Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

DOE Shines $14M on Solar Energy Research

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the government-heliotrope dept.

Power 164

coondoggie writes "Eleven university solar research projects aimed at developing advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturing processes and products got a $14 million boost today from the Dept. of Energy. Photovoltaic-based solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity, and are made of semiconductor materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity."

cancel ×

164 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This has to be good news (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737032)

Once costs are the same as that of power from the grid then people will use this. It will help the environment and energy security. The only worry is that peak power production will still have to deal with night-time demand. We need to look at efficient, cheap energy storage.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

cyberon22 (456844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737068)

Wasn't Gore proposing this back before 2008?

What was the US deficit on oil between 2000 and 2008 anyway?

Re:This has to be good news (1, Informative)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737600)

Wasn't Gore proposing this back before 2008?

Funny enough, Bush proposed this back in 2001 [whitehouse.gov] , right after he took office. But everybody was so upset that Bush and Cheney would talk with oil companies when drafting an energy.
Yet another case where Bush did a lot but nobody noticed, like aid for Africa [time.com] .

Re:This has to be good news (5, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737748)

$14 million? A whole $14 MILLION? Gosh, I didn't think that much money existed in the whole world! Wow! All our problems are solved! Thank goodness the government is stepping in to save us! FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!

You know, I've tried to be objective when evaluating Bush and his aid to africa package did not escape my notice. Unfortunately the TRILLIONS that will be spent on the iraq war make everything else pale in comparison. Especially when toilet paper is worth more than the dollar. My kids will be paying for this and I happen to love my kids. Right now I'm fucking pissed off. Thanks, George! And I'm a conservative!

$14 Million my ass.

Re:This has to be good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738114)

$14 Million my ass.

Wow...and I thought Kristen [nytimes.com] was expensive at 4300$.

Re:This has to be good news (5, Informative)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738318)

$14 million is barely over an hour of the cost of the US occupation of Iraq: senate.gov [senate.gov]

Re:This has to be good news (1)

Floritard (1058660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738728)

Damn you beat me to this. But yea, 1 Hour! Really, I think that in times of war, government agencies should have to report budget numbers in war hours. That would really put things in perspective for all those people who like to complain about relatively insignificant things like welfare moms and government officials spending $80,000 on prostitutes [wikipedia.org] ( ~20 secs of Iraq war time! ). Those are definitely a waste of taxpayer money, but there isn't even a comparison to be made to money being thrown away in unnecessary wars.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

leonneck (913419) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738388)

That was going to be my point EXACTLY...14Million? WOW they spend that much in iraq in about 10 minutes..The BUSH has been a complete disaster to science research in this country, we may never recover

Re:This has to be good news (2, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739248)

That was going to be my point EXACTLY...14Million? WOW they spend that much in iraq in about 10 minutes..


The point to take away from the comparison isn't that $14 million is worthless, but rather that the war in Iraq is ridiculously expensive. $14 million, applied in a productive manner, can go a long way. On the other hand, when trying to solve an insoluble problem like Iraq, no amount of money would be effective.


The BUSH has been a complete disaster to science research in this country, we may never recover


Given a competent replacement, I believe we can. Just because we've spent the last 8 years spinning our wheels doesn't mean we have to continue to do so.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739208)

Funny enough, Bush proposed this back in 2001, right after he took office. But everybody was so upset that Bush and Cheney would talk with oil companies when drafting an energy. Yet another case where Bush did a lot but nobody noticed


What exactly has Bush done to promote renewable energy? Simply writing a proposal doesn't count as doing anything. Hell, in his 2000 campaign Bush promised that he would put carbon emissions caps in place to stop global warming. Time and experience has shown that Bush's words and Bush's actions are not related in any meaningful way.

Re:This has to be good news (5, Interesting)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737088)

Once costs are the same as that of power from the grid then people will use this. It will help the environment and energy security. The only worry is that peak power production will still have to deal with night-time demand. We need to look at efficient, cheap energy storage.
I think the first solution should be to rush into production the superconducting electric grid part of the Grid 2030 project. Being able to efficiently transport power across the country would significantly increase the stability of the electric grid which would allow more solar and other renewable energy projects to come online. This would also be a lot cheaper efficiency-wise and capital-wise than the massive civil engineering projects that will be required for pumped storage [wikipedia.org] . It would also give a lot more flexibility in the use of peaking plants for nighttime use. Until an efficient electric grid is implemented where you can easily and economically transport electricity thousands of kilometers (such as with a high voltage DC grid or a superconducting electric grid) you are still going to need tons of local peaking plants and your renewable energy plants (excluding hydropower) are only going to occasionally cut into the load of your base load plants which will make them less economical. The Albany superconducting line seems to be working well so it is time that a larger system is implemented.

World Grid? (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737416)

Of course a superconducting world grid could solve the problem of darkness at night-time. I would imagine that we are half a century off this technically and who knows how far off politically though.

Re:World Grid? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737770)

Infinitely far off. If any sovereign nation relied on "the World Grid", they wouldn't be sovereign long.

Re:This has to be good news (2, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737676)

A superconducting grid would be nice, but (assuming current-day superconductors which require liquid nitrogen for cooling) is decidedly nontrivial to build and maintain. Copper/aluminium wire can easily be strung between towers. A superconducting wire has to be enclosed by the cooling medium, making the 'cable' assembly unwieldy and I suspect putting the assembly underground becomes the only option.

