Weekly Editorials Page
11/29 to 12/5, 2001

12/5/2001:: Second Update on Solar Power: Added an important paragraph on geothermal power. 
: Update on Solar Power: Sandia Laboratories' photovoltaic website links to an article published in Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications that sheds light on some unadvertised limitations of photovoltaic power. (Warning: this is an 11+ MB PDF download.) There are reliability, replacement, and standardization problems that haven't yet been resolved. For example, batteries cost about $100 per kilowatt-hour. They last 3 to 9 years and then have to be replaced. Their lifetime depends upon how deeply you drain them. No more than 15% is a good rule of thumb, so you need 6.67 times as much battery capacity as you're normally going to use. With a 2 kw. solar source, you might get 10 Kwh per day, requiring 66.7 Kwh of battery capacity, costing about $6,667 worth of batteries that would have to be replaced every 8 or 9 years. Of course, you could, and probably would get by with less. You might sell extra power to your utility company, in effect using it as a storage device. 
    Generally, solar-electric power systems necessitate a backup power source such as a motor-generator.
    The Photovoltaic Industry Roadmap calls for solar-electric power to meet 10% of the nation's energy needs by 2030. 10%. That's not a whole lot of progress in 29 more years. By contrast, the UK has called for renewable energy sources (mostly wind and wave?) to produce 20% of the UK's energy by 2010. In the meantime, we're dependent upon Mideastern oil.

: Last Thursday's (11/29-2001) Science News contains an article, A Practical Way to Make Power From Wasted Heat- NY Times, that describes a new semiconductor-based thermionic diode that generates electricity directly from heat. Currently achieving 17% thermal-to-electrical conversion efficiency in a prototype device, it may soon reach >25% efficiency. This might lend itself to solar-electric power generation. These converters operate at temperatures from 400 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 450 degrees Celsius), which is in the temperature range achievable with solar concentrators, and might be a substitute for photovoltaic power converters.
    Eventually, domestic solar power systems are going to become widespread, first as auxiliaries to existing power grids, and later, as self-contained home power-generation systems. Self-contained systems will probably appear first on islands and other locations where electricity isn't economically available, and later (probably between 2010 and 2020, if not sooner) will compete with conventional grid-supplied power in states like Arizona.
12/3/2001:: Happily, my broadband service is working normally. It wasn't functioning Friday night, but I found that I could upload almost as well with my 56k NetZero backup service as I can with wideband service.
    The article, "The United States of oil", appearing recently in "Salon", gives interesting information regarding George W. Bush, his father, and his grandfather, Dick Cheney, and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. George Bush, Senior, founded Zapata Petroleum in 1952, and soon made millions with it. George W. Bush started his own oil company, Arbusto/Harken Energy, in 1978, when he was in his early 20's. Like his father, he also began to make millions after deals with Bahrain, and through, perhaps, Saudi connections.
    Dick Cheney spent the late 90's as CEO of Halliburton, the world's largest oil service provider. While with Halliburton, he received a salary of $36,000,000. 
    Condoleeza Rice became a member of the of the Board of Directors of Chevron, "which graced a tanker with her name".
    Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the current Bush administration is championing coal and oil initiatives.. In the meantime, the September 11th atrocities, in my opinion, are pushing us faster than ever toward renewable sources of energy, and toward independence of Mid-Eastern petro-politics. 
    I've written a brief summary of alternative energy options.

My wideband internet service provider, Comcast, has depended upon Excite@home for its cable service. Unfortunately, Excite@home has filed for bankruptcy, and today, 11/30/2001, will be its last day in business. Comcast has warned that there could be an interruption of service until Comcast can effect anther means of providing broadband support. Both they and I hope this won't happen. I have taken the precaution of signing up for 56k telephone service, and that may suffice to keep this website updated. However, if this website isn't updated for a day or two, it will be because of an interruption in ISP support.

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