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Solar Power, the Energy Sector and the Convergence of New Technologies

This article in on innvovations in the energy sector. In our efforts to make this site the Spot for innovative and inventive ideas, we asked Carl, our terrific guest blogger from Inventive Rants to write about some of of the innovations going on in our society today. He chose to write on the convergence of technologies in the energy sector and what that could mean for our future as his special posting for American Inventor Spot readers. We look forward to his continuing discussions on this topic in coming weeks. * * * * Every once in awhile there is a significant leap in technology. The dawn of the twentieth century dealt with the convergence of many new technologies at once. Electricity became common in homes, the first automobiles appear, and radio is changing the way we communicate. I imagine that sales of oil lamps and horse carriages are also seeing a decline. Will we see this kind of change again? Is it far away? When I was in University, I rented a typewriter from a busy leasing and repair business in town. That business is long gone and I don't think I have seen a typewriter in quite awhile. I think the next big leap will occur in the energy sector. Not oil, but electricity. The politics of filling your gas tank will make the oil industry a wild card for a few more years, but electricity, now there's an industry that can flourish much more easily. Recent developments in solar cell technology have seen two important breakthroughs. A lower cost per panel, and a higher electricity output per panel. It seems to be following the model of computers. Every iteration produces a faster and more efficient system while lowering cost. Solar panels use highly purified silicon in a process called photovoltaics. Silicon is classified as a semiconductor. By itself, silicon is actually a good insulator and resistant to electrical flow, but by "doping" and changing it's properties, it can be forced to accept either a positive or negative charge. When you place a negatively charged plate of silicon over a positively charged plate, an electrical field is produced allowing the flow of electrons. This is electricity. The focus of most research has been to improve the efficiency of translating light into electricity, and doing it using smaller and smaller panels. There are solar panels under development today that use low cost, low grade silicon as a source for the panels. The interesting part of this research is that the solar energy itself converts the low grade silicon into ultra pure silicon and as the panel ages, it's efficiency goes up. Given the leaps in solar conversion efficiency over the last five years, it is not unreasonable to expect that solar panels may become the "shingle" of choice in 10 to 15 years. The roof area of a typical home will be able to convert enough solar energy to run everything in your house----for free. This technology leap is inevitable. What will happen to us as a society, as an economy? Will going wireless now mean that the power lines strung all over the planet will slowly disappear? Are we getting too emotional over issues such as nuclear and coal power plants? Maybe they will just go away like the horse and carriage. If every building has the capacity to generate its' own electricity, it is only reasonable to assume that technology for storing energy will also advance. Necessity is the mother of invention. How will the economics of energy independence affect society? How do you tax consumption? Recharging your hybrid at home will really mean something when it doesn't cost you anything. Will the political landscape of the world change when energy is taken off the table? There are so many unknowns. I have a feeling that a convergence of technologies is just around the corner. When the President of the United States starts promoting alternative energy a few days before a drop in gas prices, something is in the air. Solar energy is on a collision course with fossil fuels. Cheaper energy sources always win. In the early days of the 20th century, there were people in their 30's and 40's with vivid memories of a world lit by gaslight and streets full of horse buggies. 30 and 40 year olds today remember typewriters and a world without Internet. I wonder what it will be like to look out on the horizon and not see power lines? Hang on, I think we're going to leap again. * * * * * * You can check out his other great articles at Inventive Rants.
Comments
May 8, 2006
by coolerguy (not verified)

I couldn't agree with you

I couldn't agree with you more.
Solar is the way to go.
Solar Polar Rock and Roller guy.

May 8, 2006
by INVENTOR WANNABE (MTD) (not verified)

DOUG REPLIED BACK WITHIN 15 MINUTES ON 2ND AI SEASON

DEAR READERS, VIEWERS,

On May 8th, 2006 around 2:15PM PST I sent an email out to Doug voicing my opinion about the show and requesting there should be another season of AI. Here is my initial email to him:
---------------------- x x x ------------------------

On 5/8/06 5:13 PM, "INVENTOR WANNABE (MTD)" wrote:

DEAR DOUG,

I have been reading all of your replies at www.americaninventorspot.com to all the questions that we all have this past Sunday and because of your time and honesty with your answers, I got a better respected view of who you are. Thank you again for your time and effort in changing some of the formats to make season two a better show.

I totally agree with you that America should start voting on the final 12 this way we can get viewers more involved in the process and watch the show. This current format does not allow America to really be involved in the voting process until the last episode therefore the rating of the show hasn't got an impressive rating yet. I am sure if the format is changed to voting starting the final 12, ABC will receive a different outcome as friends, coworker, family members will start voting and cheering for their love one and ultimately this will lead to a higher rating.

Doug, please tell Peter Jones, and ABC producers to change this format and give AI another shot of success by having a second season. Hopefully by now ABC knows what needs changing to make it a better show next season. America is catching on with this show and the momentum is catching on. After all this country is built with great inventors with great inventions that allow us to have a comfortable life, great technological advancement in the world, and the American spirit to back up these inventors and their innovation. I know you have the voice in this whole process as you know Peter and the ABC producers therefore please make the effort of educating them the potential of this show that is America Inventor that is what this country stands for, "innovation."

