Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Solar Bloom

I found it rather amazing that oil was breaking the 90.00 barrel record just as ASPO Houston was finishing their last day. So did Kunstler: (read this)

"It was a sublime coincidence of fate and history that throughout the ASPO conference, the price of a barrel of oil surged up through the high eighty-dollars range and briefly touched $90-a-barrel on Friday (just as the stock market was tanking by 360-odd points). It was also interesting that as all this action was unfolding, MSNBC was running an interview with Senator Larry Craig (R. Idaho), (clip)

So, while the price of oil ratcheted up hour by hour, the ASPO conference members heard from an impressive range of experts who have been leading the public conversation on the Peak Oil story – with no help from the mainstream media or the political sector.

Among them were Robert Hirsch, co-author of the now-famous 2005 Hirsch Report, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, which, much to the consternation of its sponsor, first told the nation in no uncertain terms that it was heading for a catastrophic set of disruptions in “normal” American life if we heedlessly continued energy business-as-usual.

Hirsch went a little further now, two years on, than he had in his famous report, predicting a future of “oil export withholding,” panicked markets, and allocation disturbances that would make the 1973 OPEC embargo look like a golden age." more

At the same time, there is a real race between some pretty big time competitors to develop an affordable solar plant that can work in tandem with already affordable wind generation to power our homes, offices, and cars.

Here's the story from Reuters

Solar power edges towards boom time
Fri Oct 19, 2007
By Gerard Wynn

LONDON (Reuters) - Solar power could be the world's number one electricity source by the end of the century, but until now its role has been negligible as producers wait for price parity with fossil fuels, industry leaders say.

Once the choice only of idealists who put the environment before economics, production of solar panels will double both next year and in 2009, according to U.S. investment bank Jefferies Group Inc, driven by government support especially in Germany and Japan.

Similar support in Spain, Italy and Greece is now driving growth in southern Europe as governments turn to the sun as a weapon both against climate change and energy dependence.

Subsidies are needed because solar is still more expensive than conventional power sources like coal, but costs are dropping by around 5 percent a year and "grid parity", without subsidies, is already a reality in parts of California.

Very sunny countries could reach that breakeven in five years or so, and even cloudy Britain by 2020.

"At that point you can expect pretty much unbounded growth," General Electric Co's Chief Engineer Jim Lyons told the Jefferies conference in London on Thursday, referring to price parity in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015.

"The solar industry will eventually be bigger than wind."

The industry could halve costs and achieve parity in significant markets including the United States, Japan and parts of southern Europe by 2012, said Erik Thorsen, chief executive of the world's biggest solar power company Renewable Energy Corp (REC).

"If grid prices go up at the present rate if could happen before," he told Reuters. REC expects to halve costs on new production by 2010.

German solar power company Q-Cells AG, the world's second biggest maker of solar cells, expects similar cuts by making more components itself, thinner than before, and by using cheaper techniques for processing the silicon raw material." more

Yesterday, I was looking at the Nanosolar web site. They have developed a printable conductor which is basically a CIGS ink, and therefore is the first of the power paints.

In our town, our city council just made some special concessions to keep another CIGS technology close to home. This technology could print thin film photonic materials on glass, roofing, or siding, thus making distributed solar an economic strategy.

Recently, I have heard that other thin film producers, perhaps using equipment from Applied Materials, may be able to provide electricity in the 10 cent range in 50 MW lumps.

When the politicians finally add the cost of carbon onto fossil fuels, solar technologies with these prices should be deployable now.

Indeed a"solar boom time" is just around the bend.

But I imagine it not as a boom, perhaps with a bust.

I see a solar bloom.

And the earth and its inhabitants,

photo courtesy of Austin Chronicle



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