There's also the failure modes to consider: losing the cooling probably means the wire will melt.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737746)

I wonder if the hydrogen economy ever comes to pass... if they will be able to run superconducting power lines through the hydrogen pipelines.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737860)

Brilliant. If the power line fails, then the surrounding hydrogen will explode.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738150)

Well, you would need some oxygen...

But I agree - there would need to be a lot of engineering to make it safe. Perhaps they could just run it alongside the pipeline - at a safe distance - and run taps of liquid hydrogen over periodically. My point is that if you have ubiquitous liquid hydrogen, perhaps superconductors become more feasible. It's colder than liquid nitrogen, though not as cold as liquid helium.

Re:This has to be good news (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738590)

assuming current-day superconductors which require liquid nitrogen for cooling
Yeah - But where do you think you're going to get all of that nitrogen? Out of thin air? =)

Re:This has to be good news (1)

locofungus (179280) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737984)

I think the first solution should be to rush into production the superconducting electric grid part of the Grid 2030 project

I don't think this is realistic with current technology (although I haven't been keeping an eye on what is state of the art).

Superconductors are limited in the amount of current they can carry. IIRC high temperature superconductors are particularly poor in this respect as well as not forming very good wires. But liquid He is so expensive, rare, and energy costly to produce that "normal" temperature superconductors aren't going to be efficient either.

Tim.

Re:This has to be good news (2, Informative)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738220)

I think the first solution should be to rush into production the superconducting electric grid part of the Grid 2030 project

I don't think this is realistic with current technology (although I haven't been keeping an eye on what is state of the art).

Superconductors are limited in the amount of current they can carry. IIRC high temperature superconductors are particularly poor in this respect as well as not forming very good wires. But liquid He is so expensive, rare, and energy costly to produce that "normal" temperature superconductors aren't going to be efficient either.

Tim.
The Albany Project [energy.gov] (pdf) used a high temperature superconductor that was cooled with liquid nitrogen and the cable was able to carry a significant load (several times higher than that of conventional high voltage cables).

Re:This has to be good news (2, Informative)

kcdoodle (754976) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738168)

The grid has very low losses.
Even over long distances, the losses are only around 2-3%.
Given that 2-3% is actually a very large amount of energy, it still would not justify the energy (and dollar) losses of maintaining a super conducting grid.

Huge mass production of cheap, fairly efficient solar cells could might all of the worlds energy problems.

Re:This has to be good news (2, Interesting)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737250)

Well - photovoltaics is excellent for powering air conditioning and offices. Maybe there is a business model here: Sell excess power to a storage company that stores the energy, and then sells it back at a slight premium at night? I think that may very well be more cost-effective compared to installing large battery capacity in each house (consider unused storage capacity).

Re:This has to be good news (4, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738118)

Another business model is to do energy-intensive things at night, when electricity is cheapest. A local school district, in their new elementary school, has an AC system that produces huge amounts of ice overnight, then uses that to produce cool air during the day. I believe some high-rises are starting to do this, too, because the cost of electricity for cooling during peak hours of the day is exceptionally high. More large buildings would probably do this, but are too short-sighted to see that a larger capital expenditure up front can be cheaper over the long haul.

Re:This has to be good news (2, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738316)

In the UK strorage heaters [wikipedia.org] are popular for the same reason, at least where houses are not connected to the mains gas supply. You can get a meter that charges a lower rate for off-peak energy [wikipedia.org] , which makes these reasonably economical forms of heating.

Re:This has to be good news (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737328)

look into beacon power systems...

they're making large flywheel systems to store off peak power to release during peak demand... DOE funding them too.

Who modded this down. (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737472)

Who modded this down? This is a genuine aid to small short-term variations. See beacon power [beaconpower.com] . I am not sure that such technologies could cope with day/night fluctuations though, for these long period variations probably pump storage hydroelectric [wikipedia.org] may be better. They are probably complementary technologies, as it takes a pump-storage plant about a minute to reach full load from stand-still, or 15 seconds from "hot standby", where the turbines are kept spinning under zero load.

Re:This has to be good news (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737366)

Goatse up your ass! Goatse down your throat! [twofo.co.uk]

You nerds love it.

Re:This has to be good news (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737886)

We need to look at efficient, cheap energy storage.
well the night-time consumption drops off quite a bit, especially on residential circuits so that helps quite a bit, so I'm going to say something most with bristle at at first and that's screw efficiency and go for cheap. I think the good old NiFe battery [wikipedia.org] is the way to go. This is a really good battery to hook-up to keep you off the grid, it's cheap, tolerant of abuse and long-lived, it's not good for large surge current or at cold temperates so it will not replace your car's lead-acid battery but it's ideal for storing electricity from a PV array in your basement.

What will $14 million achieve? (4, Insightful)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737038)

$14 million spread across 11 universities = $1.27 million dollars. It is definitely a start but when you compare it to the $2 billion the DOE was going to spend in developing new rural coal plants you have to ask where their priorities lie.

On the basis of the evidence... (4, Insightful)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737074)

It would appear that their priorities lie in "generating cheap, reliable power", something which has not happened with solar despite us being "really close now!" for the last 25 years and billions in federal R&D. ($159 million in 2007 alone.)

