There is an interesting graphic by solar panel advocates showing the area needed to be covered by solar panels to fuel the world. These are obviously huge areas but it offers an interesting perspective.
The advocates point out that large areas of such panels could produce massive amounts of energy — particularly if located in places like the Saharan Desert. (That would make the currently poor Saharan people the new energy-rich producers). According to the site, the total energy needs for 2030 could be met with less than 500,000 square kilometers of solar panels.
Obviously, there are tremendous technological barriers in getting energy from such spots to population centers and maintaining such massive grids. However, it does offer an alternative view of how to break our dependence on oil.
44 thoughts on “Sun Power: Is It Time To Explore Massive Solar Panel Sites?”
I am not ignoring the advances, I looked the last time we had this conversation and solar voltaic is STILL 2.5 times the cost of wind or other alternative energy.
YES, I really believe that engineers (and I know dozens) would coat the wings with solar cells the minute they thought it could power the plane, regardless of the cost of the cells, because a plane that doesn’t require fuel is wildly useful almost no matter how much it costs. THAT is what you are missing. Screw cell towers, the military will pay a million a plane for a plane that can stay aloft indefinitely on sun power. It increases their range to WORLDWIDE, and a million is a hell of a lot cheaper than a sattelite, more covert than a sattelite, closer to earth than a satellite, and can hover (or fly in a tight, quarter-mile circle) indefinitely, with all kinds of surveillance equipment. Like the UAVs, if they can carry ordnance indefinitely aloft and radio back real-time video and sound, and fly nearly silently under the radar, of COURSE we want that (speaking as if I were still in the military, which I am not.)
For the military or intelligence agencies, new capabilities are priceless. So yes, engineers would do this in a heartbeat even if the cost were a million per plane, because they have customers that will pay ten and be happy.
These vehicles do not represent progress in solar cell efficiency; they represent progress in materials science. As I say, the second an engineer thinks a plane can be light enough to be powered by solar cells *regardless* of their efficiency and *regardless* of their cost, the engineer will be slapping together a model and a research proposal to DARPA! Everybody wants to get rich, Carlyle.
I thought that I had included a link to a Google search for information on sliver solar cells in my third previous post but it leads back to this John Turley thread. I must have copied from the wrong browser tab Here is the correct link.
Back in the nineteen sixties when I was at high school I was a pessimist about the coming collapse of civilization that I believed would happen when fossil fuels became exhausted. Solar cells were made in the sixties and were used to power satellites, but their expense was such that the idea that they would ever provide power on earth was an absurdity. Back then even powering a calculator by solar cells was an absurdity as calculators as we know them today did not exist. That a solar cell powered calculator exists today is another measure in how far both solar voltaic and CMOS semi-conductor technology has advanced.
These days I am an optimist an believe investors in coal mines and oil wells are seriously threatened by another 10 years advances in solar voltaics.
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