Solar power is getting much easier to store — and at a much cheaper price –but will the GOP neoliberals keep blocking it?
A newly opened solar power energy and storage plant in Spain.
By John Aziz | May 21, 2013
SolidarityEconomy.net via The Week.
The total solar energy hitting Earth each year is equivalent to 12.2 trillion watt-hours. That's over 20,000 times more than the total energy all of humanity consumes each year.
And yet photovoltaic solar panels, the instruments that convert solar radiation into electricity, produce only 0.7 percent of the energy the world uses.
So what gives?
For one, cost: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates an average cost of $156.90 per megawatt-hour for solar, while conventional coal costs an average of $99.60 per MW/h, nuclear costs an average of $112.70 per MW/h, and various forms of natural gas cost between $65.50 and $132 per MW/h. So from an economic standpoint, solar is still uncompetitive.
And from a technical standpoint, solar is still tough to store. "A major conundrum with solar panels has always been how to keep the lights on when the sun isn't shining," says Christoph Steitz and Stephen Jewkes at Reuters.
But thanks to huge advances, solar's cost and technology problems are increasingly closer to being solved.
(Bloomberg & New Energy Finance)
The percentage of light turned into electricity by a photovoltaic cell has increased from 8 percent in the first Cadmium-Telluride cells in the mid-1970s to up to 44 percent in the most efficient cells today, with some new designs theoretically having up to 51 percent efficiency. That means you get a lot more bang for your buck. And manufacturing costs have plunged as more companies have entered the market, particularly in China. Prices have fallen from around $4 per watt in 2008 to just $0.75 per watt last year to just $0.58 per watt today.(more...)