The Department of Energy estimates that, in 15 years, America will get a whopping 2-3% of its electricity generation from solar power. It isn't hard to understand why: it is expensive, the technology takes a stupidly long time to go energy-positive (and longer to achieve ROI), and solar is and *always will be* hostage to weather conditions which make it impossible to as a main power source in the overwhelming majority of this country.

If you want cheap energy, go coal. If you want cheap clean energy, go nuclear. If you want the undying love of people who understand neither engineering or economics and are not willing to learn either, go solar.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (0, Troll)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737188)

If you want cheap clean energy, go nuclear.
Do you have sources for that ?

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (4, Interesting)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737198)

If you want cheap energy, go coal

The cost of setting up a plant is hardly "cheap" and what happens when coal becomes scarce? It IS a finite resource - unlike the sun.

If you want cheap clean energy, go nuclear.

Once again the cost of setting up a nuclear power plant is in the billions. Fissile materials are also finite, when they begin to run out we'll see huge increases in price. See the case of oil now.

I also take issue with your point that nuclear energy is "green". Even if we say that plants are entirely safe (Which seems to be the Slashdot consensus) there are many other issues. First of all, what does one do with the waste? Plutonium 239, the most common material used, has a half life of 24,000 years. That's longer than civilisation has so far existed. None of our current methods of storing waste are viable and many have been proven useless.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0606/S00198.htm [scoop.co.nz]

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/cumbria/4589321.stm [bbc.co.uk]

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7068041.stm [bbc.co.uk]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jul/18/japan.justinmccurry1 [guardian.co.uk]

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003816157_webhanfordleak01.html?syndication=rss [nwsource.com]

Let's not forget the insane amounts of energy required to both commission a plant, continually mine and transport uranium and then decommission it.

I don't understand how you can argue that replacing our dependence on finite resource that pollutes the environment with another finite resource that pollutes the environment is a good thing. I suggest you read the recently commission Garnaut Review (Professor Ross Garnaut is an economist at the Australian National University) which states that nuclear is a non-viable option and the world must develop renewable sources of energy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garnaut_Report [wikipedia.org] . Or the Stern review (also made by an economist) which reaches a similar conclusion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review [wikipedia.org] . I do believe these two in particular have a broader depth of knowledge surrounding economics than you do.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737278)

Even if we say that plants are entirely safe (Which seems to be the Slashdot consensus)
_I_ don't agree with that. entirely safe is just not technologically possible i think, even the most tiny screw can fail. And even if there's a 99.999% safety level, there will still be a one-in-a-million chance on a major meltdown. Anyone wanna calculate the cost on that ? It is no coincidence that you can't get insurance on a nuclear plant.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Insightful)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737298)

Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear.

I personally do not believe they are safe but I have noticed that whenever this is brought up on Slashdot dozens of posts are sent in reply claiming that nuclear has "Come so far" since Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island and "nothing like that could ever happen again". Instead of getting bogged down on whether or not a nuclear power plant is likely to go into meltdown I thought it was better to stick to the inarguable facts.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737358)

you were clear, and i agree completely with you - my comment wasn't meant as an attack on you, more on the people who just swallow the nuclear industries' PR.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737434)

since Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island and "nothing like that could ever happen again".


I will point out again that Chernobyl was a disaster that occurred at a plant that was poorly designed and delibrately being operated in an unsafe manner and caused wide-spread release of radioactive material.

On the other hand, 3 Mile Island was an accident at a well designed plant that caused no significant release of radiation. Farms within sight of the plant are healthy and the remainder of the plant is in full operation.

As far as "nuclear waste" is concerned, "nuclear waste" from power plants is just nuclear fuel that hasn't been reprocessed yet because Carter outlawed nuclear fuel reprocessing back in the '70s.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Interesting)

locofungus (179280) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738260)

As far as "nuclear waste" is concerned, "nuclear waste" from power plants is just nuclear fuel that hasn't been reprocessed yet because Carter outlawed nuclear fuel reprocessing back in the '70s.

Not completely. It's also rubber gloves, overalls, etc, etc, that workers were wearing but are now classed as too radioactive to dispose of in landfill.

Last time I looked, for the UK put 1 smoke detector in a dustbin (240litres) and it can be collected by the dustmen (legally). Put two smoke detectors in the same dustbin and the whole dustbin load becomes "nuclear waste".

Story I heard from my physics tutor (so I assume it's true).

When the nuclear physics laboratory was built they wanted to put in a 20MeV tandem van-der-graff accelerator. There were two problems - one, there was a building height limit in Oxford and two, the normal cement they use in Oxford is so radioactive that any nuclear plant would immediately be shut down due to excessive radiation.

The first problem was solved by digging two stories down. The second problem was solved by going round all the builders yards with a geiger counter looking for the least radioactive cement.

Tim.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Interesting)

johnny maxwell (1050822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739196)

I personally do not believe they are safe but I have noticed that whenever this is brought up on Slashdot dozens of posts are sent in reply claiming that nuclear has "Come so far" since Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island and "nothing like that could ever happen again"
It always amazes me how people stick to that line of reasoning. I hope they realize that there are _still_ RBMK reactors (Chernobyl-type) operating today in Russia. Some of them had accidents with partial core meltdown in the past (The "Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant").

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Insightful)

baker_tony (621742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737444)

> First of all, what does one do with the waste? Plutonium 239, the most common material used, has a half life of 24,000 years. That's longer than civilisation has so far existed. None of our current methods of storing waste are viable and many have been proven useless.

