Saturday, August 13, 2011

Solar will continue to grow

NC dominates Renewable energy in the SE but everyone I know in solar is eking by in this downturn and slow recovery despite the lack of incentives, low energy costs in SC, and uncertain economic outlook.

Why is that? I think it can be boiled down to three key issues.

1. It has been pointed out very well by a part-time SC resident and very successful oil investor Richard Rainwater. Back in 2001, Mr. Rainwater forecast oil at $129 a barrel. This is pre-Katrina. He had read a book called The Limits of Growth that scarily portends fights for scarce natural resources and a growing world population that can’t be fed without fossil fuel. So the first issue is energy. We need it and don’t have enough of it. Everyone quietly recognizes that we will have to create sustainable reserves of hydro-carbon fuel replacements. I believe that comes partly from electricity. We need mass transport-ation and personal transportation from electricity because we can produce it more efficiently than burning fossil fuels. We also need to find a way to produce new oil—not by drilling, but by massive algae farms that absorb Co2 and produce oil. I am not a scientist so if algae aren’t feasible there has to be something. Let’s find it.

2. The reason is weather. I think we have all seen record temperatures this year, maybe not in SC where it is always hotter than just about anywhere in the summer, but just as scientists predicted: tornadoes in MA, snow in UT in May, record heat waves across the US. No scientist ever said global warming would be predictable; just that it would impact known weather patterns and could hamper world food growth. Solar can play a small part in slowing this process.

3. We have economic returns. Everyone wants predictable costs in the future and solar can provide that. While the payback is long in SC, the risk return is great. As we get older, the investment looks better and better. Most people won’t outlive their solar install, which should be a great feeling. NASA has panels from the 1960s that still generate voltage. That’s a safe bet in my book.

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