I'm facing a lot of skeptics who believe what Al Gore has told them about solar energy. But once you know the only real buyers of solar panels are governments (through subsidies and large direct purchases), you should immediately suspect the promise of solar power isn't what it's cracked up to be.
If everyone could power their homes by putting solar panels on the roof, everyone would want to do it. We wouldn't need tax incentives. Of course, that's not how it works. Instead, the cost to install and maintain a solar system far exceeds the economic value of what it provides. And the reason is basic physics, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
This is nature's version of "there's no such thing as a free lunch." The Second Law says energy moves from more useful forms to less useful forms, from more concentrated and powerful forms to more disparate and less powerful forms. In short, machines that promise to bring us the power of the sun by harnessing its rays won't work because by the time the sun's rays reach the Earth, not much useful energy is left. That energy won't return to a more concentrated form without the input of just as much additional power.
You can't simply "reconcentrate" sunlight in any useful way. The concept breaks the fundamental laws of nature.
I'm not the only person who has doubted the functional utility of solar power. Another skeptic is Warren Meyer, who frequently blogs about free market economics, climate nonsense, and solar power, among other topics. Meyer is a Princeton and Harvard Business School graduate, but even those institutions didn't ruin his brain, which tells me he's a very smart guy indeed.
Al Gore has claimed, repeatedly, that if we were to build a 90-mile by 90-mile solar-panel facility in the Southwest desert, we would have enough electricity to power the entire United States. The claim is fantastic. If only we cared enough about the environment to build enough solar panels, then the world would be saved and power would be free! Al Gore is a masterful politician, which is to say he is a complete liar.
Porter Stansberry , Steve Sjuggerud's Daily Wealth 19 Comments
[8/15/2012 3:19:50 AM]
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