What?! You're on Slashdot and you're not thinking "hmm, wonder what will happen with technology in the future?".

Do you seriously think that in the next 24,000 years of human science we WON'T come up with a solution to handle nuclear waste better? What about within the next 1,000 years (we can safely store for that long no worries). Still to long for ya? What about the next HUNDRED years, think we'll be able to deal with it then?

Did you know that we're already re-processing and using the waste from nuclear reactors from TEN years ago?

Come on, safely store the waste under a mountain in a geographically stable area (there isn't much waste that comes from a nuclear reactor) for now and deal with it 10, 50, 100 years from now.

Nuclear is safe, reliable and doesn't produce emissions when running. Much better than killing tens of thousands of people every year due to coal particulates in the air.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (-1, Flamebait)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737544)

"Do you seriously think that in the next 24,000 years of human science we WON'T come up with a solution to handle nuclear waste better?"

That is the dumbest fucking thing I've ever read. You must be a baby boomer, leaving all your shit for your kids to clean up. That or you're just very immature. Any responsible person knows you don't wait to handle problems later on, you prioritize what's important and then get busy.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Insightful)

baker_tony (621742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737672)

That is the dumbest fucking thing I've ever read. You must be a baby boomer, leaving all your shit for your kids to clean up.

Damn, and with language like that you must be a 16 year old AOL user.

I'm sure my kids (or my kids grandchildren) will appreciate trying to clean the air rather than stored nuclear waste.

My priority would be to stop polluting the air now and nuclear is the best way I've heard to mass produce energy with the fewest emissions now. I work in the energy industry, wind is a joke and everything else doesn't scale up very well yet.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737904)

Actually, the long-lasting storage is required only for a relatively small fraction of all the nuclear waste, perhaps a few tonnes a year from one reactor. And after all, there is still no *permanent* storage, even though I vaguely recall that Canada decided on utilizing some mountain areas that are historically known to be geologically stable on a time scale of hundreds of millions of years. And the alternatives are not any nicer, we already seem to have problems with CO2 today that might endanger us much sooner than any problems with long-term storage of nuclear waste might cause us. Saving energy is fine, but it gets you only so far, and as a technological civilization, we will probably never ever be able to get along without a substantial (a few terawatts) amount of energy again. And as this is a "shit" that cleans up itself after some time when kept in safe place, it does not seem to be exactly a time bomb (compared to certain other things that we - as a civilisation - are doing right now).

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (4, Informative)

sabaco (92171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737526)

Check out Integral Fast Reactors. They are passively safe (they can't go into meltdown, even if the entire system fails, because the reaction slows down as the temperature increases), they use several orders of magnitude less fuel, and work perfectly well getting fuel as un-enriched uranium or thorium or even depleted uranium and normal nuclear waste (which means that they easily have more than 3000 times as much fuel available as the light water reactors that are currently most common), and they produce orders of magnitude less nuclear waste (on the order of 200 times less) which also has a half life in the range of 200 years (instead of thousands of years). Oh, and did I mention that waste is treated on site, rather than being shipped to some distant storage facility? They are still considered experimental because the only one to operate in the US was canceled because of pressure by John Kerry (thanks a lot) after operating for 30 of the planned 35 years. The only reason that IFRs weren't considered competitive with light water reactors is because waste disposal is essentially free for utilities. (The cost of operations outweighs the improvement in fuel efficiency, but not the real cost of waste disposal.)

We should be building some of those, not more of the current (ancient) reactor designs.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (0, Troll)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737662)

they can't go into meltdown
is that 100% sure ? or just 99.999% ? that's a BIG difference.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (2, Informative)

neomunk (913773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737756)

If I remember correctly, it's not that they don't have meltdowns, it's that they are SUPPOSED to be in a state of meltdown. I -THINK-. (too lazy to google)

IIRC they keep the fuel in a hot liquid state and basically keep it covered in molten sodium. They use convection for "pumping" the coolant and can process most nuclear wastes as fuel.

I've always thought the fast integrals were good ideas too, if for nothing else than to process our currently stored wastes.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

johnny maxwell (1050822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739236)

IIRC they keep the fuel in a hot liquid state and basically keep it covered in molten sodium.
You do realize that there are accidents other than uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions? A simple _chemical_ sodium fire for example (http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/27/180239&from=rss). Hot sodium is probably one of the most aggressive chemical you can come across.

100% certain (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738688)

Laws of physics would have to be violated to have it go into meltdown. Not bloody likely.

Re:100% certain (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739020)

it's bloody likely something has been overseen, or a construction error, or a fault in the materials used.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737830)

I have a worry of thermal pollution with nuke plants though. Hasn't there been numerous times where the water used for coolant has been too hot for the plant to use as coolant? That heat energy put into rivers has to go somewhere and I'd imagine evaporation can only do so much based on humidity and air temperature.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738224)

Plutonium reacts just fine in a power reactor designed to use it. Instead of burying the Pu, use it in a reactor.

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (4, Interesting)

mhalagan (1078415) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737312)

As far as the USA is concerned, weather is not as large a factor as it is made out to be.

Considering that Germany(the solar capital of the world) recieves roughly the same amount of sunlight as Seattle. Almost all of the USA could take advantage of solar energy.

