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Saved by The Sun: Is it Time to Take Solar Energy Seriously? by NOVA

Geschreven op 8-9-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Energie en Besparing Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Saved by the Sun

As the Earth heats up at a dangerous rate and fossil fuels become scarcer, ordinary citizens and businesses are bypassing the federal government to lead the way in exploring a clean, renewable source of power: the sun.

NOVA shines a light on how and why people across America and the world are “going solar,” using radiant energy of the sun to power homes, businesses, and even entire communities. But can everyday people really make a difference by using solar power?

And can solar technologies, with their high cost and logistical challenges, truly play a bigger role in powering the future of humanity? The grand hopes, latest innovations, roiling controversies, and practical realities of solar power all come to the fore in this program.

In the 1970s, at the height of an earlier energy crisis, solar power looked like the trend of the future—President Jimmy Carter even installed solar panels on the White House. But in the ensuing decades, as the price of gas and oil dropped, solar power lost favor and failed to make a significant contribution to the nation’s power grid. Now, with rising energy needs and wars in the Middle East pushing energy prices higher, the world has been forced to take another look. Could it be time to take solar energy seriously again?

Saved By the Sun” probes how innovative technologies, new business models, increasing financial incentives, and a growing grassroots commitment to solving the climate crisis are driving a renaissance in solar energy around the world. Across the U.S., solar panels are capping more and more roofs. In Germany, a “great wall” of solar panels lines the autobahn, feeding the Munich power grid. At Cal Tech, nanotechnology is spurring new solar inventions. Worldwide, solar energy is expected to be a $50 billion industry within a decade. The timing of this solar boom is vital. The aging U.S. power grid is vulnerable to summertime blackouts, and fossil fuel sources are contributing to the looming threat of severe climate change. But is the groundswell of hope surrounding solar power warranted? This program presents several perspectives, ranging from a middle-class family that found peace of mind and cost savings by installing solar panels; to a leading energy correspondent who questions the economic sustainability of solar energy; and finally to entrepreneurs who believe the sun is our last, best hope for powering the future.

Other countries are pursuing solar power with far more gusto than the U.S. NOVA travels to Germany, which despite not being known for sunny weather, has become a solar mecca. By offering cash incentives, the government has encouraged many citizens, from city dwellers to a pig farmer, to put up solar panels. Astonishingly, Germany is now on track to produce 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. By contrast, the U.S. gets only 1 percent of its energy from solar and wind power. However, there are those, including Vijay Vaitheeswaran, energy correspondent for The Economist, who fear that Germany’s expensive program could ultimately be hard to sustain.

While some remain skeptical, others see a blazing future through new solar technologies. The program introduces several passionate pioneers, including Sarah Kurtz, one of the forgers of the “multi-junction solar cell,” which proved itself on Mars with the robotic rovers and now could portend an exciting leap in the efficiency of solar panels; Nathan Lewis at Cal Tech, who foresees nanotechnology—technology on a submicron scale—changing the solar landscape and has envisioned a “solar paint” that could one day turn the entire surface of your house into a solar cell; and one of America’s most creative thinkers on energy issues, Amory Lovins, who has a goal of getting the U.S. off fossil fuels by 2040. Is such a goal really possible? The bottom line seems to be that nobody wants to wake up 30 years from now and wish we had tried to answer that question earlier. Source: NOVA

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