Posted by: Orrin | February 26, 2010

Democratization of Power

Craig Hunter wrote:

A number of prominent academics andventure capitalists, perhaps even our current Secretary of Energy, have argued that existing flat-plate PV technologies are a dead end. According to this group, PV is only relevant if it can meaningfully contribute to solving global warming, which in turn means solar energy must be able to supplant fossil fuels for large-scale power generation in both developed and developing economies, particularly India and China.

Framed in this way, the litmus test for any solar energy technology is its ability in the next 10-20 years to be deployed in hundreds of gigawatts per year, delivering electricity at $.05-.07/kWh, even in areas that aren’t very sunny. Given the load factors of PV installations, not to mention the possible need for storage, we need to consider a target installed system price of no more than $1/Wp

via www.greentechmedia.com

The issue here is that many people are putting too much priority on the cost of the cells. How long to payback? What is the efficiency? What’s the $/Wp?

My stance is that solar is not the be all and end all. In fact i foresee the future energy market share to be about 50-70% Nuclear and the rest a combination of hydro, wind, solar and geothermal.

The focus on cost means that there is an expectation for solar to completely supersede fossil fuels. This in my opinion is unrealistic in a few ways. Firstly the amount of area to cover to generate the amount of energy required by earth today would be so much that we probably would need a few earths. Secondly at our current production growth rate, by 2015 we will probably have about around 20GWp production per year.

If we rely on scale of economy to solve this problem, we are setting us to crash and burn epicly. If you look at the current producers, the majority are still using the screen printed solar cells. This technology comes from the semiconducter industry years ago, yet in 2010 still in use. If we truly want to succeed, investment in research will be key.

There are currently numerous alternate options such as CIGS, CuS, thin-filmed etc. etc. Some may succeed, some won’t. I obviously have my preferences but in anycase these guys will probably do well in the long term cause they are investing in the future.

In all honesty applications of solar should be the most focused in this day and age. Where before it was too expensive except for governments to buy, consumers are investing more and more to reduce their carbon footprint.

But as many have pointed out, solar power gives the consumer the power, pun intended, instead of completely relying on the power company. It gives consumer choice. Just as ebay stood for democratization of the marketplace, solar really stands for democratization of the power source. And really at the end of the day, this is a powerful thing

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