Also the average home in the USA recieves enough sunlight on its roof to power itself for 2-3 days worth of energy consumption. (assuming the sunlight was harnessed)

Re:On the basis of the evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737326)

Regurgitated Ronald Reagan press releases, like your comment above, do not add to the discussion on Slashdot. Please refrain from making simplistic arguments that keep people in the dark about how coal/oil-extraction businesses prevent funding of alternative energy sources by the government.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737100)

I agree, inasmuch as any money invested in non-oil power and fuels (even sequestered-carbon coal technologies) is bound to have some significant returns to the public, given where oil prices are headed (some estimate $125/bbl oil in the near future). However, there's a big difference between research at the academic level and actual development. $2 billion may seem like a lot of money, but when you're actually building power plants, it doesn't go that far, while $1.27 million for a small university-based research team is quite a prize (and many groups wouldn't be able to spend tens of millions of dollars on pure research even if you offered it to them).

Still, we can only hope that these groups meet with quick success and that their work can be brought into development in the near future (not to mention the various other power sources that are much farther along).

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (0, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737136)

Yes, and I would guess that this number pales in comparison to what is being given to oil companies to research alternative energy sources... and oddly, we haven't heard a damned thing from THEM... we do hear from non-government funded research and we do hear from government funded universities.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737436)

I'm in Florida, our local power company is planning on building a new nuclear plant. Cost is currently sitting at $17 billion.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (3, Interesting)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737466)

Exactly my thoughts. 1.27M per research group will be about enough to setup a lab and run it for 1-2 years. Yippy. They might be able to buy enough solar cells to power there computers :)

There is a big push to use coal power because the US has so much natural reserves of the stuff and it will help develop the some of the areas of the country that currently have little job prospects. I think the worry with solar is that you'd find a great way to manufacture the cells, but then all the manufacturing would go overseas. Less US jobs created + you still don't have energy independence.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (2, Insightful)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737592)

Yes, clearly 14 million dollars amounts to very little. If the DOE was interested in getting off oil and other nonrenewable resources, they would clearly put more money (billions) into solar energy.

Then again, it's going to take nonrenewable resources to fund the research on solar energy ... the DOE being the greatest department, knows this of course. Brilliant!

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737648)

It is definitely a start but when you compare it to the $2 billion the DOE was going to spend in developing new rural coal plants you have to ask where their priorities lie.

Or maybe I should call it chimp change. 14 million when you're talking about a nation dependent on a line of oil tankers that stretches half-way around the world and pumps billions of dollars a day into one of the most oppressive governments on the planet. A country that just happens to supply the bulk of working terrorists in the world. The same country we get some of those dollars back by selling them mountains of advanced weapons systems, sending more guns to a part of the world that really doesn't need them.

So how's that 14 million looking now?

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (1, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737700)

Another way to look at it is that it's equivilant to one hour and ten minutes in Iraq. Yep, we are spending a little over $12M per HOUR in Iraq! oil's pretty freaking expensive, isn't it.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (0, Troll)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737720)

when you compare it to the $2 billion the DOE was going to spend in developing new rural coal plants you have to ask where their priorities lie.

Or to the $14 billion/month the DOD and pentagon are spending in Iraq to "secure our strategic interests" (read "oil"). 1/1000th the amount we burn every month in Iraq, and we're supposed to cheer about this? Ridiculous. Come back to me when DOE gives $14 million each to a thousand different universities, research think tanks and private technology firms, then we'll have something to get excited about.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (0, Offtopic)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739118)

Yeah yeah, mod me troll, whatever. If you're modding on slashdot - "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters" - and you don't think spending $3 trillion on a pointless war is relevant to how our government prioritizes its financial support of other society-critical concerns such as green energy technologies and education, you're the worst possible kind of moron there is: the kind who thinks they're actually smart.

Re:What will $14 million achieve? (1)

txoof (553270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737898)

It will definitely hire a few more grad students and provide for a few more research projects to continue. While it's only $14 million, it is something. I agree there needs to be much, much more money put into this type of research, but at least it's not being totally ignored.

That said, it should be noted that the current administration definitely has it's priorities skewed as far as renewable energy. Ethanol looks good at first glance, but upon deeper inspection appears to be a losing game. With current technology, we're doomed to put more energy in than we can possibly get out in the form of fertilizer, transportation, processing, etc. Truly renewable and green projects have been ignored for too long in this country.

At least Europe has invested a good deal of time and energy into wind, solar and nuclear options. We're probably destined to buy our tech from Europe in the coming years.

Wow, and we can for over 300 billion for a war (1)

Phybertekie (975815) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737044)

Seems a little stingy, 14 million compared to billions eh? Make war, not solar !!!

Re:Wow, and we can for over 300 billion for a war (2, Funny)

xippie (925090) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737324)

And the war is for OIL control.

Re:Wow, and we can for over 300 billion for a war (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738358)

Really? Rather expensive price tag to let OPEC set oil prices higher and higher while their costs remain the same. Someone is getting screwed over - and that would be us.

Where do the electrons go? (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737050)

When the solar energy knocks those electrons loose, they travel out into the power grid, but unless there is some way to replenish those electrons, we're looking at a dwindling amount of electrons in the substrate. Normally, the additional electrons would be supplied via an electron-rich compound such as water or liquid mercury, but these advanced solar panels are turning solar energy directly into electrical energy, so there can't possibly be any extra electron replenishment without significant reduction in energy production. The alternative, of course, is to let Nature fill in those lost electrons at night when electron activity is at its highest (due to an abundance of free electrons caused by lowered grid electricity usage).

