While most of us may not realize it day to day, without electricity, modern life ceases to be. Coal and oil have been the single greatest vehicles to wealth in the history of our species. It is this fact that makes it critical we address the depletion of fossil fuel. All utilities across the country make plans for production and growth several decades into the future and they watch energy prices every minute of everyday. The conversation we have today, directly impacts the next decades of our lives. When a single coal plant costs $2.2billion dollars and a nuclear plant costs 5 times that, we have to get these decisions right.
Every living thing on the surface of the planet gets its energy from the sun. Coal and oil are nothing more than storage units of the sun’s energy. Wind and biomass are also energy created from the sun. Nuclear plants are mimicking the sun’s fusion reaction but we use fission and fuel that is poisonous. To me then it seems abundantly clear that we should explore the mining of the sun’s energy directly. Spectra Labs a division of Boeing makes the most efficient/ most durable solar panels on and off the earth. American engineers can still create great things. USC located in Columbia SC is doing some amazing research into semiconductor materials and photovoltaic’s (solar electric, PV for short)
Since energy is one of the four critical things we need to have modern society, I believe it is the next arms race and the next vehicle of economic growth (actual sustainability) for the US and the world. 60% of the world’s oil is located near India and China. India and China have one third of the planet’s population. China is spending its $2.1 trillion dollars of currency reserves on energy bets globally; China is also outspending us on renewable energy infrastructure. The majority of American’s despite our political arguments and social differences are fat and happy. We need to put aside our differences at the local level and create the support needed to get solar energy on parity to coal, if we don’t someone else will. Food, shelter, communications and energy are the underpinning of our happiness.
So with the eventual rise of China and India (go to Wal-Mart or ask your telephone credit card representative where they got their college degree) we have to ask ourselves now where is our energy going to come from in 20-40yrs from now. Paul Campbell (R) Berkeley recently said “we need a clean energy standard in South Carolina.” We need this new leadership to prevail. It is lack of education and state support for new industries that will cause us to lag behind the rest of the country and the world.
Some people have been quoted saying South Carolina is too humid for solar. This is completely false. South Carolina gets 43% more output than Germany, the world’s leader in solar installs. Solar most certainly does work in South Carolina. We have the 13th best solar irradiance in the nation and we far outstrip Europe in sun mining potential. That is why we must mine the sun. Can solar meet base load demand (energy 24 hrs a day) right now? No, but not utilizing it where we can, (peak shaving, offsetting the most expensive energy at high demand times) is wrong. The internal combustion engine was industrialized in the 1870’s and yet even today only 10% of the used energy moves the vehicle, should we have waited for 20%, or 40%?!
While our house and Senate continue to resist helping entrepreneurs build a new industry in SC, other states like North Carolina and Georgia are creating jobs, gaining investments and creating energy security. Lindsey Graham US senator for South Carolina gets it. His approval of national climate legislation will bring jobs to our state. Not only thru solar and biomass but natural gas drilling off the SC coast and wind turbines and nuclear technology investment will bring billions to SC. Do we want to fight (running up the deficit and losing our most precious resources) over fossil fuel reserves or do we want to build the new energy economy?
So it’s a question of new jobs, new money, and new ideas or no ideas and the blind hope that our economy will create jobs by itself. Tell your state representative that North Carolina has fully supported solar with legislation and they have much lower unemployment due to this investment, we need to match North Carolina incentives. If we invest in new technology and innovation we secure our position as global leader and will prosper as these other economies buy our products and knowledge as they already do in relation to fossil fuels now. Its hard to give up what has been so good to us, fossil fuel powered America’s industrial revolution. We will remain the leaders in petro-chemical production and research for the foreseeable future but if we look back to why America is great its much easier to realize we can and must build a new energy economy on solar power because the sun is so integral to all life and energy is prosperity.