Thanks for reporting this, Elizabeth. Every increase in solar cell efficiency is important. It's interesting that in this case it was an innovation in chip manufacturing technology that made the difference.
On the face of it, your comment sounds wrong. We know that plants are under 3% efficient in conversion of solar energy to plant mass. That means each square meter of solar cell will produce the same gross energy as 15 square meters of plant surface. If we burn the plant mass, we suffer Carnot's indignity, if we ferment to alcohol we suffer more losses, plus the Carnot losses when we burn it. If we use it in fuel cells, that mitigates these losses greatly, but insufficiently to equal 44.7% solar conversion efficiency.
I believe that if we can achieve 44.7% in long lasting affordable cells, that maintain that efficiency for 20 years(even a 40% end point is OK - I would like to see the rate of degradation in service) we can reach a solar millennium, and large scale replacement of central power production (gas, coal, nuclear) will ensue. (Water power will survive for the foreseeable future).
Solar will never replace gas/oil/coal. They sun doesn't provide enough energy to maintain our ecosystem as well as provide all of man's power needs. The energy we're we're consuming in the form of oil, gas, and coal, took many millions of years to store. Energy we take from the sun to satisfy our human needs is taken away from the energy normally used to drive our planet's ecosystem. It's impact is insignificant now, but would be catestrophic if we replace all coal, gas, and oil useage with solar, even at 100% efficiency.
Well I think some people are really catching on this this, Cadman-LT, and actually doing in different parts of the world. It's especially popular with people who are lucky enough to be building their own houses. I have a friend here in Portugal who is building his house with the idea of solar power completely engineered into the design, making windows that will face the sun at optimal times and angles so it will always stay heated, and using solar panels in creative ways. So I think that this vision you mention is not so far off, power companies in agreement or not. And solar will increasingly be part of the power grid, too, which also is a good thing.
What if what I said actually happened? No more need for oil. Would our economy just go to heck!? That's why I was saying I don't think it will ever be allowed. The companies that rule will just buy the tech and squash it. It's in their best interests to do so. Am I wrong?
Imagine this in the future. Solar gets so good...instead of putting shingles on your roof you cover it with a solar film....every house produces it's own power! Oh wait...the power companies wouldn't allow that to happen now would they! lol
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