Monday, August 3, 2009

Solar Industry: No Breakthroughs Needed

For some reason I picture the solar "Grand Sachem's" as a weird amalgam of:

Bet-a-Million Gates

Jim Fisk

and Boss Tweed
as the say (via MIT's Technology Review):

The solar industry says incremental advances have made transformational technologies unnecessary.
The federal government is behind the times when it comes to making decisions about advancing the solar industry, according to several solar-industry experts. This has led, they argue, to a misplaced emphasis on research into futuristic new technologies, rather than support for scaling up existing ones. That was the prevailing opinion at a symposium last week put together by the National Academies in Washington, DC, on the topic of scaling up the solar industry.

The meeting was attended by numerous experts from the photovoltaic industry and academia. And many complained that the emphasis on finding new technologies is misplaced. "This is such a fast-moving field," said Ken Zweibel, director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University. "To some degree, we're fighting the last war. We're answering the questions from 5, 10, 15 years ago in a world where things have really changed."

In the past year, the federal government has announced new investments in research into "transformational" solar technologies that represent radical departures from existing crystalline-silicon or thin-film technologies that are already on the market. The investments include new energy-research centers sponsored by the Department of Energy and a new agency called ARPA-Energy, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Such investments are prompted by the fact that conventional solar technologies have historically produced electricity that's far more expensive than electricity from fossil fuels....

...Representatives of the solar industry say the federal government should do more to remove obstacles that are slowing the industry's development. One issue is financing for new solar installations, which can be much more expensive if lending institutions deem them high risk. A recent extension of federal tax credits and grants for solar investments is a step in the right direction, many solar experts say. But more could be done. A price on carbon would help make solar more economically competitive and more attractive to lenders.....MORE

Nope, don't want none o'them breakthroughs