Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Solar Revolution or Cold Fusion?

The quest for cost effective solar electricity has until now been almost as elusive as cold fusion. Improvements in cost effectiveness seemingly are always just around the corner, but even with higher fuel prices there is long way to go before the cost of solar cell technology is reduced enough to displace significant amounts of conventionally generated electricity from fossil or nuclear fuel.

David Freeman (former head of the New York Power Authority, Tennessee Valley Authority, and LADWP) and Jim Harding recently wrote an article regarding a recent major breakthrough in nanotechnology and production processes that could begin soon to increase the amount of cost effective solar electricity generation. The materials breakthrough may permit distributed generation by incorporating solar electricity generating devices into building structures. Rapid development and expansion of this renewable source of electricity could help deal with growing demand, perhaps reducing the need for more conventional central station power plants.

Freeman and Harding state that "the prospect of this technology creates a conundrum for the electric utility industry and Wall Street. Can -- or should -- any utility, or investor, count on the long-term viability of a coal, nuclear or gas investment? The answer is no. In about a year, we'll see how well those technologies work. The question is whether federal energy policy can change fast enough to join what appears to be a revolution."

For more on renewable energy, see PULP's webpage.

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