I'm interested in seeing how these researchers are able to de-ionize the silicon gel platters and create extra-electronned wafers that stand up to both the harsh elements as well as the long environmental electron replenishment mechanisms.

Re:Where do the electrons go? (1)

johnny maxwell (1050822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737122)

You are joking, are you?

Re:Where do the electrons go? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737148)

Solar energy is no laughing matter. But I'm not the expert here, Mr. Maxwell

Re:Where do the electrons go? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737350)

Well, maybe the electrons do the same thing in the photovoltaic cell as the do in a diode, or in a transistor, or in any semiconductor device, namely, they return from the opposite electrode. Like water in a tube, you let some of it flow out and another bit of water takes its place, Mr. BadAnalogyGuy. ;-) Does this seem to you plausible enough? In a closed circuit, the amount of charge carriers is constant. An electron gun would not be a closed circuit, but that is not your typical home appliance. ;-)

Solved --- Re:Where do the electrons go? (2, Funny)

Dr. Hok (702268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737306)

This issue was solved long ago:

$ fortune -m "electron buildup"

Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles, called electrons, that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking. Electrons travel at the speed of light, which in most American homes is 110 volts per hour. This is very fast. In the time it has taken you to read this sentence so far, an electron could have traveled all the way from San Francisco to Hackensack, New Jersey, although God alone knows why it would want to.
The five main kinds of electricity are alternating current, direct current, lightning, static, and European. Most American homes have alternating current, which means that the electricity goes in one direction for a while, then goes in the other direction. This prevents harmful electron buildup in the wires.
-- Dave Barry, "The Taming of the Screw"

Re:Solved --- Re:Where do the electrons go? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738504)

Actually, the electron loss is very useful in the production of ChargedMilk(tm).

ChargedMilk(tm) has between twice and three times the electrons of normal milk. A single 10ml bottle ($69.99) will cover 13% of your daily intake of electrons.

Should we subsidize specific technologies? (3, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737062)

I'm a fairly ecologically minded guy and I do think we need to develop energy sources which don't have us polluting or dealing with unsavory governments. However I question the wisdom of backing specific technologies over others. I think it would better to simply remove all the subsidies on coal mining and coal burning power plants. And then punitively tax ecologically unsound processes or activities. This will bring a parity to energy costs also and it removes the artificial motivations to pursue inferior technologies and cling to outdated ones.

$14M? (5, Insightful)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737104)

People spend more on their houses then that, and this is what our country spends on it? Photovoltaics might not be a silver bullet, but there are millions of rooftops that could be taking the edge off of our demand for energy, a demand that helps fuel the conflicts in the middle east, and we spend less money for a year on research then two hours on Iraq? $14M isn't news. Tell me when that M is a B.

Re:$14M? (2, Interesting)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737376)

As you said, photovoltaics is surely not a silver bullet, for the simple fact that there isn't any.
Actually, the only one that we could have would be the Negawatts obtained from energy savings here and there.

Anyway, solar energy appears to be the only scalable renewable energy source. You sure cannot obtain 100% of electricity production from it, but after some energy savings, 50% nukes + 50% solar panels could be a possibility for most countries.
It is just impossible to obtain more than a few % with either biomass, hydropower, windpower or geothermal sources. Sure enough, those renewables should be used wherever possible, but they just cannot cover enough load. For what's left, we should use solar energy and nukes.

Re:$14M? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737412)

is just impossible to obtain more than a few % with either biomass, hydropower, windpower or geothermal sources.
your SOURCE on that ?

Re:$14M? (2, Informative)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737646)

your SOURCE on that ?
Well, mostly :
- the amount of PWh needed
- some common sense
- and the research center [zafh.net] I work in.

I guess it's still not enough for you, so:
- hydropower is at its peak in many countries (e.g. in the EU) and comes with some massive environmental drawbacks (e.g. "Three Gorges Dam").
- biomass is surely interesting, but should not put more pressure on food supply chain and should be almost carbon-neutral. In Germany, customers already need to import wood pellets from Italy and France in good ol' diesel trucks. Biomass is not renewable anymore in this case!
- windpower provides between 2 to 5 times as less GWh/(km.year) as photovoltaics panels. Plus, you cannot use it right next to where it's needed.
- geothermal? use it wherever possible, but it does not represent so much either.
I go look for some more sources and I come back!
(I already have some, but are mostly in French or German...)

Re:$14M? (2, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737988)

- windpower provides between 2 to 5 times as less GWh/(km.year) as photovoltaics panels.
errr... right, I'll try to understand what you mean: You're saying that per square km, the amount of energy produced is 2 to 5 times lower ? That's totally irrelevant. In current state of tech, windpower is one of the cheapest available. People say it is intermittent (it is NOT... more on that later) so let's assume max 20% of energy production wind : that's still 20% CO2 reduced ? right ?

Plus, you cannot use it right next to where it's needed.
huh ??? there's a thing called 'Electrical wiring'
On intermittent availability : Wind 'turns' around high and low-pressure areas, so if you are at the center of a high- or low-pressure area, there is no wind, that means that a few hundred Km's further (in ANY direction) there will be wind. furthermore : our planet is a blanket of high and low-pressure zones adjacent to each other, and the reason very simple : the moon turns around us, the earth turns around it's axis, we move around the sun, the earth is a globe, clouds : this leads to an uneven warming of the earths-surface --> high and low-pressure zones.

