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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Jun 25

I just caught a story titled “McCain call for $300 million prize for car battery”. The prize is offered “for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” There’s a part of this that I think is great, regular reader know I am excited about solar power and the prospects for a 21st century electric car. I was encouraged to hear McCain interviewed on CNBC and state that the goal should be to create an electric car that combined a charged range of 240 miles along with a plug in fast recharge capability. If nothing else, this shows he ‘gets it’ and knows what the goal is.
Now, reading that he’d like to be able to offer this challenge, it appears at first blush to be a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ approach. I think the intention is good, but the number may not be so high to get any attention. We currently have the X Prize, a series of prizes that include one for this very goal, and with a $10 million prize.
I think that the $300M may be better spent promoting Solar Power in general along with storage technologies that may overlap the automotive use. Even if solar cells were free, there would be an issue of storage, and we have a crisis that goes beyond just the current high oil prices. Solar can solve multiple issues, but storage is key, without it, we are missing a vital link in the enegy chain.
Joe

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Apr 04

A few weeks back, in the March 7 issue of The Week, I read an article titled “For energy, here comes the sun.” At first glance, it was good to see that I’m not the only one so enthusiastic, nor the only author of bad puns, having titled my first solar story “here comes the sun” back in October. I was happy to discover the article was about futurist Ray Kurzweil’s prediction that he is “confident that we are not that far away from a tipping point (my choice of words as well) where energy from solar will be [economically] competitive with fossil fuels. The longer story appeared on LifeScience.com and was titled, “Solar Power to Rule in 20 Years, Futurists Say“. Kurzweil makes reference to advances in solar power being similar to that of computer technology, but as one of my regular readers Augustine pointed out to me,”Integrated circuits fall in price because Moore said that it would be increasingly possible to shrink transistor sizes, therefore allowing to increase their number per area. And given that the cost of manufacturing integrated circuits relies heavily on the area, the more transistors per area, the cheaper the integrated circuit. Photo-voltaic cells are not made up by Silicon transistors, but by a Silicon film deposited on a surface. Therefore, its area cannot be reduced and its cost is not subject to Moore’s law.” This is true, and resets my expectations a bit. I’m still optimistic that 4 cent/KWH solar isn’t too far away.

Joe

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