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What Gore Didn't Say About Solar Cells

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the there-would-be-this-large-ball-of-gas-in-space dept.

Power 574

AmericanInKiev writes "Computer World posted a piece on Al Gore and his claim that solar cells will improve at the same rate as microprocessors. Vinod Khosla on the other hand has expressed disappointment that the doubling rate for price/performance of PV is 10 years rather than 18 months for transistors. Which of these two has the facts on their side?" Before anyone has him inventing the Internet again, note that Gore's claim as related in the article is much milder than that Moore's Law applies to solar cells per se -- namely, he's quoted as saying "We're now beginning to see the same kind of sharp cost reductions as the demand grows for solar cells." An optimistic statement, but not a flat-out silly one.

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Here we Go.... (2, Interesting)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364015)

Queue the flamewar in 3...2....1....

But to start us off on topic, is there any evidence that the cells will increase beyond their current 10% conversion rate?

Re:Here we Go.... (5, Informative)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364087)

37% is available. Oh did I mention they cost 100 times as much ;)

Re:Here we Go.... (5, Interesting)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364201)

There is a lot of research going on into improving not only the output of solar but into lowering the cost of manufacturing them. Nanotechnologies have in lab tests have shown certain avenues of current research may have the ability to increase performance of basically existing tech by as much as 25%, sure they are a ways to go before any kind of mass production can be done with this research but it's there. Increaseing acceptance by the population as to the usefullness of the equipment will of course generate more investor dollars into this research, and frankly I'd much rather see this than more research into increaseing payload output of bombs. Some areas stil have much they could do to encourage the adoption of solar too. being able to sell engery to the grid rather than just offset the cost of what you bought for instance in California alone would be a boon to the industry.

Re:Here we Go.... (5, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364243)

Given that we have technology like CSP using mirrors and standard steam turbines, What do you feel is the best balance between improving what has already proved functional, or dickering around with a test tube? I see MIT has dye-impregnated acrylic, you have an asbestos, er nanotech, based material and some theories, while the European are building real working Solar plants at Utility scale.

I dunno, it just seems we're a bit heavy on the science experiments and little to slow on the Yankee Ingenuity these days.

Re:Here we Go.... (2, Interesting)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364431)

what if you use that dye-acrylic stuff to distribute your light to the edge of the panel, then line the edge with 37% efficient cells? That could make for some nice cheap panels.

Re:Here we Go.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364551)

No need to get so fancy. Normal lenses ("concentrators") and used with high-efficiency triple-junction cells to collect light from a large area (see Emcore's page [emcore.com] for an example). In fact these cells perform better with higher intensity light anyways.
Fraunhofer is using a slightly different approach that looks to get better and better as light intensity increases: article [compoundse...ductor.net]

Re:Here we Go.... (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364221)

Gallium is vastly superior to silicon, in much the same way as it is as a semiconductor. Cost is a problem, though If we assume that all superior semiconductors are superior in solar cells, graphene should prove interesting once it matures. At present, solar technology that converts light into heat (solar heaters, solar stoves) are much more efficient than devices that convert light into electricity. Since heating and cooking consume enormous amounts of power, there may be ways to use this type of implementation to reduce the demand for electricity in the first place, rather than to inefficiently provide for that demand. Such methods aren't terribly portable, but neither are houses, restaurants or public baths. So long as you can store the heat without too much loss, reducing demand would seem the most sensible way to solve the energy problem.

In parallel with solar methods for reducing demand, there is the question of energy wastage. I've already mentioned heating water is a big consumer of electricity. The heat required to raise water even one degree celsius is enormous. Most coal, gas and nuclear power stations have staggeringly large cooling towers in which water is converted to steam and released into the atmosphere for that very reason - turning cold water into steam requires a staggering amount of heat, which reduces the temperature of whatever they want to keep cool. Very elegant. Also very wasteful. Rig the cooling towers to a pipe system and you've the biggest, hottest hypocaust ever made. The water is still carrying the heat away, so the towers still work as intended, all you are doing is making that heat available for domestic and industrial use rather than pumping it into the atmosphere.

Spent nuclear fuel also emits significant heat, it would seem more logical to recycle the fuel rods as water heating devices than dump them somewhere and ignore them, although preventing contamination would be extremely hard. Hard is not impossible, however, and it seems better to try and solve a hard problem (and risk succeeding) than to do nothing and face impossible energy demand problems year-after-year.

Re:Here we Go.... (4, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364349)

Almost.
The cooling tower has a very important job in any heat cycle engine since energy = hot side - cold side. Take away the cold side, and you've got bumpkiss. The plant re-uses the water. In an Open cycle, some water evaporates, but much of it is reused - in a closed cycle plant, all of the water is recycled and only air passes through the cooling tower.

Yes, this heat can be used for things, but its tricky to find a customer for that much heat all of the time. Food processing plants use a lot of low-temperature steam, and some other industrial processes, but that's been a strategy for a long time, and it's not exactly solved the riddle yet.

Re:Here we Go.... (3, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364509)

Yes, this heat can be used for things, but its tricky to find a customer for that much heat all of the time.

I wonder if it would make sense to run the leftover heat through a series of heat engines, with each optimized for smaller temperature differentials than the last. E.g., steam turbine -> sterling engine.

Re:Here we Go.... (4, Informative)

slittle (4150) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364609)

sterling engine

Sounds like something that solar thermal plants might have a lot of. Some {coal,gas,nuclear} plants already sell their excess heat to industry during the day, but they could also keep solar plants from going offline overnight..

Re:Here we Go.... (2)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364681)

What if we line the cooling tower with peltiers ?

Re:Here we Go.... (3, Insightful)

gormanw (1321203) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364257)

This is very typical of Al Gore and many of his ilk. While he is busy flying around in private jets and having his Lincoln idle for 20 minutes, he doesn't seem to have a clue about economics. I read a great series of pieces on how much many of these "green" technologies really cost. The site was http://www.economicefficiency.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] This was the same site that had "Hybrid Hummer Hums."

Re:Here we Go.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364379)

Gore is just playing the enviro-hipster card. The same people who buy Priuses or other hybrids because they are cool, when in fact they are too underpowered for US and European highway traffic.

Solar is a nice thing to have to offset some of the load, but its essentially worthless 2/3 of a day.

