Solar cells environmentally worth it?

Not tohijack the thread, but I also remember seeing an interview with the Icelandic Energy minister…he was saying that Iceland has huge geothermal electric potential…on the orger off 1000’sof GIGAWATTS. If exploited, this power could be fed to the British isles, using underwater high-tension DC cables. Has anyone transmitted DC electric power this far? I know Sweden does it…just wondering what the ground currents would do to the marine life in the North Atlantic!


  1. Replace your existing appliances with EnergyStar rated ones
  2. Replace your furnace with a high efficiency one
  3. Check the insulation in your house. If you’re really gung ho buy/build a R2000 rated home.
  4. Augment your house with a heat pump. If possible go for one that pumps working fluid through pipes embedded into the ground or into a large body of water.
  5. Take public transit.
  6. Replace all of your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent.

Those are the ones off the top of my head that would have the largest impact. Enjoy.

I have not studied this in detail, but my opinion is that the most important thing to do for energy conservation is to sell your car(s). Yes, as the US is currently organized, this is impossible unless you live in NY, as my daughter does. She lives in a medium rise (12 storey) apartment that requires relatively little heating (although too much air-conditioning) and either walks or takes a subway or bus wherever she has to go. I am sure that the energy she consumes is a fraction of what the average American does.

As for me, I contemplate from time to time the idea of giving up my car, but the public transit system here in Montreal, while better than nearly every other place in North America, has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that I can (and do) walk the four miles downtown nearly as fast as the bus takes me. But the main problem is the suburban zoning that fobids a mix of stores and residential neighborhoods so that food shopping is a major problem. Nonetheless, there is a woman living around the corner who does not and has never had a car and takes a bus to the market and pays for delivery. What she saves not having a car would doubtless pay for a taxi each way.

A mile from where I live a man is making a total renovation of his house and is digging holes 500’ deep to “mine” the heat at that depth. I gather he will use it for home heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I am not sure of the details, but the idea is interesting.

All through Barbados, people have placed solar hot water heaters on their roofs. Given the amount of sunlight and the fact that only modest heating is required anyway, this seems to work quite well there.

As a space fantasist, I really should make the case for space based solar power collectors a little more optimistically;

cost-benefit research seems to indicate that a satellite solar power system (SPS) would not compete with terrestrial sources of power in the next twenty years, or even in the next hundred, despite diminishing fossil fuel reserves;

what an SPS would do is provide power for spacebased activities, just as it does now; once a lunar base is established, the local silicon rich rocks are available for the manufacture of silicon wafer photovoltaic cells;

Thin film deposition in a vacuum seems to offer promise, as the Moon has a fair amount of vacuum at this moment in time…
by covering a respectable portion of the surface of the Moon with SPS collectors, energy can be exported to other space based systems,
and perhaps a mass-driver system could start putting solar power collectors in orbit (rather than use the already crowded geosynchronous orbits, how about the Lagrange points).

Maintenance costs will be considerable, but a big boost would come from automated and semi-autonomous repair systems (which seem like fantasy at the moment, but may not in a few decades time).

Once the various space-based activities in the Earth-Moon region are using this space bourne source of power, a hundred years may well have passed; only then might the cost of the energy produced by the space based SPS be competitive with the power generation taking place on Earth.

If not, then there is no reason to stop; the Sun is still shining, giving out a trillion times Mankind’s present energy requirements;
and there is plenty of silicon on the Moon; it will always be cheaper to find power for space-based activities from SPS systems.

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