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How Solar Research Will Change the World
Looking back:

Science tells us that all of our familiar sources of energy came from the sun
Plants absorb sunlight and convert it into carbon molecules which, over millions of years, have been turned into oil and gas, the earth's primary energy source of the past;
Much of the world still heats, cooks and survives on burning wood or charcoal plant fibers that have converted the suns energy to fuel;
Wind currents and ocean currents are driven by temperature differentials created by the sun and used to produce energy.

Driven by the industrial revolution, centralized systems were developed to transform energy sources such as oil and natural gas into transportation fuels and electricity. The developed world quickly became dependant on these cheap, abundant sources of energy for industry, transportation and comfort at home. The legacy system always required connection to the central system electrical lines for electricity, gas lines for heat, gas stations to distribute fuel to run your car.

Looking forward:
Solar energy also uses the suns energy to deliver power where it is needed but with one very important difference: It does not require a huge centralized refinery or power plant to which everyone must be connected to access power. Solar energy can be generated where the power is needed-- instead of at a giant power plant distant from the location where the energy is needed. This simple principal changes everything.

Two examples of the principal:
1. For most of the 20th Century, computers were large, complex systems that would fill a large room. Then came the personal computer, which allowed computing power to be distributed to everyone at a reasonable cost. Following on the heels of this distributed infrastructure came the Internet which revolutionized how the world accesses and delivers information. The centralized legacy systems used for computing have been replaced by a decentralized, democratic information system accessible to everyone at low cost. This is what solar energy technology will do for power generation.

2. Prior to the 1990's, communication technology required connection to large centralized switching systems using wires run to every home or office. Much of the world simply did not have adequate infrastructure to communicate effectively. Then came the cell phone. Within 15 years places like Brazil, China and Russia saw everyone connected in a distributed communications system that did not require the huge investment that legacy systems demanded. People's world began to change because distributed communication technology allowed them to connect in ways not possible before. This is what solar energy will do to deliver energy to parts of the world where legacy systems do not exist today. Solar energy will change the world because it will allow for efficient, low cost power generation where the power is needed without requiring connection to a centralized, legacy system. This will allow access to all of the technologies that require power, lights, heat, computers, communication systems, etc. by people who simply did not have access to these resources in the past.

Just as the Internet changed the way people distributed and received information and just as cell phones increased the worlds access to communication technology, solar power will change the way the world powers its future and it will bring those parts of the world not connected to the 20th century grid on line. Solar power will change the way the world is run and democratize the delivery of energy empowering its users to participate in a world they could not reach in the past.
Distributed Energy
[From Wells Fargo Bank, Special Report on Identifying the Opportunities in Alternative Energy]


In the developed world, energy distribution is trending toward smaller, more locally based electricity generation for the first time since the 1970s. This trend is driven by the need for super-reliable, highquality power, especially for sites such as data centers and high-technology parks, as well as hospitals and police stations. As technology has become the norm in the work place, the need for extra reliability in power provision has risen. When the power goes out, even for a short period, losses can mount up through the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reflecting this trend, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that about 20 percent of new electricity generation capacity will be distributed by the end of this decade.

Developing countries, needs are slightly different. The tendency toward distributed power is driven by the necessity to provide relatively cheap and reliable power in the absence of a developed electricity grid. Such grids are expensive to build and maintain, combined with their other downside, the loss of electricity during transmission.

On a localized basis, on-site electricity generation could lead to significantly higher energy efficiency, which translates to cost savings for the residential consumer. This is because a significant amount of electricity is wasted when it is distributed through power lines from a central power plant to the home. We believe that the full potential of distributed energy is likely to be achieved through integration with the overall power network. Such smart networks that also include storage potential are likely to help open up niches where distributed energy is more competitive, helping to reduce costs and break down
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