It’s hard to believe that a mere decade ago fossil fuels were at a premium, and everyone talked of ‘peak oil’ and the high prices of natural gas and coal. Now new power stations are coming online at an amazing rate, using pure clean sunshine.
A variety of technologies, from ultra-thin or nano film materials to solar concentrators that literally ‘crack’ water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, have transformed the energy landscape.
And the Greens are happy too, as these new ‘cool fission’ technologies don’t use or create toxic materials like old photo-voltaic cells or nuclear plants. Hydrogen is finally coming into its own as a useful fuel and store of clean energy.
Countries like Spain, Egypt and South Africa, and states like Arizona, Nevada and California are reveling in their new found wealth, from the Sun itself. The rapidly falling prices of the new solar systems to under seven US cents per kilowatt hour have made the transformation away from scarce, dirty fossils to clean, green renewables a matter of plain economics.
Now everyone can afford to be green, and growing. Unless they are burdened with gray skies and constant rain.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
“It’s just a decade away”
For Nanosolar of San Jose, California – and perhaps the rest of us – 18 December 2007 was an historic day. It was the day the company shipped the world’s lowest-cost solar panel. The company believes it can be the first solar manufacturer capable of profitably selling solar panels at less than one dollar per watt.
“Solar can potentially provide all the electricity and fuel we need to power the planet,” says Harry Gray, PhD. With about ten more years of intensive research, solar technologies should be able to compete with coal-fired power plants.
Modern thin-film technologies do not use toxic materials, and solar water crackers generate hydrogen for fuel cells or clean combustion. Is it just a question of economics to make the new energy paradigm a reality?