We all count on you to keep this spirit alive. Please have another season to make a difference in these inventors' lives. We all thank you for your time, effort, and support for these past two live chat that answers a lot of our questions.

THANK YOU. WE KEEP COUNTING ON YOU DOUG TO MAKE SURE THERE WILL BE A SECOND SEASON.

IF EVERYONE THAT READ THIS EMAIL AGREES WITH ME, THEN EACH ONE OF US IS OBLIGATED TO SEND DOUG AN EMAIL ASKING HIS HELP TO CONVINCE, and EDUCATE PETER JONES AND ABC PRODUCERS TO GIVE THIS SHOW ANOTHER SEASON.

I AM SURE IT WILL BE A HIT LIKE AMERICAN IDOL IF THE VOTING STARTS ON THE FINAL 12 CONTESTANTS.

I HAVE INFORMED ALL VIEWERS TO SEND YOU THEIR OPINION DIRECTLY AT DOUGHALL@DOUGHALL.COM
------------------------ X X X -----------------------

Here is what Doug replied back after 10 minutes later:

In a message dated 5/8/2006 2:16:48 PM Pacific Daylight Time, DougHall@DougHall.com writes:
Your messages is heard.

I have forwarded it.

AND – I have printed it and will put it in Peter’s hand tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed for next year

I agree — it’s a first prototype and it has great potential

Doug
------------------- x x x --------------------

Viewers/Readers,

As you all can see, one person can make a difference in getting the message across to Doug, imagine if all of us inventors united together and get our message across to Doug I am sure we can make a difference.

Doug is my inspiration to all of us inventors especially the time he has shared with us these past two live blog session. And Doug himself can make a difference between another season of AI or us doing nothing and watch the show dies. This show means a lot to all of us especially we all have some inventing spirit within each and everyone of us therefore having a show like AI will keep the spirit of inventing going for us struggling inventors.

I did my part of sending the email out to Doug, now it is your trun to make a difference of this show so please send Doug an email experessing your interest in wanting to see another season of AI. Doug knows Peter Jones who is the producer of the show, and Doug also knows ABC and their producers.

HE IS THE ONLY VOICE WE GOT FOR ANOTHER SEASON OF AI SO PLEASE DO YOUR PART. I HOPE TO SEE DOUG PUSH THE ENVELOPE TO MAKE SURE THERE WILL BE ANOTHER SEASON OF AI SO AMERICA CAN BENEFIT FROM ALL THESE GREAT INVENTORS AND THEIR INVENTIONS.

I CONGRATULATE TO THE INVENTORS THAT MADE IT TO THE TOP 4 SO FAR. THIS INCLUDES SHARON, ERICK, JANUZ, AND FRANSISCO FOR A GREAT JOB A LOTS OF STRUGGLING TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE. REGARDLESS THE OUTCOME ON WHO WILL WALK AWAY WITH THE 1 MILLION DOLLARS PRIZE, YOU ARE DESERVE A PAT IN THE BACK FOR A GREAT JOB.

US INDIVIDUAL INVENTOR WE ARE ALONE IN THE DARK, BUT WHEN UNITED WE ARE ONE INDIVIDUAL VOICE WITH POWERFUL FORCE THAT CAN WITHSTAND AND CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE THAT IS IN OUR WAY. PLEASE KEEP THE SPIRIT OF INVENTING ALIVE BY WRITING THE LETTER TO DOUG ASAP SO HE HAS PLENTY OF TIME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE FUTURE OF THIS SHOW.

THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

INVENTOR WANNABE (MTD)

MY EMAIL IS MTDIEP2000 AT AOL DOT COM IF ANYONE WANTS TO EMAIL ME DIRECTLY. TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

May 8, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

Why wait?

Why wait for next season when you can take advantage of this site's popularity right now? What if ABC cans the show? I really don't think they care if we inventors want another season or not, they (ABC) only listen to viewers' ratings numbers. I wouldn't wait around for next year.

If you think about the odds of actually having any amount of time on screen at all they aren't too good. Your best bet would be to pay fifty bucks and show your product right here. Who cares if the judges like your product or not? This site gets tons of traffic already, why would you miss this oportunity just to take a chance next year at being seen on tv? This is a sure thing and IF there is another season you will be competing against thousands of others just like yourself with no guarantee of exposure.

I'm not trying to sound rude, but why don't you want to expose your idea right here and now?

Please check out my invention at Bottle Sling - Invention Gallery .

May 8, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

Concerning Solar Power

I recently saw something on tv that said a solar panel the size of somewhere around like 4,000 sq acres in the Mojave Desert could power the entire US. What am I missing?

I've read about (and seen an animated video of) Solar Chimneys in Australia. They are awesome to see. They are essentially a very tall cylindrical tower with solar glazing covering its base. As the sun heats up the ground under the solar glazing the heat travels to the base of the tower and blows past wind turbines.

