Sunday, August 22, 2010

Solar Improvements, Nuclear Fallout

The rapid pace of innovation around solar cells continues.  Traditionally, one of the major weaknesses of photovoltaic cells has been their inability to use most of the sun's energy.  A new type of cell promises to help offset that disadvantage by allowing the cells to generate some power from heat as well.  The two methods combined can exceed the theoretical maximum efficiency for photovoltaics alone.  Although these cells only operate at peak efficiency at very high heat and don't set any records for absolute efficiency, there is the possibility the techniques can be used to improve existing solar tech.

Adding to the massive upswing in solar potential comes an article in the New York Times citing a report that shows solar power now costs less than nuclear.  The study has apparently been called into question (see the note at the bottom of the article's pages), but it remains an interesting read, if only to give a glimpse into the web of industry and government considerations that swirl around nuclear power.  Whether the cost crossover point has been reached already, or if it is just looming, it does appear that fission may not be the go-to long-term solution for energy anymore.  I find that pretty surprising.

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