What is really needed is research in nuclear energy, which can give power pretty much anywhere regardless of weather conditions or time of day. However, nuclear is so verboten these days, slandered/libeled to death by people/organizations like Big Oil and Gore who have financial interests in seeing nuclear go away so they can rake in the dough on shiny but worthless marketing, that there isn't much research going on in the nuclear field, other than Japan.

Nuclear isn't exotic like solar nano-boogers, but it keeps the lights on and electricity going without adding any CO2 to the environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Re:Here we Go.... (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364419)

I'm with you on nuclear.

But my Prius performs perfectly well, thankyouverymuch. Of all the criticisms I've heard, yours is among the strangest and easiest to debunk.

Re:Here we Go.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364289)

Sunpower offers panels on the market that get up to 19% conversion rate. So yes, they are.

Re:Here we Go.... (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364441)

I am no fan of Al gore, but I am a fan of Solar
for numerous reasons.

Nanosolar and similar technologies could gear up to
cheap mass production, and eventually reach efficiency
as high as the Stirling engine dishes at some point.

http://www.nanosolar.com/products.htm [nanosolar.com]

For now the Stirling dishes are the most power per sq. ft.

The nanotech thin film solar material is the cheapest.

In mass production they are predicting $1/watt for panels.

Re:Here we Go.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364569)

Queue the flamewar in 3...2....1....

What flamewar? I'm a Republican, so I already know Gore is wrong.

'Nuff said.

haha (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364023)

anal sex is for faggots mutherfuckers!!

Al Gore and the Internet (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364027)

On 9 March 1999, Gore gave an interview for CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, in which he stated: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."[95] UCLA professor of information studies, Philip E. Agre[96][97] and journalist Eric Boehlert[98] both argue that three articles in Wired News led to the creation of the widely spread urban legend[99] that Gore claimed to have "invented the Internet," which followed this interview. The urban legend became "an automatic laugh. Jay Leno, David Letterman, or any other comedic talent can crack a joke about Al Gore 'inventing the Internet,' and the audience is likely to respond with howls of laughter."[100]

In response to the controversy, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn argued that, "We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he 'invented' the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet."[101] In addition, Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, stated: "In all fairness, it's something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is -- and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a "futures group" -- the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the '80s began to actually happen." - Wikipedia

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (5, Funny)

Sparky McGruff (747313) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364057)

You people and your facts. Why should I bother looking up pesky facts when they just get in the way of a good argument? Facts are for losers. Rants are for closers!

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (1, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364085)

I think the Bush administration's motto is "Don't tell us about the truth! We're making the truth!"

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364227)

Why Bruce, if you are the real Bruce Perens, I've never seen you get so political, and off topic :-)

Now, as for these super efficient solar panels, my question is, How long will they last before the power starts dropping off? I can't remember where I saw it, but I believe I read something about 40-50 year old rigid panels, the only kind available then, are putting out as much power as when they were new. Can we expect the same from these? Even if the initial price goes down, if you have to buy new ones every 5 or 10 years, they could still be very expensive to maintain. Besides, while I think PV power is great for mobile installations, but for small fixed power plants, I think things like Stirling engines are much better, moving parts and all.

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364371)

I've never seen you get so political, and off topic :-)

Bashing Bush is ALWAYS on topic.

I'll see you in the next thread about programming languages, to further prove my point.

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364511)

If that is not Bruce, it is the most persistent, on message, fake in history. Far better than the fake Steve Jobs.

To answer your other questions I have read datasheets for cells which claim a 1% initial yearly loss with an over 30 year life span for modern PC devices. I have also seen anecdotal evidence of installations which still function after 15-20 years.

I am not sure which method of exploiting solar energy is going to turn out to most efficient. Certainly there are a lot of different ones out there. I also think that if you were honest with yourself spending a few years making your life (and electrical appliances) as energy efficient as possible before getting into the solar thing you would realize far more savings. Still the idea of having a 3kW Solar powered sterling motor in the back yard is sort of appealing.

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364701)

Manufacturing seems a better word. Put it in front of evidence and you have creationism and the Iraq occupation explained in one simple phrase.

it's not a huge stretch (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364187)

Granted, he never said "I invented the internet", but it's not hard to get that from "I took the initiative in creating the internet". What he presumably meant was something like "I took the initiative in starting programs that ultimately led to the creation of the internet", which is sort of what the following sentence more vaguely tries to say. But just the flat-out "I took the initiative in creating the internet" does read like a claim that he, well, created the internet.

Re:it's not a huge stretch (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364353)

Granted, he never said "I invented the internet", but it's not hard to get that from "I took the initiative in creating the internet". What he presumably meant was something like "I took the initiative in starting programs that ultimately led to the creation of the internet", which is sort of what the following sentence more vaguely tries to say. But just the flat-out "I took the initiative in creating the internet" does read like a claim that he, well, created the internet.

Actually it's a language issue that created a misunderstanding of intent. In Congressional terms initiative means starting the process and has nothing to do with creation. He was instrumental in establishing the the environment that made the internet possible. No one ever argued what he said they used the spin and ignored the facts. Everyone got a good laugh out of their own ignorance of how the Congress works and it cost him the election and got us eight years of Bush. Was a joke made at his expense really worth eight years of Bush? It was really a misunderstanding of terminology not a wild claim made by Gore so is it still funny? Would there have been a joke in it if he had instead said I helped write and push through a Bill that set the ground work for the internet? Just not as funny as twisting his words. This may have been the most expensive laugh in history. It was the 4 to 6 trillion dollar laugh so I hope the people who thought the misunderstanding was funny got their money's worth. He never once said "invented" the comedians and Republicans did but everyone foolishly went along with it and sadly Gore waited too long to correct the error.

Re:it's not a huge stretch (1)

MasterC (70492) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364373)

But just the flat-out "I took the initiative in creating the internet" does read like a claim that he, well, created the internet.

Anyone with half a notion of the history of the internet would know that the internet was not created by any one person. Cerf is often credited as the father of the internet and he himself said it was not one person's achievements. It was a slew of people that got the ball rolling.

Many of whom are considered computer science greats: Licklider, Baran, Roberts, Davies, Kahn, Cerf, etc. etc. (I know I'm missing a number of people from that list).

