A Solar Grand Plan

Scientific American has a plan to wean us off oil and coal by using solar energy. It’s an interesting read. Here are the key points.

A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.

A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.

Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.

A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.

But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.

They quote the price of oil at $60 a barrel in the article and it’s now at $105 today. Obviously they have to write these articles months in advance to make publication deadlines.

I looked into adding solar panels on my house. After running the numbers I found it would cost $48,000 to go off grid. I spend about $1000/year in energy costs now. That cost is too high for my budget. As an alternative, I’m looking into buying my power from green, renewable sources. Here in Michigan, DTE Energy offers a option to buy your energy from renewable sources like wind and solar. It costs about 2 cents more per kilowatt/hour for residential customers.

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