Tag Archives: photovoltaics

Space elevators and orbital solar power

neonA nice confluence of Clarkian techno-positivism and 21st century orbital solar power in this post on Short Sharp Science:

There’s another slight problem: the elevator doesn’t exist.

And neither do the supermaterials that could make it a reality. The elevator community’s oft-quoted carbon nanotube fibres languish in labs unable to stretch more than a few tens of centimetres without breaking.

All the more reason, says Swan, to get serious research into elevator technology underway. “We should initiate the space elevator project now and have the space solar power people buy into the concept that we’ll have one by 2030 and start planning for it. Instead of a 50-year horizon, let’s have a 20-year one.”

Stirring stuff. The space elevator is in the class of things I definitely hope to see within my lifetime.

[from Short Sharp Science][image from tanakawho on flickr]

Is Solar feasible – absolutely!

A Concentrating Photovoltaic array by Solfocus using mirrors to concentrate light onto a III-V photovoltaic
Earlier today TJ wrote a post about the possibility of solar power as an alternative fuel. Now I have to admit to having a vested interest in this field as recently I began work as a Solar Analyst for a renewable energy developer. I’ve spent the last six weeks conducting studies into every aspect of the solar market and its feasibility. Although some more outlandish technologies have been overstated, the future of solar is incredibly bright.

There are four main types of solar power on the horizon. Most people know about silicon photovoltaics, which are now reaching record efficiencies of 23%.

Scalable Renewables in Berkeley, California

Are clever governments going to encourage more of these in our homes?Microgeneration is the often mentioned as a great way to reduce energy use and dependence on fossil fuels. But looking at the prices of enough solar panels to provide 2-3kW of power is a little bit scary. A loan is possible – but the amount you’d pay back in interest would be frontloaded, whereas the savings in electricity would be paid back in a longer period, say 15-20 years. Wouldn’t it be good if you could offset the cost of the PV panels against future savings on your electricity?

The community of Berkeley is already beginning to offer such a scheme. They offer loans for Solar Electricity with repayments guaranteed to be less than the cost of electricity saved by the panels. Not only does this scheme make Berkeley more attractive to live in, it also encourages manufacturers, installers and testers of the technology to setup in the area. Hopefully this trend will continue in more governments and with more types of microgeneration.

[via Daily Kos, image by roddh]