To anyone with a quarter of a notion of the history the internet would know that a politician could NEVER have invented the internet because it was so mind-blowingly radical of an idea. Hell, AT&T said it was IMPOSSIBLE. People had to coin the words of today's parlance: packet, protocol, header (originally: leader), etc.

The same people who think Gore invented the internet are the same ones who think Edison invented the light bulb and telephone. At least Gore didn't electrocute elephants on film, though I swear I saw him eat a kitten once while driving a Hummer.

Re:it's not a huge stretch (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364377)

Good thing is that he hadn't been involved with DNS RFC's. Daemon on my machine would now be called vagued and it'd be really tough to respond to your comment.

I don't want to even think about the first post in this context.

Re:it's not a huge stretch (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364663)

No it doesn't.

He's a politician. When a politician says "I took the initiative in creating/stopping/starting/doing X", they obviously don't mean they personally did whatever it was. They mean they sponsored bills about it, organized funding, spoke about it, etc, etc.

To think otherwise is stupidity on the part of the person doing that thinking, not on the part of the politician.

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (3, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364389)

I suspect that many people realize that when first created, the internet was closed to themselves. It was an elite ivory tower kind of thing. You know - the kind of thing a guy who rides on private jets and limosines would like. That thing - called Arpanet I think - was probably what Al was referring too. There is a world of difference between the government-edition Arpanet - and the mostly free (as in speech) Internet - which brought the printing press to the individual for the first time in history, and connected every individual to the kind of elite information previously only available to the rich.
Somehow I doubt that Al Gore played a significant role in democratizing the information age. That role would fall to a new category of leaders. And I think you of all people should know :)

If I'm wrong on that - let's see where Al Gore voted to open up the Internet to private citizens...

Re:Al Gore and the Internet (5, Informative)

Sparky McGruff (747313) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364549)

According to Snopes.com, in addition to speaking about the importance of the nascent internet before it was widely used, Al Gore

sponsored the 1988 National High-Performance Computer Act (which established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network) and cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (which opened the Internet to commercial traffic).

He did not, however, write the Commodore 64 port of GOPHER, nor did he start up his own ISP in his basement. But it does look like he did play a role in supporting the building of a robust nationwide backbone for data traffic, and allowing those outside research institutions and the military to have access to it.

Easy workaround... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364037)

Someone please turn up the sun.

Yeah, turn up the sun. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364105)

It's the only way we can stop global warming!

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (3, Insightful)

Shaitan Apistos (1104613) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364151)

It's the only way we can stop global warming!

It's not global warming anymore, it's climate change.

That way we have a name that describes both global warming and global cooling, so that either way we have an excuse to increase regulation.

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364215)

It might turn out to be nothing more than a few million cases of asthma and an end to expatriating our wealth overseas.

Even then, I'd think alternatives to oil might be worth giving a passing glance. eh?

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (1)

jbeach (852844) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364241)

"Climate change" is a phrase that was popularized by the Bush administration, as a way of avoiding acknowledging the scientific reality that the Earth is getting warmer due to humanity. So don't blame those who want to do something about global warming which will probably require regulation - blame those who want to avoid doing anything that might hurt oil company profits. As a side note, regulation makes it possible for us to have food that isn't poisoned and contracts that aren't frauds. And the current housing meltdown is at least partly due to a relaxing of regulation on Wall St. investing in mortgage companies. So, regulation in it's place is not only beneficial, it can be vitally important.

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (1)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364385)

"...acknowledging the scientific reality that the Earth is getting warmer due to humanity."

How about instead let's acknowledge the elephant in the living room, and state the real nature of the problem:
It's not 'people' that are the problem. It's the fact that there are *too many people* that is the problem.

Show me a politician, or a political propagandist, or almost anyone in fact, who won't dance around *that* Truth.

When are we going to put some kind of population control into place?

I was surprised, saddened, and almost sickened yesterday to find out that one of Microsoft's marketing slogans is something like "Technology for the next 5 billion..." The planet is already FUBAR with *this* 5+ billion - why make it easier for 'more'?

Sigh {rant off /}

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364439)

You want to reduce the number of people? You go first. At the least, don't have kids.

The fact is that if you want to reduce population growth, the best way to do that is to make everyone rich. Prosperity always leads to declining fertility.

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364527)

"It's the fact that there are *too many people* that is the problem. "

oh what a load of crap. the ONLY solution is to have more educated people, people who can create the solutions of the future. if you want to talk about facts how about we talk about the fact that population's are leveling out and have been for the last 20 years. here in australia if it wasn't for immigration we would have had negative growth. most credible population models have the worlds population leveling out at 15 billion, which we can easily sustain.

Re:Yeah, turn up the sun. (1)

ChuckSchwab (813568) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364279)

Shut up. SHUT UP YOU FUCKING TERRORIST! That is one hundred fucking percent STRAWFUCKINGMAN. "Global climate change" (and, misleadingly, "global warming") refers to a VERY SPECIFIC set of changes in the earth's climate as a result of HUMAN EMISSION of greenhouse gases. We HAVE TO cut these in order to prevent these VERY SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE changes from happening. But all you fuckholes want to do is stick your heads in the sand and say, "I don't like what all the top universities in the word have unanimously agreed on" (which is, of course, that we need to have STRINGENT product efficiency regulations and move toward an all-out ban on fossil fuels as a general goal) "so I'm just gonna PRAY REAL HARD TO JAYSUS" that it's not true.

Well, guess what, Bible-thumper, it IS true. And if you're going to deny it, you might as well deny the moon landings, because the 100% accurate climate models use the EXACT SAME UNCONTROVERSIAL SCIENTIFIC LAWS that are used to design space shuttles and satellites and airplanes and the SUV you're driving UNNECESSARILY (which is seriously fucking up the earth -- ever think of the suv HYBRIDS they have now? Guess not). So the ONLY POSSIBLE reason you can deny ANY of this is by, quite frankly, turning off your brain like that ape George W Bush.

I hope you burn in hell. You know, what earth will be like in five years if assholes like you keep voting.

Perhaps you can explain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364731)

Perhaps you can explain why we have Temperature increases across seven planets?

Oil prices should stay high (3, Insightful)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364047)

...it's the best news for the development of this kind of technology imaginable.

