Friday, December 21, 2007

Grand Solar Plan in Scientific America

There is a well thought out article discussing how solar power can make a major contribution to US energy independence BY 2050! at

Its interesting to note that the authors are calling for ~$10B in annual subsidies for solar totaling $420B by 2050. This is approximately what the US pays for its electricity in a year. With that investment they suggest we could get nearly 70% of our electricity from solar energy (=35% of total energy).

I was really disappointed that we didn't get support for solar in the latest energy bill.
In case congress decides to get serious next year...

We currently get under 0.017% of our electricity from solar (~0.5GWp nameplate). A national feed-in tariff for distributed PV would really boost adoption in the US.

Tariff rate (kWh) :: % of electric supply :: Annual cost :: Total cost (for 20 yrs)
$0.20 :: 0.25 (5.8GWp) :: $2B :: $40B
$0.15 :: 0.75 (17.5GWp) :: $3B :: $60B
$0.10 :: 1.25 (29GWp) :: $2B :: $40B
$0.06 :: 2.5 (58GWp) :: $3B :: $60B
$0.03 :: 5 (116GWp) :: $3B :: $60B

Such a plan would cost ~$240B total, (each bucket would only cost $3B a year) to get a solar capacity increase of 300x.

I'd suggest 1/2 the distributed feed-in rate for utility scale PV and large solar thermal (CSP) installations. Utilities can get better prices and invest in solar at a much larger scale, plus producing centralized power only provides about 1/2 the value of distributed power because of the need to get the power to the end user.


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