Trump placed a 30% tariff on imported solar cells so foreign manufacturers are slowly shifting their production to the United States which is a good thing for American workers but in the long run we run the risk of no longer being a technological and scientific leader in the field and having reasonable control over the industry which will become more vital to the health and wellbeing of electrical generation in the nation.
It is a fact of life that currently and at least for the next 20 or 40 years, gasoline will continue to be the cheapest way to generate electricity for the consuming public and we will have plenty of it from our own shores. Unfortunately all non renewable sources of energy eventually run out and what concerns me the most is that future generations will eventually have to switch to other sources of energy and preferably they will be abundant and affordable to the consuming public.
It really comes down to a question of short or long term planning. Do we start planning for the future by making some financial sacrifices now or do we wait until there is a crisis situation and we must radically change our electrical infastructure almost overnight? I used to think that market forces would somehow make the switch from gasoline to an alternate energy source rather seamless but I fear that our leadership in the field will be lost if we don’t invest in solar energy now to some extent.
It is a fact of life that we will some day run out of non renewable energy sources but we will always potentially have the energy from the sun. Yes, not all areas of the globe have abundant sunlight which is often reduced in intensity by rain, snow, clouds, air dust pollution, and worst of all night time when there is no sun and solar cells are useless.
Solar cells will always need a backup system which today is natural gas, gasoline, and nuclear energy. The real solution to the problem is of course storage batteries but this technology is still in its infancy and we probably can’t expect efficient batteries for another 20 years or so which will be price competitive.
Current solar cells have an efficiency of about 22% which should be around 40% to compete with gasoline prices. The first solar cells had an efficiency of about 12% so in about 40 years the efficiency has increased by about 100%. If this is any indication of future efficiency increases then maybe in another 20 years the efficiency will double and solar energy will really become competitive with gasoline. Yes, today we will pay higher prices for electricity if solar energy is used partially for power generation but we can hope with technological development and scientific advances that future solar cells will be an efficient way to generate energy from a renewable source, sun power.
It could be argued that with inefficient use of solar cells a billion dollar wasteful industry will form but more research money will be poured into making solar cells more efficient so in the long run humanity will benefit from an inefficient investment in solar cells today.
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