Aug 08

My readers know that I have great optimism for the future of solar power. As the cost of solar cells drops, the challenge is to bridge the gap from sundown to sunrise. A recent article “‘Major Discovery’ Primed To Unleash Solar Revolution” suggests that “MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine.”

The article goes on to describe a low cost, low loss method used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, in effect creating a household fuel cell. While this system may still be years away, it may provide the much needed storage solution once solar (and wind) power becomes economically viable.

Joe

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Jul 25

As I hear more people talk on this topic, I grow more hopeful that the pain we are feeling in our wallets at the gas pump will pave the way toward a better future.
In an interview with the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch, I heard him call for a “Manhattan Project” for alternative energy. Let’s hope other politicians share his view. Al Gore seems to be on a similar path, he calls for a ten year plan to produce 100% of our energy needs from renewable resources within the next 10 years. T Boone Pickens (whose site I added to my link list, right) also proposes a plan for renewable energy. His plan differs slightly from Gore’s in that he feels it would be faster to introduce the widespread use of natural gas powered vehicles as an interim step to the electric car.
In the end, I look forward to a world where our children breathe cleaner air and see a clearer sky. More to come.
Joe

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Apr 11

Some time ago, I read a book titled “Pop!: Why Bubbles Are Great For The Economy.” This is not a summary of that book, but I recommend it as it made for some interesting reading. Its premise was that bubbles leave in their wake some new infrastructure (telegraph lines or railroad tracks, as an example) or technology leap (as in the late 90’s ‘dot com’ boom leaving a huge amount of dark fiber and active bandwidth). Now, I put that book down wondering what the next bubble would bring, and perhaps I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Regular readers know I’m excited about the prospects of alternative energy, specifically, solar energy. Sure enough, Harper’s recently ran an article titled “The next bubble: Priming the markets for tomorrow’s big crash.” In this article, Eric Janszen, the founder and president of iTulip, Inc. speculates that alternative energy may be the next bubble forming, and if his forecast is right, we have years ahead of us to take advantage of the opportunity this presents. This chart offers both historical numbers on Tech and Housing, as well as forecasts for the housing downturn and the Alternative energy bubble.

solarbubble

Joe

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Mar 17

On Feb 13th I posted Unintended Consequences III and talked about the conflict between crops used for food vs biofuels.

I just found a New York Times article “A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories” which discusses this topic and confirms my fears.

Joe

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Mar 14

In my recent posts where I share my excitement regarding the future of solar power, I talk about the potential cross over point where the cost of electricity, specifically from solar, is lower than the cost of gas. Well, a bit more googling, and I have some more numbers. From ‘Life after the oil crash’, I find that a gallon of gasoline contains energy equal to about 37 KWH. With gas at about $3 per gallon right now, this is about 8.1 cents per KWH versus a US average cost per KWH of 10.69 cents. As we approach $4 gas, the cost of gasoline will exceed the cost of electricity BTU for BTU.
The latest prices I see for solar show about $6000-$8000 for a 1KW installation. Assuming a 5%/yr return, that’s about $400/yr. If the system is running full power for 2000 hours per year, we are at a 20 cent per KWH cost for solar. Still more than what we’d pay our electric company, but prices are still falling. We may be a few years away, but the current oil crisis will only help the cause (for solar).

Joe


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