You can't get (smart, institutional) investors on board on the promise of likely/possible breakthroughs in technology. However, if you can demonstrate that the price per kilowatt-hour will be competitive with fossil fuels in the reasonable near future then you will get the level of investment required to finally take these technologies mainstream.

I believe we are already at that point. Here in Australia we suddenly have wind farms and novel renewable energy projects appearing IRL all over the place when previously they were often announced but rarely built.

Re:Oil prices should stay high (3, Interesting)

shermo (1284310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364133)

The cost of wind turbines has doubled in the past three years due to increasing demand and commodity prices. Of course that's less than the increase in electricity prices, so it's cheaper relatively.

However, I don't think oil/electricity price is the sole or even primary factor behind the renewables craze. Our government has had a '90% renewables target by 2025' for more than a year. ie, when oil was $70 a barrel.

There's a lot to do with public perception, and that's much more in favour of wind power nowadays.

(Written from an across the ditch viewpoint)

Re:Oil prices should stay high (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364421)

I don't think oil/electricity price is the sole or even primary factor behind the renewables craze.

Sure seems like it is ...

(I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm just saying that the massive recent increases in the price of energy is probably the #1 contributer to the recent interest in alternative energy sources, and that's a very large part of the `renewables craze')

2025 is still a long ways away. If gas was still $1.50 US/gal (US price, of course), a lot more people would be happy to not worry about some 2025 target ...

Riiiiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364053)

Right. And governments are toppling to the Metagovernment every day.

Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (4, Insightful)

spoco2 (322835) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364061)

It would seem the choice of attacks against Mr Gore would be strawman arguments. Does that suggest that people are finding it hard to tackle his views directly or fairly and so have to resort to such ridiculous attacks?

(I actually know very little about Gore, this is really just a question based on him being the target of such things so often)

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (4, Interesting)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364147)

It is not so much Gore's views as it is Gore himself. I for one think the message is worth hearing, considering, and acting upon. However, it seems like Gore comes off as pretty pompous, overblown, and almost zealous with his anti-global warming stuff. What with the selling carbon credits like they were indulgences from the middle ages? How about just cutting some emissions and avoiding creating fake industries...I digress. Gore has a good message, he just says plenty of other (sub) messages that annoy the crap out of people.

Regardless, Gore provides a voice for a real concern that can possibly affect the lives of everybody on the planet, and that's good. I'll tolerate him if it means our planet will get saved in the process :-P

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (4, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364189)

If Al Gore is to the environment what Rev. Jesse Jackson is to .. well anyway, I think I'd rather hear from people who generally get their facts straight. Vinod Khosla has what one calls a pretty good record on these things - though I'd take exception to his positions in retrospect on bio-ethanol for example. I agree with you on Carbon Indulgences.

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (2, Insightful)

Free_Meson (706323) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364453)

What with the selling carbon credits like they were indulgences from the middle ages? How about just cutting some emissions and avoiding creating fake industries.

Market-priced pollution/cleanup credits are the only sane way to price these activities. Currently the cost of polluting is either arbitrarily set by some government entity or foisted upon the public. Forcing companies to clean up after themselves or pay someone else to do so will allow everyone to pay the true cost of their activities, thus allowing the market to decide how best to allocate resources. Ideally such credits would be traded on an exchange not unlike the CME.

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364671)

the cost of the credits is still arbitrarily set by government, so your whole argument is stillborn.

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364489)

I would recommend you watch the south park episode [southparkstudios.com] on the matter.

Re:Wow, the target for more strawmen arguments... (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364501)

Yeah, it's one of those troll "debates", but I think this produces some useful artifacts - more interest and info on solar energy.

I do love the esthetic of solar energy - it's as direct as you can get, no baking in earth crust for gazillion years (fossil), no convoluted process involving atmosphere and water (hydro/wind/wave). And being electric/material tech, I get the sense we should be able to scale it up. Of course, I say this without knowing the nitty/gritty of the current solar tech.

What he is quoted as saying ... (3, Insightful)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364063)

"Think about what happened in the computer revolution," Gore said on NBC's Meet the Press program recently. "We saw cost reductions for silicon computer chips of 50% for every year and a half for the last 40 years," he said.

That's Moore's law to the inth degree. True, we didn't assert that Moore's law applies to PV, but He 's asking a nation to embrace an energy policy based on this comparison.

Re:What he is quoted as saying ... (1)

jbeach (852844) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364259)

No, he's asking us to embrace a new energy because our current one sucks. What he's offering here is one possible factor that make it easier to switch to a new policy.

Re:What he is quoted as saying ... (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364309)

Really - Is it "possible" or pretense?

That really is the question. Is it possible that the delivered price of Solar PV could drop 50% in a period of 18 months year after year?

Re:What he is quoted as saying ... (3, Insightful)

truesaer (135079) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364411)

Really - Is it "possible" or pretense?

That really is the question. Is it possible that the delivered price of Solar PV could drop 50% in a period of 18 months year after year?

I don't know, and I don't think anyone can say. I think you can credit the cut-throat nature of the semi industry for the dramatic advances in transistor counts. Think about how many times Moore's Law has been declared dead and then someone invents a new type of interconnect, or a way to create transistor features smaller than the wavelength of light, or a better method of doping, or any of the other advances that have kept the trend going.

If there was as much money to be made in solar cells, I think we'd see some surprising improvements. Maybe it wouldn't match what's been done in semiconductors, but who can say?

Re:What he is quoted as saying ... (0, Troll)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364451)

What he's doing is offering hype to convince the guillible that a new energy source will magically become exponentially cheaper. With there being no factual basis for that claim.

He is just plain wrong, and it's typical hype from Al Gore. There is no reason to suppose the prices will drop at 'the same rate' and saying so just promotes these kinds of side arguements.

People into politics will take sides and use the rhetoric to batt things around. But Gore's statement is wrong and contributes nothing but distortion to the issue.

Re:What he is quoted as saying ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364343)

700 billion in remittences to foriegn powers. every year. What if PV got just 7 billion of development every year. Would prices increase 33%. Or would they drop. One energy policy my have a future, the other is a race to the edge of a cliff.

a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (5, Interesting)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364065)

Moore's Law talks about the complexity, not speed or performance. That's why it doesn't apply to either solar cells or digital camera sensors.

