Friday, March 02, 2007

Most hopeful story of the week- Solar Power

I was waiting for Xanthippas to put something up about this, but I guess I'll go ahead and do it. No need for analysis though; just read what it has to say.

Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels.

Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.

The secret? Mr Sethi lovingly cradles a piece of dark polymer foil, as thin a sheet of paper. It is 200 times lighter than the normal glass-based solar materials, which require expensive substrates and roof support. Indeed, it is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings.

Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour.

The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s.

Mr Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade.

It would be nice if good new technology could save us from bad old technology. But still, this doesn't mean we're off the hook for our excessive energy consumption. We still need to invest in green technologies and cut down on overall energy usage. But it'll be nice not to owe the electric company $400 ever again!

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

This is an incredible accomplishment, no doubt.