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RE: [hreg] Interesting article

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  • Robert Johnston
    Yes... I just came back through West Texas on my summer vacation driving back from Los Angeles, and I was blown away (pun intended) by the number of windmills
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 4, 2001
      Yes... I just came back through West Texas on my summer vacation driving
      from Los Angeles, and I was blown away (pun intended) by the number of
      windmills that
      have sprouted up since the last time I was there. There were more windmills
      West Texas than there were in the Palm Springs, CA area, which had
      previously had
      the most I'd ever seen in one place. But I think I saw more in Texas. And
      very large ones, whereas Palm Springs has a lot of smaller ones.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Steve Stelzer [mailto:steve@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2001 9:41 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [hreg] Interesting article

      Solar power's day not at hand yet, but on far horizon

      Universal Press Syndicate

      GOLDEN, Colo. -- When Rear Admiral Richard H. Truly was appointed director
      of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory here, the former astronaut was
      quick to gather his staff and tour the facilities. During the tour he went
      to a large photovoltaic panel and observed that he had a special affection
      for them. They had kept him alive in space for weeks, he explained.

      "They've kept me alive, too," said Lawrence L. Kazmerski, a Ph.D. whose
      quirky sense of humor is matched only by his ties.

      "They've delivered my paycheck for years," he said, referring to the
      solar-powered satellite links that move money all around the world.

      Kazmerski, director of the National Center for Photovoltaics here, told me
      that story as we sat in his office. "This is a great time for photovoltaics,
      or PV, in the United States. It couldn't be any better. Because of
      California, manufacturers can't ship enough.

      "In the last three years we've seen a real shift in where PV is used. Last
      year 50 percent of shipments went to applications tied into the grid. That's
      what the trend is -- away from off-grid applications and onto the power

      I asked what potential he saw for solar power.

      "A cost of $2 to $3 a watt in the next 10 years. We don't have the capacity
      now. We still have some technology development to do. But there should be a
      huge payoff by 2020."

      Why that long?

      "Because it will take that long. Right now, in California, PV generation is
      price competitive in certain areas."

      It still has a long way to go, however, before it is a real competitor with
      conventional generation.

      Wind power, in contrast, is highly competitive and popular; witness the
      offer of small wind turbines on Target's Web site at www.target.com.

      Significantly, Kazmerski's primary concern wasn't about the ultimate
      development of solar power. It was about whether the United States would
      have a primary role since Europe and Japan were investing more in research
      and development, commercialization and subsidies.

      In fact, producing photovoltaic cells in volume will be a major feat.
      "There's no doubt that it works," Ken Zweibel told me. Zweibel is the
      manager of the NREL's Thin Film Partnership, a group of companies doing
      thin-film research and development work for the laboratory. "The thing we
      have to do is to bring the cost down and to raise the efficiency. When we
      started, it cost $100 a watt. Our goal is to get it down to 50 cents a

      Getting that economy won't be easy. While Intel can sell 1 square centimeter
      of semiconductor chip for hundreds of dollars, competitive photovoltaic
      cells will have to be produced at the price of good carpeting: a low cost
      per square yard, not a high cost per square centimeter. Getting there will
      require very large production volumes.

      We can get some idea of what might be called the Practicality Gap by
      comparing current household spending for electric power to the installed
      cost of current photovoltaic systems. According to the Statistical Abstract
      of the United States, a typical household uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours a
      year, or 833 kwh per month. With a range of utility rates between 7 cents
      and 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that equates to monthly bills of $58 to $83.
      That, in turn, would require an annuity investment of $7,500 to $10,700 to
      provide the income for 20 years, if the money earns 7 percent.

      Comparative calculations need to be made this way because when you install a
      photovoltaic system you are, in effect, buying a "solar annuity" of electric
      power with a lump-sum investment.

      Using installation cost figures from Home Power magazine, a comparable
      photovoltaic investment would require over $40,000. So installed solar
      system costs will have to decline roughly 75 percent before solar power
      becomes a financially qualified competitor.

      You can, of course, reduce the size and cost of the installed system by
      minimizing your home power consumption with efficient appliances, efficient
      light bulbs, skylights, etc.

      But it will still cost about four times as much to displace the last
      kilowatt-hours of conventional power.

      Does the difference matter?

      To most people, yes. But many consumers are jumping the Practicality Gap.

      You can learn more at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Web site at

      Questions about personal finance and investments may be sent to Scott Burns,
      P.O. Box 655237, Dallas 75265; e-mail can be sent to scott@...
      Burns' Web page is www.scottburns.com

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