The Secret to Solar

The NYTimes Magazine recently published a piece about solar that did such an excellent job of pinpointing the problem as a business model problem rather than a techical problem, that I decided to devote an entire post to it. What it makes you understand is that our basic solar problems are mental obstacles – nothing more. Well worth a read, but here’s one of the more interesting passages to give you a taste:

Enough sunlight falls on the earth’s surface every hour to meet the entire world’s energy needs for one year. A plot of roughly 100 miles by 100 miles in the American Southwest, if covered with today’s industry-standard 15-to-20-percent-efficient solar panels, could generate enough power for the entire United States. This is not the whole story, of course; the sun shines only during the day, and as yet we have no efficient way to distribute and store the power that such a plot would generate (so that the energy could be used at night, for example). But the potential of the sun as a power source is nearly unlimited. When we burn coal, gas or oil, we are simply harnessing an archived version of that same energy from the sun, stored in plant and animal life, compacted and preserved under the earth’s crust. As Kennedy puts it in his passionate but rational way: “Think about it this way. We’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it . . . in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.

Go check out the full piece.

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If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy: my other green posts.
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