Solar Power Research

Solar Power is going to be a big part of your future life whether you like it or not. With the cut throat politics of big oil, the future is going to be very different. America much like in the past will change the world with our direction. Not from some group in some far away lands demands, but on our own terms. American’s are a funny people, we will buy your product on our terms if it is affordable and reliable. That includes our energy needs. While the nice folks sitting on mega trillions of oil think that they have “We the People” over their barrel, creative Americans are turning those same barrels into wood stoves and home made bio-fuel tanks.

I love the New York Times and I have to thank my friend Jeff from Worm Town Taxi for turning me onto this story. The New York Times writer could not find his back side from his elbow on this topic. Rather than reporting on the true research they condemn solar power as a fad for this generation. Different paper, different generation but the same is true, Solar power is not good enough once more over at the NYT…

A link between Moore’s Law and solar technology reflects the engineering reality that computer chips and solar cells have a lot in common.

“A solar cell is just a big specialized chip, so everything we’ve learned about making chips applies,” says Paul Saffo, an associate engineering professor at Stanford and a longtime observer of Silicon Valley.

Financial opportunity also drives innovators to exploit the solar field. “This is the biggest market Silicon Valley has ever looked at,” says T. J. Rogers, the chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, which is part-owner of the SunPower Corporation, a maker of solar cells in San Jose, Calif.

Mr. Rogers, who is also chairman of SunPower, says the global market for new energy sources will ultimately be larger than the computer chip market.

“For entrepreneurs, energy is going to be cool for the next 30 years,” he says.
Optimism about creating a “Solar Valley” in the geographic shadow of computing all-stars like Intel, Apple and Google is widespread among some solar evangelists.

“The solar industry today is like the late 1970s when mainframe computers dominated, and then Steve Jobs and I.B.M. came out with personal computers,” says R. Martin Roscheisen, the chief executive of Nanosolar, a solar company in San Jose, Calif.

Nanosolar shipped its first “thin film” solar panels in December, and the company says it ultimately wants to produce panels that are both more efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and less expensive than today’s versions. Dramatic improvements in computer chips over many years turned the PC and the cellphone into powerful, inexpensive appliances — and the foundation of giant industries. Solar enterprises are hoping for the same outcome. - New York Times

This is where the article should have ended but it didn’t. You can read the rest of it if you like but it is more or less if you can’t have the whole loaf of bread then you don’t want even one slice.

When it comes to our nations energy needs in the future you can no longer put all your eggs in one basket. You need to look at all options and Solar Power is just one option of many for your individual energy needs. There isn’t a person involved in the real life business of solar power that will tell you it will serve all of your energy resources. That kind of science and technology just doesn’t exist… YET! When you think of solar power you have to think of your vegetable garden, it offsets your grocery bill with food grown by your own hand that you know will help your family budget. It’s only the vegetables. As in the old commercials from long gone by political campaigns “Where’s the BEEF?”

The beef is in the current research that will mass produce the solar panels to the point where Joe and Joanne Sixpack can afford to install a solar panel on their home. That is where Moore’s Law meets the common consumer. That is where engineers and scientist break the back of OPEC and pretty much look at locations in the middle of the desert here in America with sunshine year round that are not in the Middle East for our nations electric power needs.

Solar Power was not a fad in the 70‘s, or the 80‘s, or for that matter in the 90‘s. It is and will be part of your life, it is only a question of what part it will be producing power for your families needs. Ten years from now you could probably pick up a whole house solar panel unit that you plug into your outdoor outlet that powers your entire home from Home Depot or Lowes. Then again Walmart might have those nasty falling prices and outsource the American designed technology to China to mass produce it. Any way you look at it, the technology will be cheaper and our nations energy needs will come from somewhere else and solar power is just one piece of the puzzle.

The only thing that will hold solar power back is the people most afraid of it and how much of their bottom line it will take away. Those are the people that this story in the NYT’s should have looked at more closely. That is when you will smell the sense of smoke in the air and new patents for new energy smoldering on the bonfires of big energy R us. Capitalism at its worst.

