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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Solar power

Posted by: Hammer / 4:27 PM

Norwegianity points us to this article describing a way to collect and focus the sun's energy to produce electricity with twice the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell.

Solar thermal farms in the desert west. Wind farms in the plains. Tidal energy on the coasts. All infinite sources of potential energy -- without messing around with half-lives and 3-eyed fish.

Let's lead the world in developing this technology. Let's fund the research by repealing tax breaks for oil companies that are already posting record profits. Let's imagine that legacy, that gift for our children and grandchildren.


carleton has a turbine, st olaf is working on one. it is a start, but we should have farms of these windmills.

By Anonymous Tard Patch, at 4:40 PM  

We still need to improve our storage technology. So we have electricity on cloudy, still days. Of course, if we take any of a number of sensible steps to reduce energy consumption (compact flourescent bulbs [yes, I know, mercury], improved stoplights, etc.) we'd be that much closer to a workable, permanent solution.

By Blogger Hammer, at 8:22 AM  

Helluva business plan they've got there: producing juice at 15.37 cents per kWh, and selling it for less than 11.33.

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 9:51 PM  

They are selling the electricity at a loss because they are making money by selling the equipment. It's the same business plan game console makers use, but in reverse. Who knew Microsoft could make million by selling thousands of Xboxes at a loss?

By Blogger Hammer, at 8:08 AM  

[T]hey are making money by selling the equipment.

I'm sure they want to do that. From their web site FAQ:

Are there any SES Dish Stirling systems currently in use?

We have a demonstration test site and training facility at Sandia National Laboratories located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This unit is being used in a new mechanical engineering training program at the university, in addition it supplies power to the campus power grid. We recently implemented a dish in Johannesburg, South Africa in accordance to a joint venture program with Eskom Enterprises.

Who knew Microsoft could make million by selling thousands of Xboxes at a loss?

Pretty much anybody who's ever bought a razor.

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 9:14 AM  

Joey -- thanks for the comments.

I've no idea whether this particular technology will work. I'm not an engineer or an economist.

But it is a business plan you criticized, not a business fact. Part of the business plan is to turn a profit on the generators (money up front) and run a loss on the power (money paid later).

As technology improves, the cost of producing electricity from solar power will continue to go down. I don't think that's true of any of the conventional, dirty production methods.

By Blogger Hammer, at 9:50 AM  

Hey, I wish them luck, and hope they succeed. They just better have some deep pockets to get through the early years.

And I do think solar & wind should be pushed. I drive through the wind farms on Buffalo Ridge quite often, and just love everything they represent: no pollution, energy independence, cool technology. They even look good.

Right now, the site is limited by the old transmission lines. They could put a huge number of additional wind turbines there, but there's no way to get the power out.

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 12:23 PM  

I can't imagine any company could stay in business very long without a positive cash flow. Maybe there's a book on the subject. I'll go check and see if they have any for sale cheaper than my local bookstore.

By Blogger Jambo, at 3:23 PM  

Nice try. Amazon hasn't turned a loss since the 2nd quarter of 2003.

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 5:04 PM  

I knew they had finally started to actually make money but didn't know when. My point was only that they had quite a few years when no one thought their business model made any sense either.

By Blogger Jambo, at 5:54 PM  

they had quite a few years when no one thought their business model made any sense

Huh? Have you seen their stock chart from their first few years as a publicly traded company? They first turned a quarterly profit in 2001, but long before that, investors loved them. Personally, I've been a customer since their second year of operations (1996), and I felt right away that once enough people found them, they'd be huge, and profitable.

Granted, the stock tanked like every other Internet stock in 2000.

By Blogger Joey de Vivre, at 9:09 PM  

Amazon's business model has evolved quite a bit over the years. They were overvalued during the boom of the 1990s, then probably undevalued after the tech boom died.

By Blogger Hammer, at 6:10 PM  

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