Monday, December 04, 2006

Let the sun shine in

Last Monday's Wall Street Journal had a story about Stanford Ovshinsky's decades long effort to build a factory that can crank out cheap, flexible photovoltaic sheeting. Most people think of putting photovoltaic panels on their roofs. Ovshinsky says, "Mine is the roof." His company is now selling his product as fast as he can make it, most of it to countries like Germany and Japan that offer incentives for solar energy systems.

President Bush talks about wanting to break our dependence on foreign oil, but the record of his administration on energy and global warming issues is not stellar. It is time for Congress to step up to the plate and insist that as of 2010, every new residential or commercial structure in the country must have a photovoltaic roof. Experience in other countries has shown that such systems will be able to pay for themselves by feeding excess energy back into the grid. According to the WSJ article, some Germans rent their neighbor's roofs for solar panels that sell power to the grid. Germany has about the same solar exposure as Anchorage, Alaska.

Granted, the US has a more complex grid than Germany, and German solar systems have government support. But mandate solar roofs by 2010 and watch the price of systems plummet. The technology has come a long way since I wrote about this more than two years ago.

My sister Anne, whose cyberpics you have enjoyed, has been living in a completely solar-powered house for decades. No one is starting wars for oil to power her computer.