Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Dec 3, 2007 with no responses

Solar is the Solution

Tags: solar power

There is a good article on solar energy in the current issue of Mother Earth News. The theme is similar to my article The Future is Solar, and the author comes to similar conclusions:

Solar is the Solution

I have been studying our energy options for more than 30 years, and I am absolutely convinced that our best and easiest option is solar energy, which is virtually inexhaustable. Most importantly, if we choose solar we don’t have to wait for a new technology to save us. We already have the technology and energy resources we need to build a sustainable, solar-electric economy that can cure our addiction to oil, stabilize the climate and maintain our standard of living, all at the same time. It is well past time to start seriously harnessing solar energy.

The author runs through the various options available to us, which leads to his conclusion that solar is where we should be putting our efforts. On biomass, he makes the point that I emphasized in my solar essay:

When you do the math, the overall efficiency of biomass used as transportation fuel, from sun to wheel, is about 0.01 percent to 0.05 percent. In contrast, the overall efficiency of using solar panels to charge electric vehicles from sun to wheel is 3 percent to 20 percent. This means that solar-charged electric vehicles are from 60 to 2,000 times more efficient than vehicles burning ethanol or biodiesel. Which solution makes more sense?

And then a bit on PHEVs:

Electric Vehicles & Plug-in Hybrids. Electric vehicle drivetrains are inherently five to 10 times more efficient than internal combustion engines and they produce no greenhouse gases at the tailpipe. Even if powered by fossil-fuel electricity, emissions at the power plant are much lower per mile traveled than with internal combustion engines. In addition, electric vehicles can be charged directly from renewable sources, thereby eliminating emissions altogether.

One of the main excuses the auto industry offers for the lack of electric vehicles is that “the batteries are not developed yet.” But consider how quickly cell phone batteries developed, transforming mobile phones from heavy, bulky, short-lived nuisances to amazingly light, small and long-lasting necessities. The oil companies are doing a good job of protecting the American consumer from “dangerous” batteries, but in parts of the world where oil companies have less control, large format battery development is progressing at rapid speeds.

Good article. Lots more there than what I posted. Check it out.