Monthly Archives: July 2013

Driving for Solar

In late 2012, gas prices in California hit an all-time national high with the average gallon of gasoline going for about $4.70. Economists have been predicting doom for the world’s dwindling oil supplies for decades and consumers have been left scrambling for a cheaper alternative. Since the oil crisis in 1973, the government has been funding research

into alternative energy sources and despite some controversy; solar has shown itself to be a viable replacement for fossil fuels in the sunnier climes of the nation. Traditionally sunny cities, such as Tucson, Arizona, have been working with the government and businesses to harness the power of the hot desert sun and the results have been promising.

Tucson averages about 340 sunny days a year, making it an ideal city to benefit from the recent advances in solar technology and the government could not agree more. Tucson has been designated as a “Solar City America” which basically recognizes Tucson for its prominent efforts to promote solar technology as well and it provides Tucson with federal grants for solar projects in the area.

The recent pushes by the Obama administration to promote solar energy have been met with contention as a select few feel that solar will never be cost effective, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. While the average cost of solar power was well over $70 per kilowatt hour (KWH) in 1977, it has fallen to $0.63 per KWH as of early 2013 and rather than that being the cost of the raw material as it is with oil, that price is mostly derived from the cost of installing photovoltaic cells so the price would logically fall to almost zero over time. In fact, the recent price decline in photovoltaic cells is a product of the Obama administrations renewed effort to fund green energies and just recently, President Obama outlined his renewable energy plan and promised to double the amount of electricity produced in the US by solar, wind and geothermal methods by 2020.

So what exactly is so good about solar power? It may seem counterintuitive with all the above talk about price, but the biggest advantage is that the sun is free and is likely to remain burning for around another five billion years. The infinite potential of solar power has been on display for years in the biennial World Solar Race in which solar-powered cars speed across over 3,000 kilometers of the Australian desert. The idea of a car that never needs to stop and refuel is world-altering, and while it may seem a long way off, solar power is currently used to power charging stations for electric vehicles, drastically reducing their cost as well as the emissions of the entire process.

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