Companies like Solarcity are an inspiration to people still holding their breath for the “Solar Revolution”. For the past 35 years many Americans have been watching, and waiting to see if the promises of President Carter are going to come true. In 1979 he outlined America’s plan to generate around 20 percent of the country’s energy from renewable resources. The U.S. abandoned its role as leader of the world in renewable energy as Presidents that had other plans came into power. Even now the U.S. still trails Europe and Japan in its current stance on low-carbon energy. Solarcity is showing that they will not wait any longer, they have found that there are many different ways to utilize free energy, and solar energy is one of the most promising.
The idea of a “Solar Revolution” is inspiring all by itself. Light from the sun produces around 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of the planet that it touches. If 100 percent of those rays could be transformed into usable energy, then every house, every where, could be powered for free. However, technological limitations prevent this from being a possibility at the moment. In 1953, a 213 by 130 inch solar panel could absorb only about 4.5 percent of the sun’s rays. Most of the time this technology was strictly used on satellites. In addition, the cost per watt was $1785 USD, but by 2012 the size of the solar panel had dropped to 64 by 39 inches and could then absorb around 15 percent of the energy being generated from the sun’s rays. It should be noted that the price of solar panels at the beginning of 2013 had dropped to $.64 per watt, which is amazing when compared with 1953.
The purchase of Silevo has done more than just bolster the Buffalo Niagara region’s dreams of coming center stage to the clean-energy game. SolarCity also has the power to put the U.S. back on the road towards their clean-energy goals, and bring an end to the wait for the “Solar Revolution”. 15 percent of the energy being absorbed from the sun is very good, and leaps and bounds ahead of the technology available in 1953, but again the goal is 100 percent and making energy free. Projections put solar cells at 23.5 percent efficiency for 2015, but new solar efficiency records are set on an almost monthly basis. Soon the speed at which those records are being broken could increase by a lot, thanks to Solarcity.
Imagine that the surface of a car could have these solar cells all over it. Once efficiency levels are high enough, both cars and homes could be running this sort of technology. An amazing jump forward in the race for completely free energy. Thinking on the bigger picture, if technology like this was combined with something like Google’s self-driving car, life would start becoming more like the continuously referenced Minority Report. With advancements like solar energy taking such large strides forward, it is difficult not to start coming up with different ways that it could change the way lives are lived every day. Those kind of thoughts though, are what drive forward inventors and scientists alike in the search for the future. Solarcity is taking steps to ensure the future of free energy is set in stone, so that soon the wait for the “Solar Revolution” will be over. As mankind pushes forward on the frontiers of science and technology, they may never really know where it will take them, but will always be excited about the journey ahead of them.
Opinion By Phillip Schmidt