Our series follows Editor-in-Chief Jacob Ward on a trip across the country and around the world to see firsthand the ideas that could usher in a new era of true energy independence for the United States. First up: a solar cell in every bolt of fabric. Read about these ideas, and more, in the June issue.—Eds
To view energy videos sponsored by Shell, click here.
Well worth watching. Looking forward to part 2.
So spending money to research photovoltaics that are efficient enough to matter and battery technology that can make intermittent power feasible may be worth it, even on a governmental level. Still, it seems like solar is the power of the future...and always will be.
Rushing to implement existing (truly lame) technology on a large scale will only reveal that it's a waste of time and money. I can see it from here, and so can all the thinking individuals who haven't invested in this. Spain has led the way in showing what a disaster buying into existing "renewables" will be. If the technology doesn't materialize, it should be abandoned.
This isn't about energy independence ("true" or otherwise); it's about chic yuppies and hipsters in New York or San Fran siphoning off resources to create good vibes and feel important.
We have enough thorium to safely and dependably power our civilization for longer than it will likely exist. Several millennia of research powered by nuclear should be enough to harness the sun's energy in meaningful quantities. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.
I think your making a lot of judgements about this without the facts. This is a company that's selling a product and their buyers are also looking to turn a profit. No cost analiyses was shown. Its a simple calculation their customers are performing, "If I had to buy this without solar panels how much would it cost compared to the additional cost with solar panels minus the energy savings." You can make a fair assumption that most of their customers will do this calculation before buying and decide accordingly.
Additionally if you put the whole world on thorium, their not going to spend much on researching solar because obviously thorium is sufficient so why even research solar since its limiting in a lot of ways. The main reason to do so is because nothing works at the extreme, everything in its best state is an optimization of multiple variables. Their are plenty of places where its not feasible to put a thorium reactor or transmit power from a thorium reactor.
Just FYI accusing all of your opponents of selling some other product is not a good way of converting them to your point of view.
How "bout bio-mass. If you're worried about global climate change and if you are recognizing emissions as the source of the problem, then why not look at the characteristics of the problem and see what assets are available? Methane can be used for energy with much of our current infrastructure and is one of the key greenhouse gases. Yes, when it's burned, it yields CO2 and H2O (other greenhouse gasses), but at least their capable of being recaptured by plants. In a way, I guess, this is a kind of solar, but it's not re-inventing the wheel.
Wow. This was just ridiculous. PopSci is getting sillier every month. The article was titled "The Road to Energy Independence" and then the video described 3 hipsters making solar panels out of fabric.
This is indicative of a silly "alternative" energy story. These partial solutions (solar) are more often a diversion from the real issue.
Does solar energy play an important roll in the future? YES! It surely will. So will wind, hydro, biofuels, etc., but when an honest scientist studies the energy issue, he/she will see that Westerners use (lots of) energy around the clock, in an on-demand fashion. Solar cannot be a core technology because the sun only shines well enough to provide electricity from 0 to 7 hours a day (depending on season, latitude, cloud cover, etc). Ditto for wind. Yeah, they can provide an auxiliary amount of electric power, and yeah, with Demand Management wind and solar can provide an even larger amount of the total mix of electric power, but they cannot ever be a major source of power UNLESS we find a high capacity, low cost battery.
BTW, we're only dependent on one kind of energy source, that is, foreign oil. We do not import fuel to make electricity (excepting some imported uranium), so using more renewable electric power does NOT make any difference on our foreign oil addiction, unless we start deploying large numbers of electric cars.
If you want to watch a scientifically sound video about energy independence, watch Mr. Bill Gates discuss real solutions here:
Batteries will get there unlike most things. So, we need to have a conversation about mobile electric grid billing, and smart electric storage. Green energy will only work if off peak ours have a place to store energy, so why not use our cars for this. The solar power from my house stored in the batteries in my car while it is plugged in at my work. Wind farms could store power in our vehicles. We currently have low level networks that use our homes electric lines. So, we just confiscate the week network to make a Powerful network, pun. Broadband was proposed for the power lines but also failed we just reuse our failures and make Mobile Power Billing a reality. Plug in any ware and the user is charged not the building owner. This is inevitably going to become an issue as batteries improve even more, but today it could eliminate almost 60 percent of carbon emission if used just for our commute to work. It could also make the need for fuel stations farther apart making all forms of alternate fuel infrastructure feasible for battery hybrid cars.
There is hope that better ideas are still to come, it is a 4 part series, but part one is a complete waste of time.
What troubles me with wind and solar most, is that you always need some backup system. You might as well just build the backup system and operate it without wasting money on wind and solar which can only be built with subsidies anyway.
There are nuclear technologies which are clean and can really achieve energy independence at a cost society and industry can afford.
If the government is going to push upon the public electric batteries in cars in hopes it will develop later to be practical and mainstream, I so appreciate the use of solar cells in art!
Yea clean solar power!
Sponsored by Shell huh? Not surprising that it's making a point that alternative energies are not expected to solve the worlds energy issues.
"If the whole world is on thorium, they'll never develop photovoltaic."
"There are some places where it's not feasible to power with thorium reactors."
One or the other bud... One or the other...
The concept of "US energy independence" is nonsensical. In reality, the US has sufficient domestic reserves of coal, oil and gas to meet all of our energy needs for over 100 years. The only reason we import oil or gas is because it is currently more economical to do so. If we switched to using 100% domestic oil and gas, which is currently more expensive, the US economy would suffer as a result. The same goes for renewables like solar and wind. Forcing the adoption of more expensive renewables will only hurt the US economy. US industry will embrace renewables when they become cost effective.
@omaha42000 Three hipsters making solar panels? These guys are not hipsters. They're visionaries. Look at this Colin Touhey fellow. His solar work aside, that hair of his has tremendous luster. His long sleeve t-shirt tucked in with no belt is very 2014. Everyone will be doing it. Just like everyone will have these panels. Imagine if that shirt was an iPhone, like Colin said. Did I just blow your mind? I thought so. Now imagine if your iPhone charged your car. What if the Declaration of Energy independence was written on fabric based solar panel?
So we have solar as #1. I'm just guessing but the next three will be wind, biofuel, and conservation in combination with more efficient electrical devices.
The same discussion was had in 1902 by the greatest scientific minds of the time and they all (but one) came up with the same solutions. Search for Philadelphia North American and May 18, 1902 and Lord Kelvin. Their concern? The world would surely run out of coal. Yep, peak coal.
Thomas Edison said not to worry about it because there was enough wood in the Amazon to fuel the world for 50,000 years.
One man got it right when he said man's ingenuity would solve the problem. That is what happened with petrochemicals. It got us along for another 111 years.
Here's my bet for the future: knowledge derived from the identification of the the Higgs boson will enable us to harness gravity to generate power anywhere at any time without burning fuel. Gravity is how hydroelectric power generation works today but it is geographically dependent on the falling water and that makes transmission lines and all the infrastructure that goes with them necessary.
Develop gravity sourced power independent of geographical location and it can be generated and consumed at the same place, removing the need (and susceptibilities - weather EMP, etc.) for the transmission lines.