Dave Roberts on the future of solar

We had the pleasure of speaking with Dave as part of Bard CEP’s National Climate Seminar in the fall of 2011, his take is always interesting.

Here he interviews venture capitalist Michael Leibreich on the future of solar energy, part three of a three part interview.

Leibreich’s answer to Dave’s final question raises an interesting point about the way we think about interest/discounting rates, how we value the future relative to the present, and how we perceive the risks of investment versus the risks of non-investment. Achieving 80% renewables by 2050 would be expensive upfront and risky (depending on new technology is always risky), but perpetuating our fossil fuel use has its own risks (environmental, human health, etc) and is subject to unpredictable swings in fuel costs. As Dave points out, this debate could be one about economics, but it tends to verge on more philosophical questions about the risks and uncertainties that come with new technology, much in line with the proactionary-precautionary question┬áraised by Steve Fuller and at CSID.


JM Kincaid

Justin Hall-Tipping on grid-free solar energy and nanotechnology

A colleague of mine from Bard CEP posted this TED Talk by Justin Hall-Tipping in reply to my post on Donald Sagoway’s liquid metal battery. Hall-Tipping presents on carbon nanotechnology and grid-free solar energy — a truly invigorating watch. It’s ingenuity and creativity of this kind that keeps my romanticizing primitivism in check. Cheers!

JM Kincaid

University of Florida’s record-setting graphene solar cells

While Sagoway is working on solar power’s storage problem at MIT, physicists in Gainsville, Florida, are working to improve the efficiency of graphene solar cells. Recently they were able to get 8.6% efficiency in converting light energy to electricity, a new record up from 2.9% with this particular technology. Below is a link to the University of Florida’s news bulletin that got me looking into this. Cheers!

Graphene solar cells

JM Kincaid

Sadoway’s liquid metal battery

The Sun’s energy contribution to the Earth is more than enough than what would be necessary to power the modern world. But there are two technological hurdles to solar society. On one hand, solar panels need to be more efficient. On the other, solar energy is intermittent and human demand is not, which means that we need good batteries to store solar power when its available. But so far, our batteries aren’t so good.

Donald Sadoway and a group at MIT are currently working to fix the latter problem with liquid metal battery technology. Sadoway’s presentation is so impressive I couldn’t not share it. Can his team find the missing link to alternative energy?

JM Kincaid