Friday, December 21, 2007

Can Electric Cars Be Far Behind?

One common question that homeowners ask their architects -- or should ask their architects -- when considering unconventional HVAC systems or energy-generating systems is, "what's the payback period?"

For example, radiant floor heating systems typically offer efficiencies, not to mention comfort amenities, that are well worth considering, though the higher up-front costs can take four to eight years to "pay back" via energy savings from those efficiencies.

Solar and wind energy generation systems typically take one to five years before the added costs of those systems (versus simply plugging into "the grid") are recouped.

Not anymore!

A company, Nanosolar, is the first company to figure out from existing technology how to manufacture Thin-Film-on-Foil solar "rolls" -- not panels -- that cost 30 cents per watt to manufacture. The first rolls will sell at $0.99 per watt. This "Third Wave" solar technology is a huge improvement over previous solar technologies that cost $3 per watt to manufacture. The bottom line here is that up-front (manufacture) costs of solar power can now be cheaper than the most efficient, i.e. cheapest, energies going 'til now -- coal and natural gas power plants! And with far fewer carbon emissions in fabrication and zero emissions in power generation!

The payback period for anyone installing Nanosolar's system? At 30 cents per watt, less than one month. At $0.99 per watt, more like three months! After system costs are paid off in month-by-month savings over what you would have been paid to your electric company, the cost of solar-powered electricity becomes essentially free. Compared to system and infrastructure costs of wind, coal, nuclear, and natural gas energy production delivered by "the grid", free is better.

Nanosolar's manufacturing plant in San Jose, CA, is up and rolling -- literally, as the sheets of solar film are rolled up as they come off the line. The company's headquarters is in Palo Alto, CA, of course. They are expecting to manufacture energy-producing foil in 2008 to produce 430 megawatts -- more than all the other solar energy producers combined!

Read more here about their manufacturing breakthrough.

BTW, combined with the latest exciting tenfold developments in storage capacity of Lithium-Ion batteries out of Stanford, this is good news for the burgeoning electric car industry. Why? Because lots of new electric cars on the road would require lots of batteries to store lots of new electric energy production.

Howard's connecting the dots of a viable, sustainable future.

Update: Grist has given Nanosolar's breakthroughs some press.


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