Digital camera sensors, especially, as it's not the complexity that kills ya, it's that it can't get physically smaller and still capture as much light (independent of the # of pixels). CPUs get cheaper because they get physically smaller, and thus require less silicon. The same deal with silicon PV cells - you don't want to make them smaller, you want to make them more efficient at converting light to electricity. Solar cells will indeed get cheaper (MUCH cheaper) very quickly (within the next few years, you'll see several competing technologies, in fact), but not due to silicon processes, but because they're going to be made without silicon (or with much less silicon, or silicon of a much lower grade than CPU-grade silicon (they've been competing for the same Silicon resources all this time)). I'm just sayin'.

Re:a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364103)

The same deal with silicon PV cells - you don't want to make them smaller, you want to make them more efficient at converting light to electricity. Solar cells will indeed get cheaper (MUCH cheaper) very quickly (within the next few years, you'll see several competing technologies, in fact),

Yes, but solar cells hit a ceiling much more quickly. No matter how super-awesome you make them, they can't generate more energy than actually *hits them*, which is ~1000W/m^2 on average. But then, it ouputs a high-grade form of energy (electrcity) while receiving a low-grade form (heat and light), which means that (by the laws of thermodynamics) they lose a bunch of that too in the conversion.

So even if you could make solar cells maximally efficiency and free to build and deploy, you'd still have to find the real estate that you could blanket and still leave undisturbed.

get a job (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364399)

go work as a roofer for one summer...I bet ya you'll bingo to where we might be able to fit the next *billyun* solar panels... anyway, the EU is going to slap a few hundred square european big distance measuring units up of solar in the sahara desert, and pipe it to europe, in all the papers lately. While some people hem and haw and debate and keep shelling out the big bucks for energy and keep pharting around with "studies" and hoping mr backyard hydrogen fusion reactors will save them, others are doing something about it now, using the tech we have now, because it got "good enough" some years ago. I bought some solar pv 9 years ago, same as I bought earlier way more expensive computers 20 years ago. why? I want to be part of the solution, not just part of the whining about things problem. a real geek solves problems, wannabes play video games and wait for someone else to do it and crybaby around because it isn't perfect yet. And it is getting better, every day, lot of new dedicated to solar fabs going up, dye based solar is coming, solar concentrator tech is getting commercialized. Snooze ya lose, early adopters get the benefits, same as early adopters of computers got the benefits!

Re:a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364445)

You have heard of buildings?

The things with roofs that cover how much of the planet?

Re:a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (2, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364485)

Well, there are places we could put them that would be zero (additional) environmental impact -- roofs, walls, cars, etc. If we could make them even 50% efficient, merely putting them on the entire roof of every house could probably cover most of the energy needed by that house. If we could make them strong enough, roads and parking lots and such could be covered with them, stuff like that. (Not likely to ever be practical, of course.)

(Alas, even covering a car with 100% efficient solar cells (impossible, of course) wouldn't provide enough energy to power that car even in full sunlight. At least not at car speeds -- solar powered bicycles/tricycles are almost practical with today's technology, as long as you don't mind a big cover full of solar cells.)

I seem to recall reading somewhere that we could provide the entire human race's current energy requirement with solar panels (using today's technology) on less than 1% of the Earth's surface, and it even suggested some places -- mostly in deserts near the Equator. Aha ... Found it [chemexplore.net] . It doesn't explicitly say 1%, but it doesn't look like much ...

Re:a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364125)

Moore's Law talks about the complexity, not speed or performance. That's why it doesn't apply to either solar cells or digital camera sensors.

Technically you are correct. However, it has proven fairly accurate for CPU performance as well (computations/sec per dollar), and this is what people often are referring to in informal discussions. It roughly has applied to hard-drives and RAM also.
       

Re:a misunderstanding of Moore's Law (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364323)

Moore's law means whatever Gordon Moore means it does this week. It's more of a general idea or a visionary goal than an hard mathematical theorem. That said, Intel's darned good at delivering it, whatever it means. Except for those whole Itanium and Netburst fiascos. Nobody's perfect.

Moore's law has been the name given to everything that changes exponentially. I say, if Gore invented the Internet,[14] I invented the exponential.

- Gordon Moore [firstmonday.org] (by way of . [wikipedia.org] )

Al Gore caused global warming (2, Funny)

gchesney0001 (667278) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364109)

So Al's Internet is responsible for all the massive datacenters causing global warming huh?

We'll be using Solar about as much as computers (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364111)

I firmly believe that solar is going to boom in the next few years and start covering every piece of cheap land on the globe. I feel that there is a lot of money to be made in energy in the short run when solar supplements the grid. And there is money to be made in energy in the long run as we phase into plugin hybrids and the demand on the grid gets huge. Of course like most nerds, I have a "not in my lifetime" long run view of an eventual Dyson Sphere of solar power in space which probably doesn't start out trying to be one, but instead starts out as Sim City microwave power plants. On a reverse note, people think the innermost planets cannot be habitable due to their temperatures from the sun, but can't we just pull a Mr. Burns and block out the sun? We could then send energy through focused beams to collectors.

Cheap Land Formula (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364355)

When you say 'cheap land', just how cheap do you mean? Seems like a simple math problem for Slashdot.

X = width of land
Y = length of land
G = generation ammount per square foot for an average month
E = electricity wholesale price

(((X*Y) * G) * E) > (monthly rent/lease + payroll + maintenance + taxes)

Of course, if the E (electricity wholesale price) is too low for this equation, we could fudge it enough by subsidizing solar power and or increasing taxes on all other forms of power.

Re:We'll be using Solar about as much as computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364357)

Did you ever use microwave power plants in Sim City?

Sometimes the beam misses the collector and a deadly laser burns through the city.

Re:We'll be using Solar about as much as computers (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364461)

Except real microwave power installations wouldn't work like that. The power would be so diffuse, and the collecting area so vast, that any misalignment would be harmless.

Silly? (-1, Flamebait)

TW Atwater (1145245) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364115)

"An optimistic statement, but not a flat-out silly one."

Anything Rev. Gore says that is not flat-out silly is worthy of note.

