Friday, May 29, 2009

Solar Does Make Sense, For Small Applications

Although I am critical of solar energy for power plants, I do believe it is efficient for low voltage applications.

To that end, Sharp has released the "industry's thinnest" solar module. Measuring .8mm thick, this module is currently being used to power its Solar Ketai, a solar-powered, waterproof cell phone.

What I like about this story is that solar is being used to power low voltage-requiring applications. While this has been done with calculators for years, it is finding new applications to power, like attic fans (which I have in my house and it works great).

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Were I an investor in solar companies, I would focus on these types of applications, as they quick wins. Additionally, they incrementally remove devices from the grid as the technology improves. However, I still believe the use of solar for large-scale electrical generation is nowhere near ready for prime time.

When one calculates the cost of producing the photovoltaic cells, mirrors, and associated equipment, then batteries, transformers, and storage, it is staggering. Then, one has to use vast tracts of desert, which can be environmentally sensitive, to deliver a limited amount of power during a limited period of time to an insufficient grid.

For more on the specifics, read "Nuclear, American Style," and the other 7 articles on this topic I have written. The keyword is nuclear.

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But good for Sharp! I am excited to see more and more devices efficiently using solar power.

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