Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Solar revolution slowly unfolding

One aspect of the energy industry that has almost been forgotten in the hoopla over nascent technologies, is the progressive maturing of the solar energy industry. It is now the one sector that can turn on a dime with the advent of technology breakthroughs. They can manufacture panels as mechanically efficient as possible and install them as cheaply as possible. They have the needed gadgets to exploit the production energy. It has all been invented and perfected over the past thirty years.

Current manufacturing is dominated by companies in Japan and Europe. And in spite of the raw cost , it has found multiple markets and has become a large well funded industry.

This has resulted in a progressive improvement in the efficiency of silica based systems which remains largely the dominant technique.

It is still a niche solution, but it is a large industry in spite of all that. It is amazing what twenty years or so of hard work will do.

What I am waiting for is the implementation of printed solar cells on a plastic substrate that achieves 30% efficiency using nano-scaled structures. That will crash the cost of the active component by an order of magnitude and bring solar energy fully into the mainstream.

That level of cost reduction will make every building on earth potentially grid free. The industrial infrastructure is already in place to do this.

The other big gain for planet earth, as I have posted before, is that this will be cheap enough to produce a stand alone atmospheric water collector that can support the covering of the deserts with trees. It becomes the terraforming machine.

I also suspect that we will all live to see this energy revolution happen .

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