Don’t be a PV efficiency snob

A common question I get when discussing solar photovoltaic (PV) power is: “What is the typical efficiency for panels now?” When I answer that mass-market polycrystalline panels are typically about 15–16%, I often see the questioner’s nose wrinkle, followed by dismissive mumbling that 15% is still too low, and maybe they’ll wait for higher numbers before personally pursuing solar. By the end of this post, you will understand why this response is annoying to me. At 15%, we’re in great shape: it’s plenty good for our needs.

The roads to our alternative energy future

How fast do we need to transition off of fossil fuels? What industrial capacity is available today for different alternative energy technologies and what is likely to be available in the future? What might we do if we can’t replace fossil fuels with alternatives fast enough, and what might the consequences be? I finally got around to re-doing these calculations, and wanted to go through the numbers.

A solar panel on every roof? In U.S., still a distant dream

Daunted by high up-front costs, U.S. homeowners continue to shy away from residential solar power systems, even as utility-scale solar projects are taking off. But with do-it-yourself kits and other innovative installation approaches now on the market, residential solar is having modest growth.

A bridge to somewhere

Recent suggestions that the current boom in natural gas will be a bridge to a future of sustainable energy are highly reminiscent of similar claims from the past — claims that turned out to be entirely wrongheaded. A bridge is only useful if there’s somewhere to get to on the other side, and in the future ahead of us, the other side will inevitably be defined by much less energy use. With the help of a photovoltaic panel, the Archdruid explains.

In The World After Abundance

Most discussions of the future of electric power start from the assumption that maintaining a grid of the modern kind, designed from top to bottom around ample supplies of cheap fossil fuels, is the only option there is. It’s long past time to revisit that notion. Are our current ways of electricity production, distribution, and use merely the extravagant habits of a temporary age of excess, and what might an appropriate system for producing and using electricity look like in an age of scarcity?

Critical comments on “The Energy Report” by WWF and Ecofys

The Energy Report aligns with several others in recent years in confidently claiming that we could transition to full reliance on renewable energy, without any disruption of high material living standards or the pursuit of economic growth. These reports are typically quite impressive involving glossy formats with lots of coloured graphs and pictures, a large cast of heavy-weight authors, and a long list of high-powered endorsements.

Critical comments on The Energy Report by WWF and Ecofys – TEMPORARY

The Energy Report does not provide a satisfactory analysis of the issue. It fails to defend assumptions adequately and it omits discussion of crucial issues. To put it mildly, its general conclusion is not established at all persuasively. More importantly, the Report appears to provide yet more proof that renewables can save energy-intensive and growth obsessed societies. It therefore helps to ensure that thought will not be given to the possibility that sustainability cannot be achieved unless there is dramatic reduction in levels of production, consumption, affluence and GDP, and therefore unless there is extremely radical social change, including the abandonment of growth economies.

Greening the world begins at home

In 2004 I was an idealistic young college graduate who hoped to change the world. I was convinced that the prospect of declining worldwide oil production loomed, and that people must heed my calls for energy conservation and radically-relocalized living. The world didn’t seem to change, but to my surprise, something else did—my hometown.