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Power Technology

MIT Report Says Current Tech Enables Future Terawatt-Scale Solar Power Systems 176

Lucas123 writes: Even with today's inefficient wafer-based crystalline silicon photovoltaics, terawatt-scale solar power systems are coming down the pike, according to a 356-page report from MIT on the future of solar energy. Solar electricity generation is one of "very few low-carbon energy technologies" with the potential to grow to very large scale, the study states. In fact, solar resources dwarf current and projected future electricity demand. The report, however, also called out a lack of funds for R&D on newer solar technology, such as thin-film wafers that may be able to achieve lower costs in the long run. Even more pressing than the technology are state and federal policies that squelch solar deployment. For example, government subsidies to solar are dwarfed by subsidies to other energy sources, and trade policies have restricted PV module and other commodity product imports in order to aid domestic industry. Additionally, even though PV module and inverter costs are essentially identical in the United States and Germany, total U.S.residential system costs are substantially above those in Germany.
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MIT Report Says Current Tech Enables Future Terawatt-Scale Solar Power Systems

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  • Cost of solar (Score:4, Informative)

    by Q-Hack! ( 37846 ) * on Saturday May 09, 2015 @09:53AM (#49653135)

    The cost isn't different between US and Germany, The way it's paid for is different. Germany subsidizes solar power far more than the US. Just because tax revenue is spent, doesn't mean it's cheaper. One of the biggest reasons for it being uneconomical is that there is still the huge amount of hazardous waste that needs to be disposed of from the manufacturing process. It may be less of a carbon footprint, but green energy it is not.

    • Germany subsidizes solar power far more than the US.

      There is a reason for this: clouds. Germany is a cloudy, northern country. So, since solar makes less sense there, it has to be subsidized more.

      • Unfortunately, the figures on subsidies parting the clouds are not in yet.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        since solar makes less sense there, it has to be subsidized more.

        Why not use hamsters running on wheels to generate electricity? That makes even less sense, so according to your logic it should be subsidized even more.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        So, since solar makes less sense there, it has to be subsidized more.

        That's a hell of a straight line there. Makes you wonder how far Germany will decline over the next few decades when they work so hard to promote useless things now.

    • Off topic, but I love your current sig.

      Orwell presented a situation where the populace knew they were being monitored. Snowden showed that we were being monitored, but without our knowledge or consent. There is a massive gap between the two, represented by the population's awareness (and possibly acceptance, unfortunately).

      Anyway, very insightful.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They compared the unsubsidised cost.

      The reason for the difference is that in the US getting the system installed is more expensive. Labour and grid connection fees are higher.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday May 09, 2015 @10:25AM (#49653301) Journal
    Residential and distributed solar is going against well established utility companies that have operated for a century without viable competition. Mildly regulated by utility commissionaires elected in low turn out elections, with lots of backroom dealings, revolving doors and outright bribes. They will use every instrument in their arsenal: FUD, litigation, bought out legislators, everything.

    Cost reductions would eventually usher in utility-scale solar. But to get residential and distributed solar, public awareness and education is needed. But there are places in the world where the grid is very unreliable or non existent. Those places also have very rich individuals and groups. Collectively rich folks in third world without reliable grid have as much purchasing power as all of the middle class of developed countries. They will fund and underwrite the cost of R&D, and deployment and financing of residential/distributed solar. So there is some chance that technology will break the barriers and enter developed countries. There was a time when my Indian relatives all had better cell phones than my circle in USA. Because Indian land lines sucked and US mobile phones had to outdo the landlines. Same thing could happen to the grid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thrig ( 36791 )

      The triumphant little guy sticks it to The Man, news at 11. More like, the distributed smart grid (or whatever) turns out to somehow be more expensive and less secure than advertised, and given the noteworthy lack of philosopher kings to run it, regulations become necessary to curb the worst misuses and excesses. (Assuming the distributed smart grid (or whatever) is actually viable.) Meanwhile, back in the real world, note the progress of solar in Japan, where the utilities (that would be, the folks running

      • Obviously the solution is batteries, which unfortunately isn't there yet from a cost perspective. But I think they'll be there soon. Certainly the government could push for utility scale storage and updating the grid.

        People in Japan are heavily protesting the nuclear reactors because of how much corruption is involved in that industry.

        • by sribe ( 304414 )

          Obviously the solution is batteries, which unfortunately isn't there yet from a cost perspective. But I think they'll be there soon.

          Tesla's PowerWall is on the cusp. A few years to improve the capacity at the same price point, coupled with a few years' worth of increases in electric rates, and it will be there.

  • What do you do about solar power in the winter though? Especially in northern latitudes where the "day" lasts all of 8 hours with very weak sunshine, it can't substitute for anything. Wind has the issue of randomly stopping for up to a week. If a utility wants to build a week's worth of energy storage then batteries need to be less than 10% of their current cost.

  • So what I am reading is that our federal and state governments have policies designed to squash solar energy while putting on a public posture of encouragement of solar energy. Sometimes humans are so depressing it makes a man want to jump off a ledge.

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