Re:$14M? (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739332)

And for the vast majority of us who don't spend $14M on our homes, who gets to pay for the installation of rooftop solar panels and related materials?

We wish to get 14M$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737154)

The next generation of solar energy is developing in Israel; you can see companies developing interesting solutions based on Nanotechnology and Dye Sensitize based on university research. Universities here in Israel wish to get 14M$ for their solar energy projects. http://search.dainfo.com/cleantech [dainfo.com]

Good to see (1)

Melbourne Pete (1204418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737290)

Good to see some of that 24.3 billion dollars they have requested in this year's budget filtering down to where it can do some good. *cough* http://www.energy.gov/news/4706.htm [energy.gov]

Re:Good to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737318)

I guess nuclear safety isn't doing any good, nor is environmental monitoring of coal plants, or any of the other stuff the DOE does. Nope, they're just an organization for funding research. By the way, this $14mil is what's wasted. The odds of it having an impact are very small. Sorry, but university research isn't generating nearly the results that industry research is.

Meanwhile ... (2, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737460)

Meanwhile, in other news, the cost of the war in Iraq is approximately $275 million USD per DAY. http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home [nationalpriorities.org]

So that $14 million is about an hour and a halfs worth of investment, on one of the technologies that would stop us having to fight any more "wars for oil" ever again.

Makes you think ...

Stable energy sources (4, Insightful)

ruinevil (852677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737462)

Solar and wind, as they are now anyways, will never be stable energy sources, they are too dependent on the other variables, like the weather. Nations need a constant baseline of energy that solar and wind cannot provide reliably. Solar and wind are useful for summer days or the Super Bowl, when energy use goes above our usual baseline. We need to do more research in one of two fields, increase energy efficiency, so we have a lower baseline, and research cleaner, renewable, but most importantly reliable energy sources. I think, right now, nuclear is our best bet for that.

Re:Stable energy sources (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737530)

they are too dependent on the other variables

As opposed to coal (and in some respects plutonium too), which has only one variable which is decreasing all the time i.e. it won't last forever.

Now admittedly the sun and wind won't last for ever either, but surely 5-6 billion years is a lot better than 10-30 years (oil), 50 years (plutonium), 100 years (natural gas) and 200 years (coal) ?

(No sources for these numbers other than generally accepted values ... depends who you choose to believe).

To my mind, there's too much negative poo-pooing about peak demand and alternative energy's suitability ... okay, if peak demand is a problem, then the research needs to be done into superconducting and other technologies that will allow a much better storage and distribution of the energy.

There's plenty of unlimited energy sources about (solar, wind, water), this isn't the issue ... the problem is storing the damn stuff and releasing it as needed.

Re:Stable energy sources (2)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737566)

Please provide evidence that nuclear is "clean" and "renewable".

Re:Stable energy sources (1)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737766)

Please provide evidence that it is not. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your point, and I am not trying to be combative; however, it's silly to ask someone to provide evidence for something that you won't/don't provide yourself, even if you think the topic is so obvious that no evidence need be provided.

Personally, I'd like to see evidence based on new and modern (past 10 years) research and implementations, not pictures of mutants from Chernobyl, etc or anecdotes from Three Mile Island. It seems like this is what the nuclear discussion is always reduced to, which is too bad.

Re:Stable energy sources (4, Funny)

neomunk (913773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737840)

Lesee.... It's clean because if you stand a mile or so from the materials used you won't notice any negative effects. And... (this one's harder) umm... oh, it's renewable in the sense that if we get hit with a stellar core fragment from some supernova somewhere it will renew our supply of fuel...(?)

Yeah, that's the ticket. :-D

Re:Stable energy sources (1, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737660)

Solar and wind, as they are now anyways, will never be stable energy sources, they are too dependent on the other variables, like the weather.

That's why the solar installation needs to be above the weather (in orbit). A solar satellite would receive solar radiation about three times as intense as on the surface, and would never be affected by adverse weather conditions.

Re:Stable energy sources (2, Informative)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738798)

Which is nice in theory, but the energy cost of putting an installation in orbit tends to make the already-unattractive ROI for solar completely unacceptable.

We need space elevators for cheap orbital lift. :)

Re:Stable energy sources (3, Informative)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738444)

Why do people seem to keep assuming a "one size fits all" solution when these subjects come up? If we individually moderate our consumption (yes I understand that's not very likely to happen) and we incorporate several forms of renewable technology we will reduce our dependence on non-renewables drastically. Each house in the US could be retrofitted with a reasonable solar array for something like $50k. That won't solve all the owner's power needs, but it will put a large dent in them.

Combine that with geothermal heat pumps that drive a radiant heating system (preferably built into the floors for maximum efficiency) and some wind power (a few small wind generators won't do too much damage to the local environment but can help a little bit) and some heat recovery methods built into the plumbing of the house and most people will reduce power consumption by as much as a third or even half since most of our energy usage actually comes from heating a house or water for our personal comfort.

Solar doesn't have to be the "silver bullet" that so many opponents use as a reason not to fund it. It just has to be part of the solution.

Re:Stable energy sources (1)

sadtrev (61519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738954)

Solar and wind, as they are now anyways, will never be stable energy sources
They don't have to be stable to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We have adequate weather forecasting to allow wind and sunshine to be predicted. We have the technology, but seemingly not the political will, to integrate a lot more clean generation capacity than we do, into an advanced national grid.

