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US Funds Aggressive Tech To Cut Solar Power Costs 272

coondoggie writes "The U.S Department of Energy wants researchers and scientists to 'think outside the box' and come up 'highly disruptive Concentrating Solar Power technologies that will meet 6/kWh cost targets by the end of the decade.' The DOE's 'SunShot Concentrating Solar Power R&D' is a multimillion dollar endeavor that intends to look beyond what it calls the incremental near-term to support research into transformative technologies that will break through performance barriers known today, such as efficiency and temperature limitations."
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US Funds Aggressive Tech To Cut Solar Power Costs

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  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @06:17AM (#37853574) Homepage
    A frightfully naive interpretation. How about this: the whole program is just a wash to put more money in the hands of corrupt politically-connected creeps. Look at the history of government funding solar power in America...any scandals come to mind?
  • by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @06:28AM (#37853634) Homepage
    The natural counter-argument is the question: Should the government stop funding research simply because some of the funds will (likely) reach undeserving parties?
    It's not black and white. If there's been a history of wasted resources related to this particular objective, then more strict regulation should be enacted (and the natural reply to this would be: regulation is both expensive and corruptible... I guess some middle-ground is necessary).
  • Re:Why not 1/kWh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @06:53AM (#37853722) Homepage

    Why can't I focus on cold fusion?

    Because cold fusion doesn't seem to be coming any time soon. If it's possible at all, it's a very long term investment, which this isn't.

    Why can't I focus on geothermal?

    In my understanding, there are no problems of this kind to solve in geothermal energy. Drilling is well developed, heat exchange too. There's no particular challenge in manufacturing that could make it a lot cheaper if solved. There's nothing much to throw money at.

    And why 6? Why not 3? Shit why not 1? I mean, if there's no real metric for the demand other than "it would be cheaper" why not demand it be a lot cheaper?

    RTFA. ""The overarching goal of the SunShot Initiative is reaching cost parity with baseload energy rates, estimated to be 6Â/kWh without economic support, which would pave the way for rapid and large-scale adoption of solar electricity across the United States."

    While were at it why don't we demand that all cars get 1000mpg? Oh it can't be done with existing technology you say? You're just thinking inside the box! If you think outside the box then you'll see it's a reasonable demand

    Because the result woudln't be something that can be driven on a real road. It would be a single ocupant tin can without AC or anything else.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @07:30AM (#37853886) Homepage
    Why are you talking about solar panels? This article is about concentrated (thermal) solar, not PV. Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than hammer out a post and remove all doubt, eh?
  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @08:08AM (#37854080)

    And then you have less research being done, and therefore less chance of success, because only those companies with enough capital to work without pay for years on end can actually participate.

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @08:11AM (#37854102) Journal

    How about this: the whole program is just a wash to put more money in the hands of corrupt politically-connected creeps. Look at the history of government funding solar power in America...any scandals come to mind

    You could easily swap "solar power" for "defense systems". The scandals related to government support of solar power pale by a few orders of magnitude to the overt graft and fraud in military research and acquisition. What's your point? Are you suggestion that we shouldn't be funding either?

  • Re:6/kWh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @08:19AM (#37854150) Journal
    Look at your electric bill lately? You should thank your lucky stars that you aren't paying 6 dollars per kWh.

    On a related rant: it amazes me how blithely unaware most people are about their personal energy consumption. Some might be able to vaguely guesstimate what they paid the utility company for electricity or natural gas last month, but very few could actually say "I used XX kWh of electricity last month. The cost of the electricity was $YY, and the cost of delivery was $ZZ." What is the typical cost per kWh for your electricity? Where is most of it produced? Using what fuel? About the closest people are able to come are to know what the price of a gallon of gas is near them, and how far they can get between fill-ups. That's a good start, but transportation is only about 1/3 of U.S. energy consumption. No wonder politicians can so easily manipulate the discussion about energy: practically no one knows anything about it!
  • by rhakka ( 224319 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @08:35AM (#37854252)

    Yes. Of course the "scandal that comes to mind" ignores the what, 99%+ of those funds that were NOT involved in a scandal there were put to work as intended. Heck, let's be generous to your point and say only 90% weren't scandal-laden. Also, solar power is now beating grid parity in parts of the US, largely thanks to solar incentives and investment over the last several years getting the market going. Not just in the US, but here, in europe, and in china as well. This is a huge moment, where those with enough capital in parts of the us (including the northeast) could choose to "prebuy" their electricity for the next 25 years with PV... WITHOUT incentive... and not lose money compared to grid electricity. In a few more years it's going to be a slam dunk.

    Public policy works. Funding research works. Give up the tired, weak whining that it's not perfect. Waiting for teh "free market" to fix it all isn't perfect either, and it cares a lot less for the collateral damage of a sudden catastrophic shift than we do. []

  • by SomeKDEUser ( 1243392 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:11AM (#37854552)

    The argument goes like this: if the private sector invests in something risky and fails, it is Capitalism and it is Good; when the government does it, itis Socialism, and it is Bad.

    All the argument is specious: CEOs invest in their golfing friends' companies, and they don't invest their own money: they invest the shareholder's. Think of the governement as a very large, highly diversify corporation (really, it is not very diversified, it mostly does insurance and has an army; but it also has a whole buch of minor subsidiaries doing a bit of everything). The question is, since the government is this huge corporation which cannot go bankrupt, what should it invest in?

    Clearly, high risk, long-term stuff. In a way, like IBM. The only problem with those failed investments (and if you invest in high-risk stuff, you will fail most of the times) is that they clearly were way too application oriented and short-term!

    On a more philosophical note, it is wholly reasonable that the governement does the high-risk stuff: it cannot fail. Also, we expect corporations to be profitable every quarter, whereas the government has the luxury of needing only to stay solvant -- which, when you can print your own money is not overly difficult.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @11:36AM (#37856486) Homepage

    I think the more likely result is that without government intervention there would be no nuclear power at all.

    How exactly do you insure it? There's no defined bound to how much a disaster may cost, which means that any insurance company would be insane to accept. Earlier in the thread there was a mention of the possibility of having Tokyo evacuated. How do you see an insurance company covering that? And what would the insurance payments be?

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost