Who examined the future of energy beyond the carbon age in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN's September 2006 issue? The editors share a somber attitude: "Decades may go by before hydrogen-powered trucks and cars consign gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles to vintage auto exhibits." We will somehow "muddle-through" till that time. Science American, page 3
But why do some energy technologies take so long to transition from laboratory and industrial uses to consumer use? Consider solar companies adelaide as an example.
For roughly £20 from a high-street electronics retailer in London, there are instructional solar power kits. In DIY superstores, serious rooftop solar panels that can power appliances in your house cost about £2,000. Although it comes with a high price tag, customers can at least maneuver their shopping carts past the technology.
ONLY RECENTLY HAVE solar panels begun to appear.
You may excuse them for passing themselves off as fresh technology, given their presence on store shelves. However, they aren't. The July 1966 issue of Wireless World had a copy deadline for the writer as England prepared for what would become its most illustrious World Cup. He created the circuit for a solar-powered battery charger, and his name was D. Bollen.
According to him, satellite applications successfully used solar cells to transform sunlight into usable electrical energy. One benefit of the solar battery is that it "promises an extraordinary degree of stability" and "allows true, unattended functioning in situations away from a power supply." (343 in Wireless World)
Bollen gives a layout for a circuit that will trickle-charge a battery from a solar cell throughout four painstakingly drawn pages. Bollen demonstrates that a device requiring one milliamp of current can run for 2.74 hours in 24 hours. He doesn't tell us what use he had in mind for this modest current, but the device could have daily fueled the toy torch's bulb for a few seconds.
The circuit is present, nevertheless, and the time is mid-1966. Avoid getting sidetracked by Bollen's discussion of "satellite applications." His circuit is far from rocket science; in fact, it is the most basic of the bunch in this issue of a publication aimed at electronics professionals and inexperienced hobbyists alike.
This circuit might have been put together in under fifteen minutes by someone with little experience. Additionally, specialized suppliers in London and southeast England had access to all the parts.
International Rectifier is the provider for "assorted selenium and silicon cells." I got in touch with the business to find out how much a comparable solar cell costs when Bollen published his story.
Until 1966, a single cell around one centimeter by two centimeters in size cost four dollars. Bollen specifies several combinations ranging from one cell to four in his feature; therefore, the most expensive component of his circuit cost between four and sixteen dollars, or roughly $25-100 in today's money.
First solar-powered vehicle in history: 1912.
However, the information returned by International Rectifier (IR) was far more intriguing. The business had already displayed the world's first solar-powered vehicle in 1958, a Baker Electric model from 1912. They pulled off the act by assembling a bank of tiny solar cells into a small, high-output 6.6 kw solar system brisbane less than two meters long and a little over a meter wide.
International Rectifier sold solar panels to commercial, industrial, and military clients.
WHY, THEN, HAVE SOLAR PANELS BEEN AVAILABLE IN OUR STORES FOR JUST UNDER FIFTY YEARS?
The USA-based non-profit organization Southface emphasizes that solar-cell technology has been ineffectively competing with the relative price decline that occurred in the fossil-fuel market in the 1990s.
However, according to Southface, significant orders for consumer solar cell units from nations like Japan could ultimately herald the beginning of a time when solar cell manufacturers will reap the benefits of economies of scale.
So, I hope. How long it will take for the consumer-led technology revolution to solve our energy issues is now an open question.