Thursday, May 20, 2010


Solar energy development is crucial to any strategy for finding sustainable energy sources that can replace the present fossil fuel dependent regime. In spite of valiant and sustained efforts seen during the last few decades, solar energy at affordable cost is still a mirage though optimists feel it can be achieved in a few years' time. With economic incentives and other policy orchestrations, lighting through solar energy has become industry standard to day. Unless the cost of solar panels comes down very significantly, widespread use of this inexhaustible energy source is unlikely and there are intense efforts to achieve quantum reduction in cost for solar panels and photovoltaic cells in many countries. The concept of combining green house design and photovoltaic system, if successful can have far reaching positive impact on agriculture and energy dynamics in many countries blessed with abundant sun light.

"The greenhouse project will test how well crops grow in a greenhouse outfitted with Solyndra's photovoltaic systems, which are cylindrical in contrast to the flat panels or films used in many other systems. The cylindrical design enables more light to pass through into the greenhouse, with the expectation that crops would grow more efficiently than they otherwise could. It's another interesting twist in the ever-expanding field of building integrated solar, which is rapidly turning buildings into mini power generating stations. It also dovetails with the development of solar-powered sensor systems than enable greenhouses to function more efficiently".

Though initial investment required to establish such integrated system may be cost prohibitive to begin with, universal acceptance and implementation can bring down the cost very significantly. While private initiatives are welcome, solar energy is a global asset that may require regulatory control by governments. Private players must not be allowed to "bottle up" such innovations through the patent route though they deserve reasonable returns on their investments in research and development. This is where the social responsibility of financial agencies like World Bank and others comes into reckoning. Model agreements to buy out these innovations through one time payment from the developers that will satisfy their reasonable financial expectations and offering these technologies to countries with high potential for solar energy harnessing must be explored.

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