January 23, 2015


Solar is taking off (Paul Barwell/Soplar Trade Association,January 22, 2015, Prospect)

Moore's Law, named after one of the co-founders of Intel, Gordon E. Moore, showed how the processing power of computer chips doubled and continues to double every two years, producing ever smaller, faster and cheaper devices.

The same is true of the computer chip's silicon sister technology: solar photovoltaics. The cost of solar per watt has fallen over 99 per cent since the 1970s. Much of this freefall in costs--called Swanson's Law--has taken place over the last five years, accompanied by ever more efficient panels that squeeze more energy out of the same area.

Ever cheaper solar is good news for our climate and good news for energy bill payers faced with increasingly expensive fossil fuel electricity.

And this isn't just a technology for sunnier climes. Despite our infamous weather, solar in the UK generates two-thirds as much power as in Madrid, and the panels work more efficiently in cooler British temperatures. And by a happy coincidence, our roofs are pitched at just the right angle to capture maximum sunlight at this latitude.

Solar makes no noise, creates no waste and emits no carbon. On rooftops, it is a "fit and forget" technology. In solar farms screened from view with hedgerows, you often don't even know it's there. And good solar farms do not displace agriculture. Sheep can graze the land in between the panels, and the farms can become a haven for local wildlife.

The one thing that limits solar is of course that it doesn't generate power at night--but this makes it a particularly good match with wind, and cheap battery storage packs are already beginning to overcome this.

Posted by at January 23, 2015 3:51 PM

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