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Solar power ready to shine?

Tom Jackson • Jan 29, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Although I like the idea of moving to green energy, I've been skeptical about the viability of wind and solar, both because of the cost and because there's no effective way yet to store the power when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.


It's usually environmentalists who talk up the viability of green energy. Their hearts are in the right place, but they tend to downplay the real problems with the economics and the technology.


However, a few days ago I ran across a piece by Noah Smith, an economist at Stony Brook University who also has an undergraduate degree in physics from Stanford.


Smith's blog post, "Solar: It's about to be a whole new world." on his Noahpinion blog argues that after years of criticism from conservative economists, solar power is about to break through.


He writes, "The cost of solar power has been falling exponentially for the past 35 years. What's more, there is no sign at all that this cost drop is slowing. New technologies are in the pipeline right now that have the potential to make solar competitive with coal and natural gas, even with zero government subsidy."


His post has lots of links, if you want to learn more.


There's a good back and forth between Smith and his critics in the comments and in the main I think Smith holds his own. 


Perhaps sensing that I don't have a physics degree from Stanford, he didn't answer my question in the comments about space-based solar power. I'm fascinated by the idea of harvesting solar power from space and beaming it to Earth, although it's likely I'm making the same mistake I criticized in my second paragraph, paying too little attention to the economics.


Here's the Web site for Edison Solar & Wind, the Milan company that installed the solar panels for the city of Sandusky's greenhouse.

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