10 years ain't bad. (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364135)

doubling rate for price/performance of PV is 10 years rather than 18 months for transistors.

Ten years isn't a bad rate. It's not like oil is going down, so PV has a fixed target. We don't expect to get out of the oil addiction in 5 or less years anyhow. We need to invest in the future. Investment may hopefully speed up progress, but if not, a 10 year rate looks fairly good right now.
     

Re:10 years ain't bad. (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364293)

The rate of improvement isn't constant, but it's a hint of how close you are to the end. Diminishing returns have pretty much arrived for PV. There are lots of options, Thin film, concentrated, organic, CIGS, Nano-this, Q-that; but in the end, the price of a roof-top installation is fairly immobile at this point. So much of the cost is interred in hard work like ladder-climbing, wire-twisting, roof-screwing, and so on, there isn't much left to improve. Vinod uses the example of the zero-dollar PV - even than the price wouldn't compete with the grid - for all the other costs.
 

Re:10 years ain't bad. (4, Informative)

demachina (71715) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364321)

Solar isn't competing against oil unless you a solar powered car. Solar power is competing against coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear for electricity generation. In the U.S. oil accounts for 1.6% of electricity generation [wikipedia.org] . Don't mean to be pedantic but it drives me up a wall that people have no clue where their power comes from.

Coal is nearly half of America's electric power. Its price is going up but not as much as oil and it is in much greater abundance in the U.S. Unfortunately coal's impact on the environment, both mining it and burning it, tends towards devastating. The Chinese are using huge amounts of coal for their electricity too.

Re:10 years ain't bad. (3, Interesting)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364539)

Did you not see T. Boone Pickens' proposal [pickensplan.com] for reducing our dependency on foreign fuels?

Solar isn't competing against oil unless you a solar powered car. Solar power is competing against coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear for electricity generation.

And Pickens' proposal was to create giant wind farms to generate electricity, so that we could free up the locally-sourced natural gas for cars.

I'm not saying I agree with him on everything, but some people understand plenty well where fuel comes from, at least well enough to know that you can use the same energy source for different purposes, just like you can use different energy sources for the same purpose.

(For what it's worth, our house is powered by wind and hydro for electricity, but natural gas for heat & water heat. I'd consider a swap to solar thermal if my HOA would allow solar anything on my roof.)

Re:10 years ain't bad. (1)

nigels (264332) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364587)

At least two things to consider:

- Natural gas can be (and is) used as an alternative to oil for transportation.
    And solar could offset natural gas currently being used for electricity generation.
    (It's being proposed over at http://pickensplan.com/ [pickensplan.com] )

- The oil used in the U.S for electricity generation is one thing.
    For gas prices, the important statistic is global use of oil for electricity generation.

Re:10 years ain't bad. (2, Informative)

ya really (1257084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364655)

Solar isn't competing against oil unless you a solar powered car. Solar power is competing against coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear for electricity generation.

Lots of people use heating oil for their homes, especially in the US. According to the Dept. of Energy [doe.gov] , over 8 million of the 107 million homes in the US use heating oil (roughly 7.5%) and rougly 4.1% in Canada [pwgsc.gc.ca] . Typically, they have to refill their tanks 4 to 5 times a year. Heating oil accounts for about 25% of the yield of a barrel of crude oil, the second largest "cut" after gasoline (petrol). With solar generated heat/power in place, heating oil would no longer be needed

It's not like what now? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364363)

Ten years isn't a bad rate. It's not like oil is going down

Actually it's exactly like Oil is going down, since it's down below $120 a barrel again and gas prices are also coming down too (unlike in the past where reduction in oil didn't seem to translate into reduced cost for gasoline).

Oil is a resource, and like any resource prices fluctuate. One thing to consider is that with oil prices elevated the ability to extract it from other sources (such as shale) becomes economical, and may for far more than ten years provide cheaper power than solar can. Especially since solar power is not as universally applicable as oil.

Al Gore has some good ideas (4, Interesting)

Robert1 (513674) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364141)

His idea for a 10 year Kennedy-esque-moon-mission-analog of rapidly transforming our energy base from one of fossil fuels to renewable energy is not only a great idea economically for the long term but also great for the short term. Any time a country is in an economic slump, the best way to relieve it is by instituting widespread public works projects. Not only do they create short term wealth and job opportunities, but they have sustained maintenance work as well as the overall betterment of society through the finalization of said public work.

A recent poll (I think it was from last Thursday) said that over 90% of Americans are FOR the rapid mobilization of wind and solar power. It seems everyone's on board for this.

Except BOTH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Which is quite mind-blowing since the populous as a whole is ALL FOR IT and if either did support such a plan, it would net them a HUGE amount of voters from both political parties. It seems everyone I talk to has energy on their mind, a couple have said that they'll vote for whichever candidate would push for Gore's plan or one like it.

Which leaves me to wonder, if neither Obama nor McCain seem to have any desire to embrace it, is it finally time for a viable third candidate, one who represents the publics opinion? Could we be seeing/should we deserve to see a candidate Gore?

Characterizing the Presidential Plans (1, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364169)

Since I cringe each time the Candidates energy plans are butchered - and it happens often.

ie. McCain has said Oboma is AGAINST a 300 million dollar (Xprizey) thing for a vehicle battery. and Oboma is opposed to nuclear.

Well, I've never heard Oboma suggest that electric vehicles are a bad idea or anything disparaging of their development, second, I've actually heard Oboma speak rather embracingly of Nuclear - provided as he says - we can solve the storage problem.

McCain would obviously spill oil anywhere he could find it.

AIK

Re:Al Gore has some good ideas (1)

chris_sawtell (10326) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364219)

It's often said that populations get the governments they deserve.
So what you need to ask is: Do we deserve a POTUS who can think?
From what I see on blog commentaries of all sorts I fear the answer is, tragically, "No".

The reason the world has experts (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364281)

is because the unwashed masses, those 90% that vote in stupid polls, are not capable of making decisions like these.

With current technology it is impossible to convert to PV in any meaningful timescale mostly because PV has so much embodied energy.

