Terabase Energy, a solar power company financed by Bill Gates’s investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, has introduced a powerful invention. Terabase has created a solar farm that is powered entirely by robots. These robots work on an automated assembly line known as a Terafab.
Terabase Energy plans to manufacture Terafab systems at a “factory to make factories” in Woodland, California. To enable effective solar panel movement, Terafab employs robotic arms that lift and connect said panels to trackers. Terafab has the added benefit of functioning around the clock.
According to the company, using Terafab to create solar farms doubles productivity while reducing costs. It can also help alleviate labor shortages in the solar power industry. Furthermore, the system is modular and scalable. If you work in the clean energy sector, you can purchase the Terafab system beginning in the third quarter of 2023.
Nonetheless, this breakthrough raises a troubling question: Will robots and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) limit the creation of green energy jobs?
Green Energy Job Boom?
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it’s clear that we’re in a time of massive economic change. In its most recent report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that AI will destroy 83 million jobs worldwide by 2027. On the bright side, the WEF anticipates that renewable energy development will create millions of new jobs over the same time period.
However, if we are not careful, robots could end up performing most of this renewable energy work instead of humans. A 2019 study from Oxford Analysis found that each new industrial robot destroys 1.6 manufacturing jobs.
The Terafab system is an exciting development. However, it remains to be seen whether Terafab and other AI-based solar power projects will lead to a net loss or a net gain of jobs. We need to make sure that the financial benefits go beyond investors like Bill Gates if we want to increase green energy’s popular appeal.