Monday, March 13, 2006

Cheaper solar? The brains at UC Berkeley are working on it

Hey solarDwellers:

Check out this article in the local S.F Chronicle today:
"A Hail Mary against global warming peril...
Cal grad student working on thin solar panel"

Favorite part of the article:

"In 50 years, if everything goes on business as usual, CO2 levels will be twice as high," said Paul Alivisatos, who is Gur's mentor and leads the lab's nanotechnology group. . . For Alivisatos, it's not a question of the world running out of oil; he sees plenty of carbon fuels left to exploit.

"We'll run out atmosphere," he said.

Such key point: policymakers these days worry about how to get enough fossil fuels out of the ground and where they're gonna get them. They don't give enough weight to the global warming part of the equation. Even if we were awash in cheap oil for centuries to come, the increase in carbon in the atmosphere will eventually force a shift to cheaper sources of fuel as weather patterns and water temperatures begin to fluctuate too much. Better safe than sorry, right? As the grad student says:
"The way I see it, and the way a lot of other people in the field see it, is that really a risk we want to take?" Gur asked. "Let's be very pragmatic here and let's look at it as essentially an insurance risk assessment."

The search is for a solar technology, like "thin film" and solar concentrator panels, that doesn't depend so much on the expensive processing of silicon. It is very satisfying to see researchers looking at a new, cheaper solar technology that in the future could be a significant part of a global energy solution, a solution that fights against carbon-based emissions and global warming. If they create that cheaper solution, solar could be implemented on a grand scale, significantly reducing the need for nuclear/coal/gas power plants.

Article well worth the read; also gets into the topic of bio-engineering plants so that they more easily break cellulose down into ethanol, a replacement for gasoline, which brings up the ethical dilemma of bio-engineering plant DNA for the benefit of a cleaner fuel. Worth it?

I have faith we'll find a clean solution. Keep working grad students and thanks! And for the rest of us, do as much of today's solar tech as you can; tomorrow's solar tech is still quite a ways out there in years before it can reach the level of today's traditional silicon-panel production

--the solarDweller
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1 comment:

chalacuna said...

Harnessing the energy from the sun is the best alternative and renewable source of

energy. The sun is totally and 100% environmentally friendly.

The only drawback to solar power is the initial investment which is at present is

not practical econoomically to many consumers.

If advanced manufacturing techniques are developed to produce cheaper and more

effecient solar panels, time will come most houses will be having roofs made of

solar panels and that would help a lot in making a better and pollution free


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