Power to Choose

Future Power: Next Energy Fix

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The elation of energy freedom is addictive. do not get Maine wrong; I really like fossil fuels. I go on AN island that happens to possess no utilities, however otherwise my adult female, and that I have a traditional Yankee life. we do not need Power to Choose fuel refrigerators, hydrocarbon lamps, or composting bogs. we would like a lot of electrical shops and a cappuccino maker. however, once I activate those panels, wow!

Power to Choose

Maybe that is as a result of on behalf of me, as for many Americans, one energy crisis or another has shaded most of the past 3 decades. From the oil cartel crunch of the Nineteen Seventies to the skyrocketing value of oil and gas these days, the world’s concern over energy has haunted presidential speeches, legislative assembly campaigns, disaster books, and my very own sense of well-being with identical quite gnawing unease that characterized the conflict.

As National Geographic reported in Gregorian calendar month 2004, oil, now not low-cost, could shortly decline. Instability wherever most oil is found, from the gulf to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Venezuela, makes this lifeline fragile. gas is laborious to move and is vulnerable to shortages. we cannot run out of coal anytime shortly, or the for the most part untapped deposits of tar sands and shale. however, the carbonic acid gas spewed by coal and alternative fossil fuels is warming the earth, as this magazine reported last September.

Cutting loose from that worry is attractive. With my new panels, nothing stands between Maine and limitless energy—no foreign nation, no utility, no carbon-emission guilt. I’m free!

Solar: Free Energy, at a Price

On a cloudy day close to the town of an urban center within the former European nation, I walked across a field of recent grass, past a pool wherever wild swans fed. the sector was conjointly seeded with thirty-three,500 electrical phenomenon panels, planted in rows like silver flowers all turned sunward, undulating gently across the contours of the land. It’s one of the biggest star arrays ever. once the sun emerges, the sector produces up to 5 megawatts of power, and it averages enough for one,800 homes.

Nearby ar open pits wherever coal was mined for generations to feed power plants and factories. The skies accustomed be brown with smoke and acrid with sulfur. currently, the mines are being lakes, and power that when came from coal is formed in an exceeding chamber ninety-three million miles (150 million kilometers) away.

Solar electrical systems catch energy directly from the sun—no fireplace, no emissions. Some labs and corporations try out the grown-up version of a child’s magnifying glass: big reflected bowls or troughs to concentrate the sun’s rays, manufacturing heat which will drive a generator. except for currently, sun power largely means that star cells.

The idea is simple: daylight falling on a layer of semiconductor jostles electrons, making a current. nevertheless, the value of the cells, once astronomical, continues to be high. My modest system value over $15,000 (U.S.), regarding $10 a watt of capability, together with batteries to store power for once the sun does not shine.

Like most things electronic, alternative energy has been obtaining cheaper. “Thirty years agone it had been valuing effective on satellites,” says Daniel Shugar, president of PowerLight Corporation, an aggressive Calif. company that has designed star installations for purchasers together with Toyota and Target. “Today it is efficient for powering homes and businesses,” a minimum of wherever utility power is pricey or out of stock. Tomorrow, he says, it’ll be for nearly everybody.