Archive for Monday, June 16, 2008

Look! Up in the sky! An energy alternative

Solar power generates excitement for electricity production

June 16, 2008


Some day, Kansas' energy answers may come from above - the sun.

While politicians fight over fossil fuels to produce electricity and environmentalists push for more wind generation, the state may one day tap the most plentiful source of energy - solar power.

"There's an enormous amount of creative activity and big investment going on in solar technology in the United States, but more even around the world," said Joe King, a former head of the Kansas Energy Office, who now is an architect with the Lawrence firm Coriolis and has been an advocate of renewable energy. "We need to be paying attention."

Last week, King provided state solar resource maps for the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates energy utilities.

KCC Chairman Tom Wright was impressed. When asked whether solar energy will be part of Kansas' energy future, Wright said, "absolutely." But, he said, it may be a generation before there is widespread applicability.

"This whole system is something that will take a long time to develop. You won't see this in five, 10, 15 years, but you'll see it as the technology improves," he said.

Currently, solar power is seen as more costly than more conventional energy sources, but Europe and China have recently increased their solar power facilities as costs have decreased for solar panels used to convert the sun's power into energy.

Wright said that one hurdle to widespread use of solar power is trees. He said that when you fly over Topeka or most any city in northeast Kansas, the house roofs are covered by shade trees, which block the sun's rays.

King's maps showed that solar radiation was much higher in more open southwest Kansas, and progressively decreased heading east.

"We have exceptional solar insulation in southwest Kansas," he said. "It's the gradation that you would expect. We get more close to the national mean by the time we get up to northeast Kansas."


devobrun 9 years, 11 months ago

"Currently, solar power is seen as more costly than more conventional energy sources, but Europe and China have recently increased their solar power facilities as costs have decreased for solar panels used to convert the sun's power into energy."The figure of merit is not just money/watt.What is the Joule/Joule? That is, how much fossil fuel is required to manufacture the photovoltaic cells (pvcs). Over the lifetime of the pvcs, do they generate more energy than it took to produce and maintain them? By what factor? How about pollution from the manufacturing process? You can't convert power into energy. Power is the time rate of energy. Candy-ass articles such as this one do a great disservice to the whole energy problem that we live with today.Scott Rothschild should learn some physics fundamentals before he writes another article about energy. I suggest that some of you readers who "feel" good about alternative energy do the same. The reason that alternatives such as pvcs aren't proliferating is that they aren't ready for prime time. Hype doesn't overcome BS (bad science).

Daytrader23 9 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I agree whole heartedly with this article. As a share holder in two major solar companies in Europe, when I look at the sun I see profits and a cleaner earth. I started investing in "green" companies over six years ago and have been loving it ever since. However I disagree with cutting down trees in urban area's as they are vital to cleaning the air. There are ways of pruning the trees and the placement of the panels themselves to solve that problem. Or as LogicMan said, replant if you need to cut. Solar, wind, water and earth are the way of the future, funny how the ancient cultures already knew this and we are just now starting to figure it out. Stupid humans.

LogicMan 9 years, 11 months ago

"solar insulation" -- spelling error in the article:Solar insolation = incoming solar radiation."one hurdle to widespread use of solar power is trees"Cut them down when needed, and plant new ones in other places? And use the wood for constructive purposes? Trees are renewable.

dinglesmith 9 years, 11 months ago

We get virtually all of our power from he sun anyway. It's just a matter of storage and conversion. Nature - plants in particular - just seem to be way better at both than we are right now.

compmd 9 years, 11 months ago

I give you my oxymoron of the day: Efficient semiconductors.

BigPrune 9 years, 11 months ago

What realistically needs to happen is: George Soros and his hedge fund buddies need to be regulated out of influencing elections - getting Obama elected by driving up the price of crude oil.More refineries need to be built and drilling needs to be done where the environmentalists have protested.Notice, this $4.00 a gallon is the enviromentalists' fault. Soros (the environmentalist) driving up the price of crude and lack of drilling held back by the enviromentalists in general. No conspiracy theory - just putting blame where blame needs to be.

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