June 27th, 2008 by Michael

The US Government has be overwhelmed with applications for new solar projects on public land. Because of this, they have invoked a two year freeze on accepting new applications. They want to perform an environmental study to see how these proposed solar plants will affect the land. This is a good thing. Instead of waiting for these plants to be built and having to react to changing environmental conditions, they want to take a proactive approach and try to determine the impact before they let loose the hounds of change.

I support this idea because it is far too easy to simply let a knee-jerk reaction run amok. While I support the paradigm shift towards renewable and sustainable energy sources, I do not support letting this fledgling industry have free reign to alter environmental conditions that could result in potentially making things worse. It will not do anyone good if we destroy our ecosystem for a little bit of energy. Certainly, some people will react with the idea that the government is trying to stifle innovation in the industry. I disagree with that point of view. We have seen repeatedly how letting industry have a free hand comes to bad results. This is why we are in the situation we are in today.

With luck, this study will be completed without delays and will show favorable results for the solar industry. I also plan on keeping an eye on the tax credits set to expire soon. Failure to extend the credits could be a serious blow to the prospective companies. At this point there is nothing to do but wait and see.

June 20th, 2008 by Michael

Over at The Daily Green, there is an article on Evergreen Solar’s new panels and how they are made. According to Evergreen’s site, these are supposed to have the smallest carbon footprint of any panels on the market today due to the inventive manufacturing process. Their “ribbon” technology allows for a more efficient creation of silicon sheets used to make their solar panels.

Also according to the company’s site, the ROI for their panels is less than one year. This is a huge deal because most solar systems take upwards of five years to pay for themselves. Tech like this is the kind of thing that can start putting solar power in the hands of the average consumer. As with any sufficiently advanced technology, the price is what keeps it in a niche market. Not all of us have the money of superstars and moguls. And there are a lot more of us than them.

The company site even has a time lapse video of their manufacturing plant in action. It is an interesting watch and only takes a couple of minutes. I recommend anyone interested in solar power make a hop over to Evergreen Solar’s website and peruse the information there. It is definitely a worthwhile read.

August 22nd, 2007 by Michael

According to an article at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website (and also reported at Treehugger), another solar panel improvement has been discovered. We hear all the time how nano tech will change everything, well this time it appears to be right. One of the problems with solar panels is that ultra-violet light is not converted to electricity. It is either filtered out or it becomes heat that shortens the life of the cell. (more…)

August 10th, 2007 by Michael

CNet news has a couple of interesting articles on solar homes. The first is about a competition between several universities including MIT to build a fully off-grid solar dwelling with the ability to also power an electric car. The teams are required to use only commercially available materials as a proof-of-concept that these entries can be made today for consumers. This is an interesting point because it means that many newer technologies that are not yet on the market cannot be a part of the design. It will also go to show what is possible right now with off-the-shelf products, which should prove informative on the current state of solar technology and efficient architectural design. (more…)

August 9th, 2007 by Michael

The USA seems to be slowly plodding towards the universal goal of renewable energy that does not harm the environment. Of course, it is being done in true bureaucratic fashion with the aid of lobbyist groups. From this article: “The House voted 220-190 for an amendment to require by 2020 that at least 15 percent of the electricity sold by most utilities must come from renewable sources, including wind, solar and biofuels.” (more…)