PV's energy payback time is something like 10 years. That means that if we set a goal to make 20% of electricity from PV, you'd have to find 2 years worth of spare electricity to make the PV.... and where's that going to come from? This problem marginalises current PV into only ever being a bit player in the energy world. Or, to turn it around, if we can find 10% of spare electrical capacity to channel into making PV then that will limit the PV conversion rate to 1% per year. Or if it is only 5% spare then that makes a 0.5% conversion rate - not even enough to cover increasing demand.

PV will only be practical for mass generation when it comes from vastly different technology.

Wind is more viable, in some areas.

Not sure on the economics (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364427)

His idea for a 10 year Kennedy-esque-moon-mission-analog of rapidly transforming our energy base from one of fossil fuels to renewable energy is not only a great idea economically for the long term but also great for the short term.

I just had to question the assumption here so many people make that going to all renewable energy on such a short timeframe is indeed desirable and does not bring with it great costs to the society that attempts it.

Moving away from oil dependance is a great idea for so very many reasons, but to focus only on a few things like solar and wind and ignore the huge costs of transition, all while basically forming a religion around the effort that will brook no debate of directives handed down from on high - scary stuff.

To paraphrase Franklin, when passion begins to govern she never governs wisely. And there is WAY too much passion and far too little rational discussion of all the options on the table of moving away from an oil based economy on a timeframe and using technologies that make sense.

Re:Al Gore has some good ideas (1)

Redfeather (1033680) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364449)

Do we even WANT a candidate Gore? He seems to be coming into his own, publicly, after bowing out of the direct political arena. Inconvenient Truth, and all of his exposure since, while not perfect, has been geometrically less awkward than everything I recall of him beforehand. Perhaps he's doing his best work in the private sector?

Corolary: Perhaps we should be doing some things to move this forward regardless? I'm sure there are other, related developments that could either be applied or explored in parallel to PV dev? Materials and efficiecy are one thing, but adjusting just how much power devices take is another issue entirely. This also falls in line with the inevitability of electric vehicle drain on the grid. If we can't expand the grid, or its suppliments (wind or pv) beyond a certain speed, it might be useful to scale back our requirements in light of future need as well.

Let the free market do its job! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364507)

Everyone thinks the government has to take action. Now that the free market sees an impending shortage of oil (thanks to Chinese demand), it is creating oil high prices and alternatives: something the Saudis and oil companies are afraid of...

The 'solutions' are
1) solar concentrating balloons (because balloons are cheap) http://www.coolearthsolar.com/
2) Lithium (eventually sodium) iron phosphate batteries that are long lived and will fall in price after millions of tons worth are made every year for BEVs.
3) Very efficient and lightweight BEVs, like the Aptera. This allows for less expensive batteries and motors. It also uses less energy.

Yes, lithium phosphate batteries came about with government funding at UT Austin, but it will be companies that make them cheap. Yes, solar energy has to be stored, like in compressed air in underground salt domes.

Still, would some bureaucrat have come up with these ideas a few years ago? I think not. Europe has put down billions on solar and wind and they will continue to do so for the future. Us americans should save our money and then buy version 2.

Re:Al Gore has some good ideas (1)

elnico (1290430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364525)

His idea for a 10 year Kennedy-esque-moon-mission-analog of rapidly transforming our energy base from one of fossil fuels to renewable energy is not only a great idea economically for the long term but also great for the short term.

If the Apollo missions had failed, it would have meant some lost money and lost pride. If this sort of plan fails, it could mean a serious depression. Furthermore, Apollo was a government project funded publicly. What you're suggesting goes well into the private sector. I don't know exactly how you plan to tell current energy suppliers that they should just change to renewable sources in ten years. Or are you suggesting that the government should become the main producer of energy?

Any time a country is in an economic slump, the best way to relieve it is by instituting widespread public works projects. Not only do they create short term wealth and job opportunities, but they have sustained maintenance work as well as the overall betterment of society through the finalization of said public work.

The economic model you're working from is called Keynesian Economics [wikipedia.org] . I'm no economist, but I suspect you aren't either. Until a expert in the field comes along, I'll just let you know that it does work like you think. For instance, have you considered that jobs will be lost in the non-renewable energy job markets while they are created elsewhere?

A recent poll (I think it was from last Thursday) said that over 90% of Americans are FOR the rapid mobilization of wind and solar power. It seems everyone's on board for this.

Please provide a source. I highly doubt that the poll wasn't phrased differently or that it was from a reputable agency. If the poll is legit, then I have to conclude that the American public has given in to fear and hype.

Which leaves me to wonder, if neither Obama nor McCain seem to have any desire to embrace it, is it finally time for a viable third candidate, one who represents the publics opinion?

Perhaps you should look into the Green Party? Then you should look into why they consistently lose.

And out of respect to Mr. Gore, I hope you've misrepresented his plan.

Re:Al Gore has some good ideas (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364697)

>For instance, have you considered that jobs will be lost in the non-renewable energy job markets while they are created elsewhere?

In the long term yes, but during the spending period new jobs there would actually be created (research/production of new tech requires energy believe it or not, and in the development phase all this new tech will actually be a net drain on our current energy availability).

Re:Al Gore has some good ideas (5, Insightful)

philipgar (595691) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364741)

Any time a country is in an economic slump, the best way to relieve it is by instituting widespread public works projects. Not only do they create short term wealth and job opportunities, but they have sustained maintenance work as well as the overall betterment of society through the finalization of said public work.

Whoa there, this statement IS NOT a fact. Public works projects can help a slumping economy, but only if the public works project is needed, and absolutely helps expand the economy. There is more to it than that, but creating jobs does not necessarily expand the economy but can result in simple wealth redistribution. For example, if the government hired 10,000 people to dig a giant ditch, and than hired another 10,000 people to fill in the ditch, jobs would be created, but would it help the economy? The government doesn't magically have money, they need to obtain it somewhere. In this instance they've created 20,000 jobs, but added nothing to the economy. In fact, under such a situation, they've likely decreased the economy. Even if unemployment is really high, some of these people are likely not doing other (productive) jobs to dig a ditch and fill it in instead. This decreases the net value of the economy. Additionally, where is the money to pay these workers coming from? They either tax the people (reducing the money they have to create new jobs, and buy goods, decreasing the size of the economy) or print money, causing inflation, resulting in an inflation tax instead.

