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Drunk on solar power

Just in time for the latest round of gas price hikes, Scientific American has put forth an ambitious plan to convert America to solar energy.

We think of solar panels as too inefficient to sate our country's hunger for power, but the authors worked out the sums to show we could do so, namely by covering 30,000 square miles of the sun-baked southwest with photovoltaic arrays.

Such an approach could provide 3,000 gigawatts of power, and we could use land that is not being used for much now.

It's sounds like a massive undertaking. Yet, the cost to the federal government to subsidize this effort would be about $420 billion'less than the cost of setting up the federal interstate highway system in today's dollars, the authors argue.

Oddly enough, the footprint created miles upon miles of solar panels would be about the same as that created by current energy production techniques, if all the land used for coal-mining, drill mining and refining is factored in, article editor Mark Fischetti noted in an accompanying podcast.

The biggest potential roadblock we see is that everyone would have to convert to some new form of direct current. Easier said than done, that.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Jan 04, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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