With the high and climbing cost of oil there has been a lot of talk about alternate sources of energy, while most of the talk has been about creating gasohol from corn, the favorite amongst the Greenies is without a doubt Solar energy.
Solar energy has been the favorite for most of my adult life. I believe that it was in the 70's during America's first Energy crisis that the forecasts for limitless amounts of Solar energy generated in Americas western deserts first surfaced. At the time we were told that our solar future was just 10 to 20 years away. But now it's been 30 years and our Solar energy future is still 10 years away so says one of GE's top engineers in the FuturePundit:GE Engineer Sees Competitive Photovoltaics In Under 10 Years:
Once the choice only of idealists who put the environment before economics, production of solar panels will double both next year and in 2009, according to U.S. investment bank Jefferies Group Inc, driven by government support especially in Germany and Japan.
A high ranking engineer at General Electric says in some parts of the United States photovoltaics will become cost competitive by 2015.
"At that point you can expect pretty much unbounded growth," General Electric Co's Chief Engineer Jim Lyons told the Jefferies conference in London on Thursday, referring to price parity in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015.
"The solar industry will eventually be bigger than wind."
Solar energy will become bigger than wind for a few reasons. First off, there is more energy outside in the form of photon torpedoes (sorry, couldn't resist) than in the form of air flowing. Wind is just one side effect of heating caused by those photons showering down on the planet. Second, while photovoltaic materials are currently rather expensive they have much greater potential to become dirt cheap than wind towers do. Third, photovoltaic installations hit fewer obstacles. Your neighbors are less likely to mind photovoltaics on your roof (especially when future photovoltaic materials are made to look like roof tiles) than they are a tower sticking up out of our yard 100 feet and making noise as the wind spins the blades.
Researchers at Harvard University have made solar cells that are a small fraction of the width of a human hair. The cells, each made from a single nanowire just 300 nanometers wide, could be useful for powering tiny sensors or robots for environmental monitoring or military applications. What's more, the basic design of the solar cells could be useful in large-scale power production, potentially lowering the cost of generating electricity from the sun.
We do not face a general energy shortage. We face a liquid fuels shortage. Solar is going to join wind and nuclear as non-fossil fuels sources of electricity that could replace most of the fossil fuels now used to generate electricity.
Given cheap, dependable, and high energy density batteries we could shift most transportation to electricity and most electric generation to non-fossil fuels energy sources. That is the path we need to follow to the post Peak Oil era.
We can only hope that he is right this time, I continue to believe that the biggest problem with solar energy is that it just isn't concentrated enough, meaning in order to make it worth while it needs to be an add on to our individual devices or homes. And it can never be used power the biggest energy consumer we have, Automobiles, simply because solar power cannot power a 4 passenger car at 60 miles per hour, their just isn't enough energy available.Sphere: Related Content