Papamoka

Feel free to link to this post or borrow it…

Cross posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

3 Responses to “Solar Power Research”

  1. rube cretin Says:

    mat,
    very interesting find and analysis. i too believe there is indeed a future for solar in the mix of future energy resources. i have a very small solar calculator, given to me by an oil company in the early 90’s, which is still reliable for the purpose of basic calculations. i have friends, who are fairly wealthy who have solar homes. They paid a dear price for them and i am skeptical they will ever receive a positive payback, especially when you consider the storage system required to sever oneself from the grid. the point i am trying to make, as I digress, is that i have not seen “net energy” calculations which justify the use of solar for most of the real energy uses in our homes, ie. cooking, heating, lighting, and cooling. The point i suppose i am trying to make is that we should always beware of the technological quick fix. the real big users of energy which dominate our lifestyles are unlikely to be solved by solar. but there are many ways to solve basic energy problems by looking for alternative ways of doing things. for example, substituting a clothes line for an electric or gas dryer will save a substantial amount of energy.

    Digressing again, i just noted that Castro has stepped down in Cuba. i believe one of his lasting legacies will be the manner in which he lead that country through the massive energy decline suffered in the early 90’s when the Soviet Union fell and Cuba lost its primary energy supplier. The techniques and strategies implemented by Castro provide a template the United States will benefit from greatly in the aftermath of peak oil. Many of the energy needs of the future will be found in Castro’s energy policies. lifestyle changes are going to be a major component of our energy future, along with solar, which is after all the subject of your missive.

    cheers

  2. Lisa Says:

    Solar power is definatley a good investment. Did you know Crawford Ranch was run by solar power? I wonder if Al Gore’s house is.
    I think if we took a state the size of Cuba we could accomplish much of the same in probably less time plus we would need to take away everyone’s cell phones,computers and Tv’s.
    Basically take away their ability to own any of these. And our president is bashed for trampling on our constitution? Castro’s legacy Rube? Does that include doctors having to do surgeries by car headlights?
    I have a question if we are for immigrants why are so many against Cuban immigrants? Can you imagine how rich and powerful Castro would be if we didn’t have embargos against him? Maybe more Americans would be geting throat cancer fro Cuban Cigars.

    cheers
    .

  3. Liberal Jarhead Says:

    Back to the topic…

    There’s an old saying about technological developments that when it’s time to railroad, people will start building railroads, and it appears that now it’s time to shift to non-petroleum energy sources, preferably renewable. The petroleum industry is trying to keep that from happening, but they’ve got about as much chance as companies who built horse-drawn wagons had of stopping the spread of automobiles. What they may do, to our detriment, is cause that development to take place mostly in other parts of the world. That’s the danger of being too heavily invested in anything that’s becoming obsolete.

    I get an e-mail newsletter called Energy and Capital, and from what I read there, solar energy companies are starting to really take off. Probably a pretty good investment. When we can scrape together some capital to invest, we plan to do so (along with buying gold, which seems to hold up better than saved money or other investments during economic collapses.)

    I do think that it would be both smart on a practical level and good in the sense of doing the right thing if the government, rather than continuing to subsidize the petroleum industry with tax breaks, shifted a lot of that support to renewable energy industries. In the 1920s and 1930s, the government recognized that aviation was going to be more and more important, so it basically subsidized the infant airline industry, and through that the companies that built planes, by giving the airlines generous contracts to carry the mail. It paid off in World War II and the post-war period, when America’s aviation industry was the biggest in the world. Via the tax revenues from that industry, the government more than recouped its money. I suspect the same thing could be done in some form here.

    I’ve said before in this forum that I think America should undertake another big infrastructure project like the interstate highway system, this time to build massive solar and wind energy complexes in the west, massive flood control projects in the midwest and east where it often floods, and a cross-country network of power lines and water pipelines; then the energy from the west could essentially be traded for water from the parts of the country that have more rain than they want. Living here in New Mexico, with abundant sunshine and wind, along with a multi-year drought, I think about this every time I see a news story with people sitting on their roofs in a flood somewhere back east. Along with the long-term good to the whole country, think of the jobs that would be created by that project, and the business it would generate for all kinds of manufacturing businesses.

    We could also use that system to revamp transportation by building fuel-cell-powered cars, trucks, and trains. No pollution, easy to recharge wherever they can hook into that electrical infrastructure. With some of the recent advances in battery technologies, it is now practical to recharge a battery, or a fuel cell, fast enough to be reasonable with enough power to travel a fair distance.

    I think, and hope, the solar power industry is about to take off the way the auto industry did early in the 20th century, or the computer field did in the 1960s and 1970s. It would be great for the economy, the environment, and everyone except the multinational oil and gas companies. We just need to have people in office in the executive and legislative branches who aren’t more beholden to those companies than to the rest of us.

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