Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD
There is a very real problem in the USA right now in the development and deployment of alternate energy into the grid, as the country fights amongst itself over how energy will be generated, distributed, and managed in the future. This is especially the case with solar, as it continues to mature in both energy conversion efficiency as well cost effectiveness to become a more and more attractive source of energy. Even now, when all costs are factored in, solar is now more cost-effective than some fossil fuels in many cases.
The problem is that the debate about how the USA will generate and distribute energy is being driven by ideology, not science or economics. Entrenched business and political interests are blocking solar in many ways, from condemning research expenditures to outright legislation designed to restrict the development of solar energy as a viable supplement to the nation’s growing power needs. Even much of the mainstream media is buying into the lie that solar power is not viable.
This is not only a foolish attitude, but it is ignorant of both history and market forces. In every single case where a solid-state technology was developed to address an application area, it eventually came to dominate that space. Solar is no different, and conversion efficiencies are such that it is obvious to all but the most in denial that solar is not only a viable, but a cost-effective technology. In the marketplace, American neo- and pseudo-Luddites completely forget that this is now a flat earth, and if we do not develop and deploy these technologies others will, and they will wind up dominating those future markets.
Solar power is also logical from a usage sense, as peak power consumption occurs during the day. Solar does not have to replace fossil fuel power generation at all times and in all things, but it is illogical not to use solar as a supplement to existing energy sources. Once you add mechanisms for grid stability, load balancing, managerial oversight, and time-shifting power, you also get a pretty robust smart grid in the process.
A future smart grid that properly integrated all viable alternate energy technologies would not only result in a significant reduction of dependence on fossil fuel and the resulting ecological impact (which is rarely calculated, and never accurately), but it would also create many well-paying infrastructure jobs from electronic engineers to electricians, and everything in between. Technical jobs, jobs that help move America forward. Skilled jobs. Clean(er) jobs.
This won’t happen, at least not in any decent fashion, unless we as a country stop basing our arguments on ideology and vested interest instead of what is best for the country, its citizens, and its future. Only by properly deploying a truly smart grid that integrates all manageable types of energy with the proper controls and safeguards, including security, will the USA reach the full potential of what such an infrastructure can provide.