There is a big debate here in Vermont concerning putting wind turbines on some of the mountains' ridgelines. People allow some of our largest mountains to be carved up with ski trails, why wouldn't they accept turbines? Personally I think they're beautiful. We always have to pay some price for our energy use and solar's price and the price of having to look at windmills is a small one to pay for the long term health of our environment.

I remember the first EarthDay. I thought Wow, we're going to stop polluting, that's great. We were always told the reason we didn't use solar power more was because it was way too expensive and couldn't compete with oil. Well is it still really that expensive? When are we going to come to our senses?

Please check out my invention at Bottle Sling - Invention Gallery .

May 9, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Bottlesling guy should be banned from this blog

Bottle sling guy please make comments without having to add your push for the product at the end of each comment. It's having a negative affect. I honor your right to make comments but enough with the promo. It's tacky. To the host of this site: please keep control of this otherwise Bottle sling guy could turn away guys like Doug hall, etc.
Enough is enough.

May 9, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

I totally agreed, we have enough.

Yes, everyone of us probably have checked out your site about your bottle sling invention. Unfortunately, noone seems to like it enough to buy as it is just something that we don't find beneficial enough for us to cough up the dough.

Thank you for your consistence in "shoving" the website in our faces but I am sure like the other poster, we have enough.

May 9, 2006
by Ironponyfabrication

Maybe Solar

Solar is a great alternitive to the power lines hooked up to my house, and the price is dropping as well as the efficency going up just like you say. But will it replace our dependancy on oil? I don't think so. And here is why. We use oil for so many other products, a small fraction of a barrel of oil is turned into gasoline. All the rest of a barrel is used for lube oils, diesel fuel, kerosene, plastics, and thousands of products we use every day. Even the sludge thats left over is used, right here in the town that I live in leftover sludge from the refinery is sent to carbon black plants. Where it is burned very rich to create carbon black and that is used in tires and activated carbon filters. And well bio-diesel is a viable alternitive to diesel fuel, what are we going to do about airplanes? They usally run on a high grade of kerosene known as jet A. One thing that is often over looked when it comes to conserving oil is that we use it for everything! Can we overcome this you bet, but it will take inventors to come up with ideas that will work. In a area where they will meet many stumbling blocks put there by oil companys. Is this going to be done overnight, not very likely. The oil industry that I have spent many years working around, and has all kinds of influance over our goverment just won't allow it. Do you dought that, think about this for a minute. Our president promised us hydrogen powered cars in one of his election promises. Ask yourself just how much money has the goverment spent on hydrogen power since that promise was made. not much I bet. And has our president mentioned it since! And hydrogen could be used to generate electricity, power planes, trains, and automobiles. It doesn't pollute, can be obtained from water, and it doesn't have to be drinking water by the way. Think about this for a min. what if you could drive up to your nearest sewage treatment plant and get paid to fill your car up, and yes with the right filters that would be possible! Not to mention that it would help with disposing of waste water. Now that wouldn't help with all the other uses of oil, but it is my hope that american inventors could overcome that. Thanks William

May 9, 2006
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

Policy on Posting

We will not accept spamming of the site or abuse of the comment feature. However, if someone chooses to make relevant comments on various threads and wants to put a signature on their postings, our current policy is to allow that (unless it becomes detrimental to the site).
Many folks on our website are trying to showcase their ideas and invnetions and it makes sense that they have the opportunity (within reason) to do so.

What we will not tolerate is abuse or cheap shots thrown at each other. Please let's remember that we all here to help each other and grow as inventors, as entrprenuers and as innovators. I would ask everyone to please be cordial with each other.

With respect to bottlesligguy, I don't think he has abused the nature of spirit of what this site is about. He has from day one helped get this site going and he is one of the FEW who pays for our hosting charges so that everyone else gets the benefit of the site. So for that, we are grateful.

Anonymous, I appreciate your concerns that we not turn this site into something tacky. But the whole purpose of the site is to provide inventors a safe and fun forum to learn how to become a more successful innovator/inventor and to assist in any way we can. I think a key part of our role is to provide inventors a forum in which to market their ideas. Do you disagree?

Thanks for your input and your participation everyone. Let's all please play nice or I am going to have to get ornery! :)

Michelle
oh behalf of AmericanInventorSpot.com

May 9, 2006
by Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe it would be cool if

Maybe it would be cool if posters with inventions on this site could have a little avatar next to their name or post title that linked to their product page? Just an idea.

May 9, 2006
by bottleslingguy
bottleslingguy's picture

Windows

From the Treehugger site: "or even incorporated into windows and glass doors."

That's a major improvement, being able to have windows as collectors. It said the price will be considerably lower than conventional collectors too. Imagine highrises with solar windows? Cities could power themselves if every window was a solar collector panel.

People still have to realize the US is not the only polluter on the block.

If you have already, don't bother, but if you haven't, please check out my invention at Bottle Sling - Invention Gallery .