Solar photovoltaic is currently the most expensive form of electricity available ... which is weird, right? I mean, the fuel is free and the intermediate technology is made out of, essentially, sand. So what's the deal?
In this article for National Geographic News, I probe the details to try and understand what makes solar power so spendy most places—and why it's actually already a reasonably-priced option in others.
So why is solar so expensive?
Converting light into electricity with no moving parts is a profoundly different enterprise than turning a turbine to make power--the technology that is at work in coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower plants and, most visibly to the public, at wind farms.
"Wind power is the same technology as it's been for 1,000 years," said Tom Meyer, a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "There's nothing to invent. It just needs to be improved." The makers of wind turbines have made huge cost reductions in recent decades with relatively small tweaks to an otherwise familiar system.
That's not yet true for solar, experts say. Most solar cells are made from silicon--the same semiconductor material that is at the heart of computers. The cells are expensive to produce because it takes a great deal of energy to purify the silicon. And, while the computer industry has made enormous strides in making cheaper silicon devices, those advancements don't translate to the solar industry.
National Geographic News: Shining a Light on the Cost of Solar Energy
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Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
Folks used to rely on alarms to protect their home – and before that, the family dog. Now, anyone looking to guard their homes can choose from some high-tech options, including the Amaryllo iCamPRO FHD Home Security Camera (now just $219 in the Boing Boing Store).In fact, this 2015 CES “Best of Innovation” award-winner boasts so many features, it’s […]
If you want a quality vaping experience, it’s usually going to cost you. Vaporizers that deliver a fast, controlled burn will set you back up to $300, which is why the FEZ Vaporizer (now just $99) is an absolute steal.The FEZ dry herb pen does everything that more expensive models handle at a reduced price. It heats up […]
Taking pictures can be challenging. There are a million factors that can influence each shot you take – and unless you’re a trained photographer, you often just focus, click…and cross your fingers.Of course, you can take some of the ambiguity out of your picture-taking with this Hollywood Art Institute Photography Course & Certification package, now […]