Of course, the real world is much more difficult, and I am not an economist, but I know not all economists believe that public works projects are good for the economy. The publics works projects in the great depression did not cure the depression, however government military spending did help bring us out of the depression (although, I imagine the average standard of living decreased during the war years, as the money was going into the war). One factor of public works projects that can also helps the economy (beyond the help the public works project itself does) in the long term, is the training that workers might receive working on the project, making them more productive afterward.

What I do know about pushing people into public works projects on renewable resources is that it would create jobs, and result in more renewable energy. However, if the cost of the energy is greater, than everyone is paying in higher overall costs (or taxes). It must also be noted that in a slumping economy, the costs of implementing large public works projects is cheaper, as there are often large numbers of unemployed people (who in the US are often earning money from the government already from the welfare system). This means the net cost of implementing these projects is cheaper due to being able to pay lower wages, and even cheaper still because you don't have to pay these people welfare benefits.

Maybe a real economist could plug through the numbers and predict if your proposed projects would help the economy (even than they'd be guessing). However, claiming it's a fact that public works projects help the economy is definitely not true.

Phil

Moore's law does not apply here. (4, Interesting)

Brett Johnson (649584) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364177)

As mentioned previously, Moore's Law does not apply here.

However, the use of nano-tech (to increase light collecting surface area), multiple layers (to absorb more frequencies), and lenses/concentrators (to focus more light on the collectors), and thermo-electric converters (to convert heat from the panels into electricity) should be able to push efficiencies well passed the 40% range at reasonable cost. Of course, these improvements will be "5-10 years out" for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, but it could be (1, Insightful)

catmistake (814204) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364277)

If the amount of resources that were poured into nuclear development in the 50's were poured into solar development today, solar development would probably be double that of microprocessors. Sure, solar development is advancing today faster than ever before, but even today, the effort is miniscule compared to what was dumped into nukes.

Re:Yeah, but it could be (1)

khing (936015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364465)

Nuclear research was well funded due to the overhanging threat posed by the cold war. Quite unfortunately, the threat posed by climate change does not seem to hold much influence over decision makers. The end result is that unless the threat becomes properly real and imminent, solar research will never get the resources that nuclear got.

Re:Yeah, but it could be (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364495)

there are many limits to PV's capcacity which won't ever be over come to the point it can compete with nuclear or coal. PV is only good for situations which are remote or require low voltage low current.

i just don't get this obession with PV, it's not "free" energy, it's bloody expensive energy. cpu development has nothing to do with PV development i don't understand where he got that comparision from...

Moore's law is a bad analogy (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24364347)

Moore's law is a measure of the maximum number of transistors per single integrated circuit changing over time. Evoking Moore's law to explain greater efficiencies of production or advances in technology that produce cheaper products are unfortunately all too common.

They'll improve at the same rate as LCD panels (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364499)

Applied Materials, the largest maker of semiconductor fab machinery, makes fab gear for solar panels. Their CEO likes to show graphs of cost per watt vs. year, and there's a steady decline, at roughly the same rate as LCD panels. Applied Materials solar cell fabs are using technology borrowed from LCD panel fab, and they're now making 5 square meters of panel at a time. The machinery for manufacturing such huge panels is appropriately large, and that's part of what's bringing the cost down. Despite much hype, no single improvement has produced a big drop in panel cost. But the cumulative effect of continuous improvement is working.

Applied Materials people make the point that installation is now half the cost of the completed solar system, and the solar industry needs to move beyond the "guy with a pickup truck" level of installation. Bigger panels reduce installation cost, and they're working on panels that are roofs themselves, instead of being installed on top of roofs.

The actual rate of price drop is maybe a factor of 2 per decade. Which isn't bad. As the Applied Materials solar division head says, "This is a great business. Everybody else's costs are going up, and ours are going down. And we're nowhere near market saturation."

When dealing with Gore (3, Insightful)

Ossadagowah (452169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364503)

It's important to remember what you imagined/pretended he said so you can write a response to that instead of what he actually said IRL.

Let's forget about Al Gore (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364535)

Let's just forget about Al Gore. He may have some good points. He may have some made some bogus claims. But what really matters is the facts. Let's look at the facts and judge technologies on their own merits, not based on what Al Gore has said about them and what we think of him.

We just need to plant more trees (3, Interesting)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364545)

The simple solution is plant more trees. More trees is more shade. More shade is more tolerance to higher temperatures (90 degrees in the shade feels cooler than 72 degrees in the sun). More trees is more hiding places / homes / food for pray/animals. Trees / plants also absorb sunlight, reducing the greenhouse effect.

Ok, so maybe that's not an energy solution, but I think a lot of our problems stem from urbanization and the lack of trees. The hippies are right, in this sense. Parking lots are a good place for trees, and having them for shade would help keep our cars cool as well. Trees are nature's natural climate stabilizer.

No funding (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364553)

The reason why computer chips have kept to Moore's Law is that the whole area of research has constantly attracted huge funding from very big companies, who had an interest in it. Perhaps we could have seen something similar for solar cells and fuel cells, if there had been enough investments. It is worth noting, however, that developing these technologies would have gone against the interests of some very major players: the oil and coal companies. If we could suddenly produce energy cheaply, simply by erecting solar panels with an efficiency above 50%, why would we buy fossil fuel? We all know that those things are bad for our environment, and there is every reason to suspect that research has been actively stifled by the fossil fuel producers.

There are no obvious, physical reasons why a solar cell shouldn't be able to reach a substantial efficiency - recently there has been a number of articles on that very subject suggesting efficiencies in the 80'es - and of course it will become much cheaper to produce them, just like it is now absurdly cheap to produce computer chips.

But apart from that, there is so much energy floating around in our environment: wind and water, just to mention the two most obvious. Don't let anyone dupe you into thinking that the only way to utilize that energy is by making huge powerstations that are plugged into the main grid. Centralised power production is geared towards extracting energy from concentrated sources, like fossil or nuclear fuels, whereas wind and water power mostly occur in relatively low concentrations, which will make distributed production more efficient - like in one windmill per household, if one can imagine such a thing, or a small number of large windmills per smallish community.

Recent News About Solar Cells (2)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24364747)

Here's an article from a few weeks ago I remembered reading, seems relevant. They claim a 40x increase with products available within 3 years.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/solarcells-0710.html
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