is extremely difficult to get new programs or policies in place. Especially at UVA, there is a large system of bureaucracy that ultimately governs the project, functions, and structure of this school. UVA is unique in that we are a public school, with some funding coming directly from the commonwealth of Virginia. This adds even more oversight and red tape to an already hectic process to bring about change. To bring about a large scale adoption of a renewable energy would require approval from the deans of schools, the president, and the Board of Visitors, minimally.
Thankfully, OSD makes implementation easy because of its simple and effective documentation process. Through the open source hardware development method, UVA could easily keep detailed documentation, create pull requests from a design, and manage version control. This will facilitate implementation by being extremely meticulous and systematic.
(See the open source hardware development method links below)
What to Choose?
Now we have established that if UVA is able to commit to pursuing an OSD platform for energy, then UVA could have a product that meets the needs of the University and is easy to implement. But the question remains, what should UVA choose?
I believe UVA should choose wind energy. First, there is a lot of precedence in the wind energy field from other countries around the globe. Second, ocean currents are not viable since Charlottesville is too far from the cost. Third, biofuels are highly regulated by the government, such as the requirements on ethanol content. In general, more policy will cause more difficulty in implementation. Lastly, solar options may be the way to go since there has been a lot of improvement and innovation in this sector recently. However, I beg to argue that this actually makes solar energy less attractive. In the figure below, we can see that patent application trends for solar energy have skyrocketed in the past few years. This means there is already a lot of IP defense in this sector and implementing it without violating patents may be difficult. Since OSD is particularly good at innovating and perfecting a new idea, I believe wind energy is the best option. UVA can make wind energy machines that are specific and functional to our local geography and demographic.
(See the Global Challenges Brief link below)
All this to say, I believe UVA could sustain an OSD platform of energy.
Wind Power for the World
Danish Patent Office Warning
Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) OSHW Definition
OSHW Development method
Patenting and Access to Clean Energy Technologies in Developing Countries
Global Challenge Brief
Global Challenge Report
Intellectual Property Rights
Open Source RE