Whilst we're burning coal when its sunny in Arizona or windy in Maine, then these baseline arguments are irrelevant.

There are far superior options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737464)

GOV squanders yOUR future on life0cidal crusade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737572)

eye gas that's their 'job'/obsession? let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

Floor Droppings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22737642)

In light of what we've (the U.S.) have spent on other things in the recent past (such as the 'war' on terror/middle east/drugs/etc)...

This is such a drop in the bucket, it is a joke.

I can't believe we're even talking about it.

This is a bad joke.

It's barely even worthy of a 'bone' (aka: Let's throw a bone to the masses to keep them happy).

I mean, WTF??? We've spent billions on defense, elections, etc. It looks like the federal reserve and company will be 'spending' (aka borrowing, aka printing money, aka asking the rest of the world to foot the bill) money to keep the monetary system solvent, but the fucking DOE spends a few million on some random, bullshit project and we're going to give them some credit for spending our money 'wisely'?

WTF people. It's time for some serious change in the U.S.

More Government Waste (1)

Azghoul (25786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737694)

Listen, I understand the "need" for government money for research into pure science that industry won't touch for whatever reason.

This is not one of those times.

Industry is researching PV technology like MAD! Can you imagine the first company to make it cheap, reliable, easy to produce, environmentally sound? Think of the billions they'd make! There's plenty of incentive already out there, and, I'd bet, plenty of venture capital (ie what the rich actually spend their money on...).

$14 is nothing but a payoff to a few universities and some pork barrel spending by Congress.

OH BOY (0, Flamebait)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22737976)

A whole 14 million!!!!! Can you believe it!!! Now if only they'd stop spending over a hundred billion a year on a war to secure oil we might actually get something done around here to promote alternative energy.

bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22738120)

That amount is spent in a day supporting the Iraq war. The money being poured into the Iraq war could fund energy research at home and provide better returns.

Two solar technologies are supposedly economic (3, Insightful)

Jameson Burt (33679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22738210)

As I recall, 60% of all the world's solar energy is being generated in Germany.
So, rather than look around the U.S., one should see how Germany harnesses solar energy.
Two technologies have made solar technologies much less expensive.
1. Solar concentrators.
      When sunlight hits a solar energy device,
      that device needn't convert immediately to electricity or heat.
      Split the use of solar energy into two steps,
      a. Concentrate/divert the solar light with what looks like a mirror
            or microwave antenna, but several meters in diameter.
      b. Focus the solar mirror onto your solar energy converter;
            essentially our solar cells of today, but able to withstand
            large amounts of solar energy.
      Producing solar mirrors is far less expensive than producing solar panels.
      This concentrator method is being claimed by some Israelis.
      They claim that 3 such concentrators save enough energy costs
      to construct a new concentrator in 3 years,
      thereby bootstrapping the economics of constructing solar concentrators.

2. Thin solar panels.
      Thin is cheaper than thick.
      Germans have developed this technology.

Germany is one of the last places you'd expect to have half the world's solar power.
From the same solar setup, you can get about twice as much energy near the equator
(eg, Israel) than in high latitude Germany.
Indeed, if we covered the Sahara Desert with solar panels,
we would produce as much energy as used by the whole world.

People on this blog mention that solar energy isn't storable.
But everything on earth is the result of solar energy
-- previous stars exploded to produce uranium and all the other elements besides hydrogen,
oil and coal are sunlight stored in carbon chains.
Which storage method used by nature could we use ourselves?
We could heat water then store it underground,
we could create carbon chains like oils,
we could move Sysiphus proverbial rock (or water) uphill then retrieve it downhill.
Dams once provided much of America's energy,
and now solar energy could move lake or sea water up into dams for later use.
If we go to mostly battery driven cars,
100 million big car batteries can store a great deal of solar energy.
Solar energy can be stored;
but perhaps the greatest technological challenge is not the acquisition of solar energy,
rather the storage of this energy.

Wowowowowow!!! (0, Redundant)

mosch (204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739004)

That's enough to pay for ONE FULL HOUR of the occupation of Iraq!

Back to the future...with solar cells (2, Interesting)

swm (171547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22739324)

In 1974 my 8th grade class went to Washington D.C.
One day they took us to the Capitol, and after the obligatory tour, they turned us loose.
In the Capitol. To look around. Really. It was a different world back then.

Anyway, I picked a hearing room at random, wandered in, and sat down.
This was during the first energy crisis, and someone was testifying to the committee about solar cells.
He was explaining that just as advances in IC technology had brought down the cost of ICs,
advances in the solar cell technology would bring down the cost of solar energy.

It sounded plausible, but it was completely wrong.
And for reasons that anyone testifying before congress should have understood.

It costs a certain amount of money (~ $1K) to process a silicon wafer.
We brought down the cost of ICs by making them smaller, so we get more of them for our $1K.
But that trick doesn't work with solar cells.
Solar cells collect photons over their surface.
You can make one smaller, sure, but then it collects fewer photons and produces less energy.

The only way to make solar cells cheaper is reduce the cost of the wafer and the processing,
and that's *hard*.
We've been working on it for 40 years,
and they still aren't competitive with coal/oil/gas/nuclear powered electric generators. (~ $0.10/KW-hr)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?