EDITORIAL: Solar eclipse
January 12, 2001 - Staff
Editorial - The Technician - North Carolina State
(U-WIRE) RALEIGH, N.C. According to researchers
at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
in Golden, Colo., photovoltaic units or solar
panels spanning only 10,000 square miles could
provide all the electricity the United States needs
based on the current solar energy technology of 10-percent
system efficiency. With next-generation 15-percent
efficiency models, that land space would be decreased
by 30 percent.
An area roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the continental
United States could supply enough electricity to charge
NREL senior scientist John Turner told Popular Science
such panels could be distributed in practical places
throughout urban landscapes on rooftops, streetlights,
highway soundproofing walls and especially capped
landfills. Currently, capped landfills cannot be used
for 20 to 30 years, a timespan roughly equivalent
to the lifespan of a photovoltaic electrical energy
But there's a gray cloud around this silver lining.
More like a black cloud: fossil fuels.
Oil, natural gas, coal and even wood are all, along
with their various extracts and variants, so entrenched
in our existent electrical grid and power infrastructure
that their dissolution seems likely only when the
last drop of oil has been burned along with the last
lump of coal and the last splinter of timber.
With the help of fossil fuels' iron-handed grip on
our economic and political landscapes, our society
is simply unable to choose solar energy or
wind energy or tidal energy or hydroelectric energy
as a real challenge to the status quo. Such
environmentally friendly options are often called
"alternative resources," when the truth is that such
alternatives are simply not offered.
Why would a giant industry like Big Oil want to undo
itself? It's like expecting alcohol providers to push
Prohibition. It will not happen.
The sad fact is that, no matter how much cleaner,
cheaper and safer solar energy and its eco-friendly
cousins become through technological advances, it'll
be the squeaky wheel the Big Oil lobbyists
and the oil-dependent American public that
will get the grease.
(C) 2001 The Technician via U-WIRE